A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950

Book - 1999
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Historically Canadians have considered themselves to be more or less free of racial prejudice. Although this conception has been challenged in recent years, it has not been completely dispelled. In Colour-Coded, Constance Backhouse illustrates the tenacious hold that white supremacy had on our legal system in the first half of this century, and underscores the damaging legacy of inequality that continues today.

Backhouse presents detailed narratives of six court cases, each giving evidence of blatant racism created and enforced through law. The cases focus on Aboriginal, Inuit, Chinese-Canadian, and African-Canadian individuals, taking us from the criminal prosecution of traditional Aboriginal dance to the trial of members of the 'Ku Klux Klan of Kanada.' From thousands of possibilities, Backhouse has selected studies that constitute central moments in the legal history of race in Canada. Her selection also considers a wide range of legal forums, including administrative rulings by municipal councils, criminal trials before police magistrates, and criminal and civil cases heard by the highest courts in the provinces and by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The extensive and detailed documentation presented here leaves no doubt that the Canadian legal system played a dominant role in creating and preserving racial discrimination. A central message of this book is that racism is deeply embedded in Canadian history despite Canada's reputation as a raceless society.

Winner of the Joseph Brant Award, presented by the Ontario Historical Society

Publisher: Toronto : Published for the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History by University of Toronto Press, c1999
ISBN: 9780802047120
Characteristics: xiii, 485 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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Nov 06, 2016

National Clearinghouse on Family Violence
Emma D. LaRocque *

Permission is granted for noncommercial reproduction related to educational or clinical purposes.Please acknowledge the source.
ISBN 0-662-21483-8


Colonization refers to that process of encroachment and subsequent subjugation of Aboriginal peoples since the arrival of Europeans. From the Aboriginal perspective, it refers to loss of lands, resources, and self-direction and to the severe disturbance of cultural ways and values. Colonization has taken its toll on all Aboriginal peoples, but it has taken perhaps its greatest toll on women. Prior to colonization, Aboriginal women enjoyed comparative honour, equality and even political power in a way European women did not at the same time in history. We can trace the diminishing status of Aboriginal women with the progression of colonialism. Many, if not the majority, of Aboriginal cultures were originally matriarchal or semi-matriarchal. European patriarchy was initially imposed upon Aboriginal societies in Canada through the fur trade, missionary Christianity and government policies. Because of white intrusion, the matriarchal character of Aboriginal spiritual, economic, kinship, and political institutions was drastically altered.

Racism, Sexism,

Colonization and racism go hand in hand. Racism has provided justification for the subjugation of Aboriginal peoples. While all Aboriginal people are subjected to racism, women further suffer from sexism. Racism breeds hatred of Aboriginal peoples; sexism breeds hatred of women. For Aboriginal women, racism and sexism constitute a package experience. We cannot speak of sexual violence without at once addressing the effects of racism/sexism.

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