Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

Melvin Baker, Christopher Curran and J. Derek Green, eds., Discourse and Discovery: Sir Richard Whitbourne Quatercentennial Symposium 1615-2015 (St. John’s NL: Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2016), 317-27


Newfoundland legal history has tended to focus on the period prior to the achievement of representative government in 1832 and the existing literature dealing with more recent times is somewhat sporadic. Nor is there yet any comprehensive overview of Canadian legal history. This makes any effort to consider links between the two somewhat premature and necessarily impressionistic. Thus this paper will focus on the attitude of Newfoundland’s legal community towards the law of Canada as revealed in judicial decisions, legislation, and trends within the legal profession, from 1869, when the Newfoundland electorate soundly rejected Confederation with Canada, until a decade or two after it eventually accepted union with Canada in 1949. My title suggests three possible stances: did Newfoundland imitate Canadian law? Even if it did not, was Canadian law nonetheless influential? Or conversely, was Newfoundland largely indifferent to Canadian law, choosing to go its own way? Of course these attitudes may vary over time, and as between different areas of law. My title assumes that such influences ran only one way, from Canada to Newfoundland, rather than the reverse; and while there were some instances of Newfoundland legal innovations being adopted elsewhere in Canada during this period, it is likely that such examples were rare.

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