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category: Law
published: Jun 2019
publisher: UBC Press

Flawed Precedent

The St. Catherine’s Case and Aboriginal Title

by Kent McNeil

tagged: indigenous peoples, constitutional, legal history

In 1888, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ruled in the St. Catherine’s case. This precedent-setting decision would define the legal contours of Aboriginal title in Canada for almost a hundred years. In Flawed Precedent, preeminent legal scholar Kent McNeil examines the trial and its context in detail, demonstrating how erroneous assumptions and prejudicial attitudes about Indigenous peoples and their land use influenced the case. He also discusses the effects the decision had on law and policy until the 1970s when its authority was finally questioned in Calder and in other key rulings. McNeil has written a compelling account of a landmark case that undermined Indigenous land rights for almost a century.

About the Author

Kent McNeil

Contributor Notes

Kent McNeil is an Emeritus Distinguished Research Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University. He is a member of the Royal Society of Canada and was a recipient of a prestigious Killam Fellowship in 2007. He has published numerous works on the rights of Indigenous peoples, including two books: Common Law Aboriginal Title (1989) and Emerging Justice? Essays on Indigenous Rights in Canada and Australia (2001). He has also co-edited a collection, Indigenous Peoples and the Law: Comparative and Critical Perspectives (2009). His work has been relied on by the Supreme Court of Canada and the High Court of Australia in landmark decisions on Indigenous land rights. He has also provided advice to Indigenous peoples in Australia, Belize, Canada, and New Zealand.

  • Winner, John T. Saywell Prize for Canadian Constitutional Legal History, The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History
  • Short-listed, Canada Prize in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

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