Bora Laskin: Bringing Life To Law
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In any account of twentieth-century Canadian law, Bora Laskin (1912-1984) looms large. Born in northern Ontario to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Laskin became a prominent human rights activist, university professor, and labour arbitrator before embarking on his 'accidental career' as a judge on the Ontario Court of Appeal (1965) and later Chief Justice of Canada (1973-1984). Throughout his professional career, he used the law to make Canada a better place for workers, racial and ethnic minorities, and the disadvantaged. As a judge, he sought to make the judiciary more responsive to modern Canadian expectations of justice and fundamental rights.
In Bora Laskin: Bringing Law to Life, Philip Girard chronicles the life of a man who, at all points of his life, was a fighter for a better Canada: he fought antisemitism, corporate capital, omnipotent university boards, the Law Society of Upper Canada, and his own judicial colleagues in an effort to modernize institutions and re-shape Canadian law. Girard exploits a wealth of previously untapped archival sources to provide, in vivid detail, a critical assessment of a restless man on an important mission.
second year, as the university tried to raise admission standards. The Kennedy curriculum, as we have seen, involved some legal subjects and some liberal arts subjects in each year. Laskin recalled taking lectures in history from G. deT. Glazebrook and Frank Underhill, and a special course in legal philosophy prepared by departmental chair G.S. Brett. There were also courses in economics, one in psychology, and a program in political theory given by Alex Brady, whom Laskin remembered 'with great
cultural, educational, and economic reasons. The Tenenbaums moved from Campbellford, a small town in eastern Ontario, to Toronto about 1930 when the time came for the children to attend university. Peggy's father had died at an early age but his widow 72 Starting Out Rebecca sent two of their children to the University of Toronto even during the depths of the Depression. Peggy graduated with her Bachelor of Household Science degree in 1933 and her brother Sam two years later with a Bachelor of
statutory interpretation were virtually contemporaneous, all appearing between 1936 and 1938. Laskin did not add anything distinctive to the reservoir of ideas drawn on by these Canadian scholars, but he articulated them so clearly and insistently that R.C.B. Risk has used him to illustrate 'the state of the art of legal thinking at the end of the 1930s.'56 As one of a group whom we may label 'Canadian legal modernists/ Laskin drew on various schools of American legal thought but added other
David Vanek, to the staff. In light of these actions, it is worth taking a close look at Kennedy's letter recommending Laskin's appointment to President Cody, a letter that has gained a certain notoriety. In it he nervously told Cody that he had 'made all the private enquiries possible ... about [Laskin's] political opinions and publications and I had to ask him to declare unequivocally that he has no connections public or private, expressly or implicitly, with organized or unorganized communism,
Laskin?' When informed of Professor Han's greetings, Chief Jus- 144 The Academy tice Laskin immediately arranged for a shipment of supernumerary books from the Supreme Court library to be sent to Wuhan's law library to assist in its reconstitution.52 A Canadian LLM student had a more tortuous route into the program. George Tamaki was a Japanese-Canadian from British Columbia who had graduated from Dalhousie near the top of his class in the spring of 1941. Upon completion of his articles in