Laws and Societies in the Canadian Prairie West, 1670-1940
360 pages, 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
11 b&w illustrations, 7 maps, 3 tables
Release Date:01 Jul 2006
Release Date:15 Dec 2005
Release Date:01 Oct 2007

Laws and Societies in the Canadian Prairie West, 1670-1940

SERIES: Law and Society
UBC Press

Laws and Societies in the Canadian Prairie West, 1670-1940 examines the legal history of the north-west frontier, from the earliest years of European-Native contact in the seventeenth century to the mid-1900s. Challenging myths about a peaceful west and prairie exceptionalism, the book explores the substance of prairie legal history and the degree to which the region's mentality is rooted in the historical experience of distinctive prairie peoples. The chapters, written by a cross-section of established and emerging scholars working in the allied fields of law, legal history, sociology, and criminology, focus on what is distinctive in prairie legal culture.

By approaching the issue from a variety of perspectives – those of colonial administrators, fur company employees, Native peoples, women, men, entrepreneurs, judges, magistrates, and the police, among others – the authors find evidence of a conscious effort to apply broad, non-regional experiences to seemingly familiar, local issues. The ways in which prairie peoples perceived themselves and their relationships to a wider world were directly framed by notions of law and legal remedy shaped by the course and themes of prairie history. Legal history is not just about black letter law. It is also deeply concerned with the ways in which people affect and are affected by the law in their daily lives. By examining how central and important the law has been to individuals, communities, and societies in the Canadian Prairies, this book makes an original contribution.

Laws and Societies is a useful contribution to the sparse history of law and governance in Canada ... The editors challenge historians of western Canada to muse about the use of the law and legal documents in their projects. Hopefully, the collection will inspire future conferences, discussions, and monographs on the law and its application in western Canada and in Canada. Jonathan Anuik, University of Saskatchewan, H-Net Book Review
[UBC Press’ Law and Society Series], edited by W. Wesley Pue, is a prime example of the excellent scholarly work that is currently being conducted on the critical issues surrounding the interaction between law and society in Canada. The eleven essays in Laws and Societies in the Canadian Prairie West underscore the complexities of implementing the rule of law and administering ‘justice’ in the sparsely settled and geographically vast area of Canada’s Prairie region. As Lou Knafla notes in the introductory chapter, the Prairies represent the ‘least developed’ region in Canadian legal history (p.2). This volume makes a notable contribution to correcting this imbalance. As well as being a valuable source for Canadian legal and social historians, Laws and Societies in the Canadian Prairie West will prove to be beneficial to scholars outside of Canada who wish to gain a better understanding of some of this country’s key legal foundations. Michael Boudreau, Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice, St. Thomas University, Law and Politics Book Review, Vol. 16 No. 7, July, 2006
Louis A. Knafla is professor emeritus of history at the University of Calgary. Jonathan Swainger is associate professor of history at the University of Northern British Columbia and co-editor, with Constance Backhouse, of People and Place: Historical Influences on Legal Culture, also published by UBC Press.



1. Introduction: Laws and Societies in the Anglo-Canadian North-West Frontiers and Prairie Provinces, 1670-1940 / Louis A. Knafla

Part One: First Nations and First Peoples

2. Law and Necessity in Western Rupert's Land and Beyond, 1670-1870 / Hamar Foster

3. “There Seemed to be No Recognized Law”: Canadian Law and the Prairie First Nations / Sidney L. Harring

4. The Exclusionary Effect of Colonial Law: Indigenous Peoples and English Law in Western Canada, 1670-1870 / Russell C. Smandych

5. Discipline and Discretion in the Mid-Eighteenth-Century Hudson's Bay Company Private Justice System / Paul C. Nigol

Part Two: Adaptations to Modernity

6. Policing Two Imperial Frontiers: The Royal Irish Constabulary and the North-West Mounted Police / Greg Marquis

7. The Common Law and Justices of the Supreme Court of the North-West Territories: The First Generation, 1887-1907 / Roderick G. Martin

8. The Implications of a Provincial Police Force in Alberta and Saskatchewan / Zhiqiu Lin and Augustine Brannigan

9. The Development of Prairie Canada's Water Law, 1870-1940 / Tristan M. Goodman

10. Monopolies and State Regulation: The Calgary Power Company, Utilities, and the Alberta Public Utilities Board, 1910-30 / Janice Erion

11. The Law and Public Nudity: Prairie and West Coast Reactions to the Sons of Freedom, 1929-1932 / John McLaren

Acknowledgments Contributors General Index Index of Cases Index of Ordinances, Proclamations, and Statutes

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