Osgoode Society Books

Our books are listed here chronologically by date of publication. Use the Search function to the right to find a particular book, or author.


Our members’ book for 2020 is Doodem and Council Fire: Anishinabe Governance through Alliance, by Heidi Bohaker, Associate Professor of History, University of Toronto and published by the University of Toronto Press. While Canada’s constitution protects Indigenous treaty rights, Canadians know much less about the legal traditions of Indigenous nations and the ways in which these different traditions informed treaties made between Indigenous peoples and the Crown. This volume is a ground-breaking exploration of one Indigenous legal tradition. In it, the author explains how a uniquely Anishinaabe category of kinship, the doodem, structured governance and law as practiced in formal councils (referred to metaphorically as fires) through the practice of alliance formation.  Such alliances created relationships of interdependence, which were renewed through the exchange of gifts in council. The records of early Canadian treaties, Bohaker argues, are to be found in the records of gifts exchanged to create these alliances between council fires; the Anishinaabe treated the French, and later the British, as if their governments were council fires also.  In return, colonial officials adhered to Indigenous law when they entered into treaties. Bohaker weaves together a voluminous amount of research from both Anishinaabe and European sources, including archival documents and material culture from institutions in Canada, Britain and France, to describe the continuities and changes in Anishinaabe governance and law until settler colonial law (the Indian Act) replaced traditional governance with elected band councils.


In 2020 we are also publishing  The Death Penalty and Sex Murder in Canadian History, by Professor Carolyn Strange of the Australian National University in Canberra.  This major study of the operation of the death penalty focusses on the disposition by executive review of all cases between Confederation and the abolition of the death penalty in which the offender not only committed murder but did so at the same time as he (or she) also committed a serious sexual offence. Professor Strange is able to show that such offenders fared much less well in the commutation process than other people convicted of murder and sentenced to death. As importantly, she divides the overall narrative into six periods, showing that within each period political, administrative and public consideration of the cases were conducted against a background of other concerns, ranging from the ‘danger’ of immigrants to the rise of psychiatric concern with such offenders to the abolition movement of the 1960s.


All Books

  • Bora Laskin: Bringing Law to Life

    by Philip Girard, Professor of Law, History & Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University, 2005. Published with the University of Toronto Press. In any account of Canadian law in the 20th century, Bora Laskin looms large. This biography explores in vivid detail the life and times of a restless man on a mission. In his first career,… Read more »

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  • Essays in the History of Canadian Law, Volume IX, Two Islands: Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island

    edited by Christopher English, Department of History, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Published with the University of Toronto Press, 2005. Voices from the East beyond the Northumberland and Cabot Straits. This volume of essays on the legal histories of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland opens with innovative essays on the historiography of two ‘island’ jurisdictions of Atlantic… Read more »

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  • Searching for Justice: An Autobiography

    by Fred Kaufman, Quebec Court of Appeal, retired. Published with the University of Toronto Press, 2005. As one reviewer wrote, this is a ‘a tale well told of a remarkable life well lived.’ Born into a middle-class Jewish family in Vienna in the mid-twenties, Kaufman managed to leave his native city on one of the last… Read more »

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  • Aggressive in Pursuit: The Life of Justice Emmett Hall

    by Frederick Vaughan, formerly of the Political Science Department, University of Guelph. Published with the University of Toronto Press, 2004. In 1963 Prime Minister John Diefenbaker elevated Chief Justice Hall of Saskatchewan to the Supreme Court of Canada. This judicial biography focuses on Hall’s career as defence lawyer, and civil litigator, his position as a civil… Read more »

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  • The Heiress versus the Establishment: Mrs. Campbell’s Campaign for Legal Justice

    by Constance Backhouse, Professor of Law, University of Ottawa, and Madam Justice Nancy Backhouse, Superior Court of Justice, Ontario. Published with University of British Columbia Press, 2004. In 1940 Elizabeth Campbell published a remarkable book Where Angels Fear to Tread telling the story of her determined battle against much of Ontario’s legal establishment as she endeavoured… Read more »

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  • Osgoode Hall: An Illustrated History

    by John Honsberger. Published with Dundurn Press, 2004. Published to celebrate our 25th anniversary John Honsberger, a Toronto lawyer, editor and author, has produced a richly illustrated book with more than 50 coloured and 150 black and white photographs, describes the fascinating history of one of Canada’s most historic public buildings. The Hall, intended to be… Read more »

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  • The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, 1754 – 2004: From Imperial Bastion to Provincial Oracle

    edited by Philip Girard, Professor, Dalhousie Law School, Jim Phillips, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, and Barry Cahill, independent scholar.  Published with the University of Toronto Press, 2004. This volume was prepared to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, Canada’s oldest surviving common law court. The thirteen… Read more »

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  • Brian Dickson: A Judge’s Journey

    by Robert Sharpe, Justice of the Court of Appeal for Ontario and Professor Kent Roach, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. Published with the University of Toronto Press, 2003. After coming of age during the Depression on the Prairies, being severely wounded in World War II, and after a career as a successful and prosperous… Read more »

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  • The Conventional Man: The Diaries of Ontario Chief Justice Robert A. Harrison, 1856-1878

    edited with an introduction by Peter N. Oliver, Professor of History, York University. Published with the University of Toronto Press, 2003. Between 1856 and 1878, the year of his death, Robert A. Harrison, a Toronto lawyer, often described as the outstanding common law lawyer of his generation in Canada and Chief Justice of Ontario in the… Read more »

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  • John J. Robinette, Peerless Mentor: An Appreciation

    by George D. Finlayson, formerly of the Court of Appeal for Ontario. Published with Dundurn Press, 2003. John Robinette is generally acknowledged to have been the foremost counsel of his era and was, perhaps, Canada’s greatest advocate of all time. Comfortable before any court or tribunal at any level and regardless of issue, he combined… Read more »

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