Have a Question? Contact the Humanities Office or an Academic Unit

HISTORY 4LJ3 Law,Ordr&Just.:Canada1800-2000

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. John Weaver

Email: jweaver@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 630

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24135


Office Hours: TBA

Course Objectives:

Objectives and Learning Opportunities:

This course examines the Common Law for “Criminal” Offenses and Law and Order more generally, all in Canadian settings. The course will consider the reception of Common Law institutions and practices in colonial British North America and their subsequent evolution in Canada.  Specific topics include the development of the Canadian criminal code, the criminal law and federalism, judicial independence, courts, juries, laws of evi­dence, police, and punishment.  There will be discussions of controversial subjects such as colonial era state trials, biases in the justice system in particular periods, the social control features of  “low law,” and developments in policing. 

            How can you best learn from this course?  Your major assignment should provide you with opportunities to exercise your initiative and an occasion to explore a topic in association with classmates.  The readings are essential.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Material:

Courseware articles prepared for 4LJ3, 2017 edition.

Donald Fyson, Magistrates, Police, and People: Everyday Criminal Justice in Quebec and Lower Canada, 1764-1837 (2006).  

Robert J. Sharpe, The Lazier Murder: Prince Edward County, 1884 (2011).

Greg Marquis, The Vigilant Eye: Policing Canada from 1867 to 9/11 (2016).         

Method of Assessment:

Calculation of Final Grade:        

Three short assignments on the required books:   30% (10% each)

Participation in weekly seminar discussions:        30%

Research Paper:                                                40%   

            The instructor and university reserve the right to modify elements of the course during the term. The university may change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances. If either type of modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. It is the responsibility of the student to check their McMaster email weekly during the term and to note any changes.

Description of Assignments and Deadlines for Assignments:

Short assignments    

            Making references to findings drawn from across the book and for the entire time period, you are to explain and evaluate the importance of people in Donald Fyson, Magistrates, Police, and People.  Do not rely on book reviews but apply your reasoned judgement.   1000 words.  Due in the seminar week 3: 24 January.

            Tensions between central government agencies and local communities are an important theme in many local studies of criminal justice.  There is an uneasy relationship between on the on the one hand law as conceived by legislators, Cabinet Ministers and judges, and on the other hand the local community’s sense of order.  Discuss this assertion with references to the events described and analysed by Judge Robert J. Sharpe in The Lazier Murder: Prince Edward County, 1884.  1000 words.   Due in seminar week 7: 7 February

            To some extent, policing in Canada has been local and community based, following the practices established for England in the first half of the nineteenth century.   However, this community dimension of policing has been rivalled by another one that is described in Greg Marquis, The Vigilant Eye: Policing Canada from 1867 to 9/11  Summarize his argument about community and rival interests.  Provide examples drawn from all the pertinent time periods.   Due in seminar week 11: 21 March

The research paper

            Everyone will select a single session of the Wentworth County Criminal Court (Hamilton and Wentworth County) from 1860 to 1900.  The court was technically called an Assize; it met in two sessions a year and each session lasted approximately a month.  Be strategic in your selection of an Assize.  We will discuss research strategy in the initial class.  

            You will proceed to the Archives of Ontario and collect notes on the cases heard at the selected session.  The archives holds the Wentworth County assize minute books  from 1853 to 1909.  There are 18 volumes of textual records; they have been microfilmed.  The series consists of chronological minutes of the proceedings of the superior court judges sitting in civil and criminal assizes at Hamilton.  Typically, the superior court criminal assizes only dealt with serious offences such as rape, murder, perjury and so on.   See also Series RG 22-392 (Supreme Court Central Office Criminal Assize Clerk criminal indictment files) and Series RG 22-517 (Supreme Court Registrar's criminal indictment files) for records sent by the local Clerk of Assize to the Criminal Assize Clerk in Toronto.

The McMaster-York university GO bus will take you to and from the archives.

The next step is to locate the newspaper reports on the Assize, because the Assize records will not say much about the trials themselves.    We will collaborate as a research seminar on what questions should be asked when collecting information on your Assize.    3000 to3 500 words.  Due in seminar 12: 4 April.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Penalties for Overdue Work

            Overdue assignments will be penalized five marks out of one hundred for each day (including weekends) that they are over deadlines without permis­sion (ie. five days late equals a loss of twenty-five marks).  MSAF extensions are not granted automatically nor extended retroactively.   

I do not accept assignments electronically (file attach­ments).  Please submit printed copies in class.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:



1. 10 January: Establishing the Common Law, 1764-1837

Review of requirements; discussion of research paper strategy, important research questions, and sources.  Discussion of:

Donald Fyson, Magistrates, Police, and People: Everyday Criminal Justice in Quebec and Lower Canada, 1764-1837 (2006), 3-94. A required book.

David Murray, Colonial Justice: Justice, Morality, and Crime in the Niagara District, 1791-1849 (2002), 23-51.  Available in courseware package.

Desmond Brown, “The Origin and Development of Legal Systems in British North America,” The Genesis of the Canadian Criminal Code of 1892 (1989), 38-69.

2. 17 January: Low Law: Justices of the Peace and Police Magistrates

Fyson, Magistrates, Police, and People, 95-135; 225-271.

John Weaver, “Criminal Justice and the Waning of the Old Regime,” Crimes, Constables, and Courts: Order and Transgression in a Canadian City, 1816-1970 (1995), 23-63.  Available in courseware package.

Paul Craven, “Law and Ideology: The Toronto Police Court, 1850-80” in David H. Flaherty ed., Essays in the History of Canadian Law, volume 2 (1983), 248-299. Available in courseware package.

3. 24 January: High Law in the Age of Revolution: Sedition, Treason, Rebellion, and State Trials

“Introduction” and “Conclusion” in F. Murray Greenwood, Legacies of Fear: Law and Politics in Quebec in the Era of the French Revolution (1993).

Robert L. Fraser, “’All the privileges which Englishmen possess’: Order, Rights, and Constitutionalism in Upper Canada,” in Fraser ed., Provincial Justice: Upper Canadian Portraits from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (1992), xxi-lxxvii.

Paul Romney and Barry Wright, “The Toronto Treason Trials, March-May 1838” in F. Murray Greenwood and Barry Wright eds.,  Rebellion and Invasion in the Canadas, 1837-1839 (2002), 62-89.

4. 31 January: The Police before the Police, the Rebellions, and Public Works: The Roots of Policing

Fyson, Magistrates, Police, and People, 136-183.

Allan Greer, “The Birth of the Police in Canada” in Allan Greer and Ian Radforth eds. Colonial Leviathan: State Formation in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Canada (1992), 17-43.

Ruth Bleasdale, “Class Conflict on the Canals of Upper Canada in the 1840s,” Labour/Le Travail (1981).  http://www.lltjournal.ca/index.php/llt/article/view/2655/3058.

5.  7 February: Introduction to the Low Law Records: Mills Library and Hamilton Police Court Register.  Seminar in Mills Library.

George Taylor Denison, Recollections of a Police Magistrate (1920), chapters 3, 4, 6 (This is a short and revealing account of practices of Toronto’s Police Magistrate).  This is an e-book and readily accessible via Mills.

6. 14 February: Low Law: The Victorian Era

Jim Phillips, “Poverty, Unemployment, and the Administration of the Criminal Laws in Halifax, 1864-1890” in Philip Girard and Jim Phillips eds., Essays in the History of Canadian Law (1990), 128-153.  Available in courseware package.


7.  28 February: High Law: The Victorian Era

Judge Robert J. Sharpe, The Lazier Murder: Prince Edward County, 1884 (2011).  Required book.

8.  7 March: Race and Stereotypes

Tina Loo, “Bute Inlet Stories: Crime, Law, and Colonial Identity,” Making Law, Order, and Authority in British Columbia, 1821-1871 (1994), 134-62.

John Weaver, “Black Man, White Justice: The Extradition of Matthew Bullock, An African-American Residing in Ontario, 1922,” Osgoode Hall Law Journal (1996), 627-55.

Carolyn Strange, “Patriarchy Modified: The Criminal Prosecution of Rape in York County, Ontario, 1880-1930” in Jim Phillips, Tina Loo, and Susan Lewthwaite eds., Essays in the History of Canadian Law (1994), 207-41.

9. 14 March: Gender and Newcomers

Lesley Erickson, “She is to Be Pitied, Not Punished: The Murderess, the Woman Question, and the Capital Punishment Debate,” Westward Bound: Sex, Violence, the Law, and the Making of a Settler Society (2011), 201-28.

Karen Dubinsky and Franca Iacovetta, “Murder, Womanly Virtue, and Motherhood: The Case of Angelina Napolitano, 1911-1922, Canadian Historical Review (1991), 505-531.

10.  21 March: Gaol, Penitentiary, and Reformatory

Rainer Baehre, “The Origins of the Penitentiary System in Upper Canada,” Ontario History (1977), 185-207.

Peter Oliver, “The Gaol and the Community,” ‘Terror to Evil-Doers’: Prisons and Punishments in Nineteenth-Century Ontario (1998), 43-85.

11. 28 March: Modernizing the Police

Greg Marquis, The Vigilant Eye: Policing Canada from 1867 to 9/11 (2016).  Required book.

12.  4 April: Reading and Debating Case Reports and Judgements

Benjamin L. Berger, "Criminal Appeals as Jury Control: An Anglo-Canadian Historical Perspective on the Rise of Criminal Appeals," Canadian Criminal Law Review, vol. 10, no. 1 (2005), 1-41. Available through Mills Library as an e-journal.

R. v. Dick, 16 July 1946; R. v. Dick, 21 January 1947. I can provide.

Crown v. Ghomeshi, March 2016. I can provide.

Other Course Information:

Contacting the Instructor:

You may ask questions by e-mail at jweaver@mcmaster­.ca or arrange for a meeting.  This course does not use Avenue to Learn.  All e-mail messages must be sent using your McMaster e-mail address. Your questions and my answers may be circulated to the rest of the class for the benefit of all.  No assignments will be accepted as e-mail attachments.  Thank you.