The International Association of Law Libraries ( IALL) held its 31th Annual Course in Toronto, Canada from the September 30 until October 4, 2012. This year’s annual conference was organized by the Faculty of Law of the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School of York University. The theme of the Conference was “Canada, the Cultural Mosaic and International Law”. The cultural mosaic as a principle has found its way into legislation since the 1970s and the legendary Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau has greatly contributed to this development. In 1988 the ‘Canadian Multiculturalism Act’ was adopted in order to guarantee “the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage”. This interest was reconfirmed in the 1992 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The way in which the Cultural Mosaic has been shaped legally was first explained by Osgoode Hall Law School Dean, Lorne Sossin; Aboriginal First Peoples and Nations, colonial and post-colonial immigration, the English and French languages movements and therefore as well the secessionist tendencies in Québec have determined the reconciling character of the Canadian Constitution, and have as well influenced educational, religious, linguistic and minority rights. Chief Justice of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, emphasized subsequently the importance the social reality whenever one evaluates Canada’s cultural diversity in a judicial manner.
Professor Ayelet Shachar, addressing multiculturalism and citizenship, clarified the abovementioned by treating several cases. She spoke about the so-called “Inclusion Policy”: during Sukhot religious rights entitle Jews to have booths and tabernacles on their balconies and this sets aside other rights; it is permitted to carry a Sikh-dagger at schools since it is purely a minority symbol not infringing upon weapon laws and not jeopardizing personal safety of students; French eduction can be demanded in all Canadian provinces because Canada is entirely bilingual. Professor Shachar mentioned as well the so-called “Exclusion Policy”: islamistic courts are chiefly perceived as ‘mediation’-organizations for family law and judgments given here cannot be executed formally for only public and civil arbitration courts safeguard equality and dignity as required in Canada. Professor Ayelet Shachar also touched upon a third category, “Social Cohesion”; the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in a Jewish divorce case that marriage partners ought to accept the civil consequences of the separation but special financial compensation as asked for could be honored for moral reasons for this religious minority.
Professor Kent McNeil and Professor Douglas Sanderson – a Opaskwayan Cree – lectured on Aboriginal Law in Canada. In the early years of colonization First Peoples were denied sovereignty rights, although treaties were concluded between First Nations and the British or French. In 1850 Canada tried to come to legislation and formulated its relations with ‘indians’ or more appropriately phrased with First Peoples: the “Indian Act”, stating who’s an ‘indian’ and who’s not, defining the competences of Aboriginal Chiefs and dealing with land laws. The 1850 Indian Act is still in operation and requests for modest changes have been filed. In 1973 the First Nations’ right to land has been acknowlegded by the Supreme Court of Canada. Ever since courts have gone through land law cases. In 1982 the Aboriginals right to land has been formalized in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In 2004 the Supreme Court of Canada has decided that there is a ‘duty to consult’ First Nations in all land law cases.
A selection of relevant publications from the Peace Palace Library collection
- International Journal of Legal Information
- Shachar, A., "Faith in Law?: Diffusing Tensions between Diversity and Equality", in J.A. Nichols (ed.), Marriage and Divorce in a Multicultural Context, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2012, pp. 341-356.
- Shachar, A., "Group Identity and Women's Rights in Family Law: the Perils of Multicultural Accomodation", in N. Ghanea (ed.), Religion and Human Rights: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies, Vol. III, 2010, pp. 175-197.