A short history of the Canadian Law and Society Association.
By W. Wesley Pue
August 3, 2009


Two forces converged in the early 1980's to lead to the formation of the Canadian Law and Society Association/ Association canadienne droit et société.

The first was the participation of a number of Canadian scholars in the work of the USA "Law and Society Association".  The second was an effervescence of intellectual energy across Canada.  Law and society teaching had been part of significant undergraduate programmes at Carleton University and York University for some time, while university law faculties had also moved - tentatively - in interdisciplinary directions during the 1970s.  Creative forces converged in the early 1980s.  Simultaneously product of and impetus for this bubbling of intellectual energy focused on law, the "Arthurs Report", published by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada in 1983 as Law and Learning marked a coming of age of sorts for Canadian legal scholarship.

Making use of the 1982 Toronto conference of the USA Law and Society Association, Harry Arthurs, John Hagan and Fred Zemans called together a group of Canadian law teachers and social scientists to discuss the formation of a Canadian movement dedicated to the advance of interdisciplinarity in legal and socio-legal scholarship.  Many Canadians had in fact been long and centrally involved in the work of the USA LSA and the first meeting was largely procedural.

Many of the participants - Carl Baar, Ellen Baar, John McLaren, Peter Russell, for example - were to become long-term stalwarts of Canadian Law and Society.  Mark Galanter and other USA colleagues urged the formation of a Canadian scholarly association as a means of fostering law & society research and scholarship in Canada.

In the same year that Law and Learning was published (1983) a second, more formal, meeting was convened by Ellen Baar and Jane Banfield at the "Learneds" (as the annual "learned societies" conference, the meetings that morphed into the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences, was commonly known) in Vancouver. On this occasion papers were presented, and steps taken to make law and society an annual feature of the Learneds.  This necessitated some kind of organization recognizable to the Canadian Association of Learned Societies.

* Next "Origins"

Institutional history, it turns out, is derived from collective memory. I am grateful for the memories and information provided by CLSA/ACDS stalwarts including Claude Thomasset, Harry Arthurs, Fred Zemans, Carl Baar, Peter Russell, John McLaren, Lou Knafla, Jane Banfield, and Russell Smandych. Debra Parkes provided and update of activities from 2002 to 2009.