Questions and Concerns about Carding

What’s at stake in the Law Library’s new policy on access?


Within an institution founded upon inclusiveness, does the Law Library’s new “restricted-access policy” speak against the values Osgoode purports to hold?

Change is afoot at Osgoode Hall. On November 17, the Law Library instituted a “restricted-access policy,” prohibiting non-Osgoode students and community members from using the Library’s study spaces for the remainder of 2014. In an email to the student body sent on November 13, Chief Law Librarian Louis Mirando explained the move as necessary to “facilitate [student] work on end-of-term assignments and studies for the upcoming exams.”  Importantly, the policy is being enforced through a controversial practice called ‘carding,’ which requires all patrons to present personal identification to Library staff upon entry, and to submit to further “querying” if required. While some students have come out in support of the new policy, many others are raising questions about its content, implementation, and effects.

To foster a critical discussion of both the means and the ends of restricted access, the Obiter Dicta is reprinting the following edited letter, sent by an Osgoode Hall law student and Law Union member to the Chief Law Librarian on November 22. Readers interested in voicing their own concerns and/or organizing a campaign to repeal the policy may contact the Osgoode Hall Law Union at <>.

Dear Louis Mirando,

My name is Parmbir Singh Gill, I’m a first-year JD student at Osgoode Hall, and I have some questions about the carding policy instituted by the library from 17 November 2014. As a young racialized person born and raised in Toronto, I have had several negative experiences with carding practices across the city, and am concerned about the introduction of something similar at my school.

My questions are as follows:

1. Does this policy have a history at Osgoode, or is this its first appearance?
2. Have complaints about a shortage of study space been made by students or observed by staff, during the exam period and/or otherwise?
3. Under what authority was the decision to implement the policy taken, and how were students consulted?
4. Were alternatives considered to address the twin needs of study space and accessibility?
5. Do you or others involved in the decision-making process hold similar or different concerns about the policy?

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As Bill C-36 Gets Senate Approval, Parliament Proceeds to Essentially Criminalize Sex Work

ê The Supreme Court ruled sex work isn’t a crime in Canada; did Parliament lose the memo?

The Supreme Court ruled sex work isn’t a crime in Canada; did Parliament lose the memo?

On November 4, the Senate approved Bill C-36 with no amendments on its third reading.  By the end of the year, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA) will inevitably receive royal assent (if it hasn’t already by the time of this article’s publication), squeaking in before the deadline set by the Supreme Court after it struck down Canada’s previous prostitution laws last year. In their ruling, the Supreme Court specified that while Parliament is free to “[impose] limits on where and how prostitution may be conducted,” they must ensure that the new legislation does not inflict risks on sex workers. Somewhere along the line, this message must have been lost because, rather than take the advice of the Supreme Court and create provisions that protect sex workers, Parliament’s new bill will almost certainly make sex work more dangerous.

The Supreme Court’s 9-0 decision states, “…it is not a crime to sell sex in Canada.”  And indeed, the sale and purchase of sex in Canada wasn’t; however, the Criminal Code included provisions (such as the inability to have a consistent place of business, to be an employee or to employ staff as a sex worker, or to communicate about the sale of sex in public) that created risks for sex workers. Continue reading

Toronto Real Estate, Russian Imperialism, and Economic Mobility

I came across a story this weekend that struck me on a personal level for several unexpected reasons. The story began with a real estate listing, a semi-attached commercial space at 716 Gerrard Street East, listed for $539,000. I didn’t know the building, nor was I familiar with the area, but it was the subject of the story, the late resident of the space, that drew my attention.

The exterior of 716 Gerrard Street East, where Grand Duchess Olga of Russia lived in Toronto. Photo credit: Matthew Sherwood for National Post.

The exterior of 716 Gerrard Street East, where Grand Duchess Olga of Russia lived in Toronto. Photo credit: Matthew Sherwood for National Post.

From the early 1920s until her death in 1960, the upper floor of 716 Gerrard served as the residence for Russian Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, the last surviving sibling of Tsar Nicholas II. Staring at the picture of the building, I found it almost hard to believe. Like something out of a movie, here in Toronto had lived the member of a royal family, cast into poverty by national uprising and revolution.

I immediately wondered if my grandmother knew she was here. My great grandparents had left Russia for Canada at the turn of the century, while the Tsar was still in power, and settled in Toronto in the 1920s as well. Did they know that a member of the family that inspired their migration was now in the same city? Did they know she had gone from a $453-million St. Petersburg palace to a dilapidated flat a few neighbourhoods away? These questions fascinate me, but I’ll never know the answer.

Olga Alexandrovna was born in 1882, younger sister to Tsar Nicholas II, who had four children whom Olga attended to during her teenage years. Youngest daughter of Alexander III and Empress Marie, the Grand Duchess lived in Russia until 1920. After Nicholas II and his family were executed in 1918, Olga went into hiding, moving first to Denmark until threatened by Stalin and accused of corroborating with Germany. Olga left Europe for the United States and eventually settled in Cooksville, Ontario, and then Toronto. In the city, she lived with Russian friends who ran a beauty salon on the main floor of a semi-attached apartment, at 716 Gerrard.

The highest ranking member of the Russian imperial family to come to North America, Olga lived out her days in a small room on the second floor of the building until she passed away from cancer at age 78. Having once owned a palace complete with its own church, greenhouse, and 70-person staff, she lived modestly after the collapse of the Russian Empire. During the height of the family’s reign, Nicholas II had a personal wealth over a trillion dollars. When Olga came to Canada, according to a family friend, she gave possessions away with little regard, eventually settling on Gerard with only a couple trinkets and a photo of her husband, Colonel Kulikovsky, in hand.

The apartment is now up for sale, likely to be gutted and refitted for commercial use. I don’t know if there’s one morale that jumps out of this story, but it strikes me that Olga’s tale says a little bit about a lot of things. I can’t imagine that as she strolled through the hallways of her palace she ever contemplated winding up in a room on Gerrard Street, and yet that’s where she ended up spending most of her life. I also can’t imagine that my great grandparents would have ever dreamed their daughter would one day have more wealth than the Grand Duchess of Russia, but as it turned out, Olga lived and died with none of her family’s fortune.

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Os-Sustainability Week

Raising Awareness on Everyday Environmentally-Friendly Initiatives

When Osgoode students were asked to name a sustainability initiative on campus, the majority were able to name at least one or two great projects. For instance, many knew that reusable cutlery, mugs, and plates are available in the Bistro to minimize packaging waste. But did you know that the Bistro also offers a twenty-five cent discount on coffee when you bring a travel mug? Or that it only uses cage-free eggs in its meals?

Building awareness of these diverse sustainability initiatives is one of the principal goals of the Osgoode Sustainability Committee. As a subset of the Osgoode Environmental Law Society, the Sustainability Committee has been working with Aramark (the company that runs the Bistro) and Osgoode Facilities Management to make students’ voices heard. For instance, last year, the Sustainability Committee worked to ensure double-sided printing options were available in the library and introduced an organics bin in the Bistro.

Building on the Sustainability Committee’s past successes, this year marked the first annual Os-Sustainability Week. Beginning on Monday, November 19, Os-Sustainability Week was a celebration of environmental and social awareness on campus.

Students, faculty, and staff who brought a mug to campus enjoyed free fair-trade coffee and tea during the Monday and Wednesday lunch breaks. In addition, those who visited the Os-Sustainability Week booth were invited to spin the sustainability wheel to win great prizes. Visitors were given a sustainability question either revolving around the sustainability initiatives present in the Bistro or opportunities to live more sustainably at home.

With the generous support of Aramark and Legal & Lit, the Sustainability Committee gave away over $150 in Bistro and Starbucks gift cards as well as reusable take-out containers and travel mugs.

Although the Os-Sustainability Week is only one week a year, the Osgoode Sustainability Committee hopes the event will draw attention to the simple, environmentally-friendly practices we can engage in every day. Moreover, to help keep this spirit alive throughout the year, the Sustainability Committee has partnered with the Obiter Dicta to bring you the “Green Tip of the Week.” Going forward, the Sustainability Committee will draw attention to one environmentally-friendly practice, activity, or event on campus each week.

Have ideas for the Green Tip of the Week? Or want to get involved in upcoming Sustainability Committee events and projects? Just email

The Obiter Goes Abroad: Aryeh Samuel in Jerusalem

This week, the Obiter travels to one of the world’s oldest cities, a cradle of human history, and origin for three of the world’s most widespread faiths: the beautiful, timeless, and stately Jerusalem in Israel.

An aerial view of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem captures the scale of the campus in its surroundings.

An aerial view of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem captures the scale of the campus in its surroundings.

Giving us a first-hand glimpse into the heart of this ancient place is Aryeh Samuel, currently in the third year of his Juris Doctor, who hails from New York and holds and undergraduate degree in Economics. Aryeh participated in the exchange program to Hebrew University in Jerusalem (one of the many offered through Osgoode’s partner schools across the globe) for the summer of 2013.

Hebrew University is the second oldest post-secondary institution in Israel, and is considered the best university in Israel by several rankings. The Faculty of Law, located at the Mount Scopus campus, offers students from its partner schools the ability to participate in an exchange semester. Courses are offered in English or Hebrew.

“I wanted to experience legal education in a different setting,” writes Aryeh. “I wanted to be able to appreciate what assumptions I have about the world and law, that may not be assumed in another culture or legal system.” Seeing beyond the limits of an insular legal education found in a single university setting was not his only reason to go to Hebrew University. For Aryeh, the exchange was attractive in that it was heavily subsidized, provided three credits towards his degree, and because of his personal connections to Jerusalem.

Aryeh described some of the most anticipated parts of the trip. The city is home to a number of important historic heritage sites: the Western Wall, the Old City of Jerusalem, the Holocaust Museum, the shooque (or the old market), and the pristine beaches in northern Israel. Visiting these places was the highlight of Aryeh’s exchange.

And of course, no coverage of another country is complete without talking about the food. Israeli cuisine is unfamiliar to many Canadians, save a select number of wildly popularized items like hummus, falafel, shawarma, halva, pita bread, and maybe even more recently, shakshuka. Canadians are in dire need of a better introduction to the cuisine of Jerusalem. Aryeh gives his suggestions: a Yemenite dessert called mufleta and an Israeli staple called sabich, a sandwich combining an unlikely pair of egg and eggplant.

An extended stay away from home can be difficult, especially considering that studying abroad is commonly a student’s first time being completely independent in a radically different place, but some things can help to avoid homesickness. “When we were away, Toronto had been hit with a major rain storm, one of the biggest in its history,” Aryeh recalls. “[In Toronto,] buildings had flooded, highways were completely submerged in water. It was a bit sad not to be home experiencing that with my family, but otherwise I was not homesick at all.”

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A year in review: ISIQ, ISIL, ISIS and IS

How did it come about, what is it doing, and where is it heading?


These modern day warriors have traded their horses and swords for Soviet T-72s and Stinger missiles.

Islamic State (IS) introduced itself to the Western world this summer through the infamous beheading videos. The official name for the group is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Arab acronym of Da’ish, or the self-termed IS). It is a Sunni caliphate, comprised of international extremists waging a “jihad” against all those who oppose it. The group controls territory in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and the Sinai Peninsula. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations, the European Union, the UK, US, Australia, Canada, Turkey, and the UAE, and accused by Amnesty International of committing grave human rights abuses including ethnic cleansing. Groups located outside territories currently claimed by IS have self-identified as supporting them or have pledged allegiance, including Boko Haram, the Iraqi Ba’ath Party (the former ruling party of the country), and others hailing from Pakistan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Uzbekistan, Libya, Tunisia, and Gaza.

The group originated in Jordan in 1999, becoming a decentralized network during the Iraqi insurgency in which foreign fighters were widely thought to play a key role. In 2004, it became al-Qaeda in Iraq, taking part in attacking coalition forces and Iraqi security forces after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. After merging with other groups, the Islamic State of Iraq was born in 2006. After a decline due to its aggressiveness, in 2013, the group changed its name to ISIS, growing under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. However, given its violent methods, including suicide attacks on civilian targets and the widespread killing of prisoners during its involvement in Iraq and the Syrian Civil War, al-Qaeda disowned ISIS in February 2014, partially because of the latter’s attempt to bring the al-Nusra Front into its sphere of influence, stating “al-Qaeda does not have an organizational relationship with [ISIS] and is not the group responsible for their actions.” In June, IS proclaimed itself a worldwide caliphate – a single theocratic one-world government to overthrow the world’s current political systems.

The beheadings which first captivated the West included those of James Foley (an American freelance war correspondent during the Syrian Civil War), up to seventy-five Syrian soldiers from a captured base, Steven Sotloff (a journalist for TIME magazine and the Jerusalem Post), David Haines (an aid worker assessing a refugee camp near the Turkish border), Hervé Gourdel (a French mountaineering guide in Algeria), and Alan Henning (a British humanitarian aid worker). These beheadings follow the policy espoused by ISIL spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani to attack citizens of countries participating in the US-led coalition against the Islamic State.

One name in particular has been closely tied with the beheadings – that of Jihadi John, a member of the so-called Beatles (a terrorist cell within ISIS). He is alleged to be a UK national who appears in the videos speaking English with an British accent, and is responsible for the actual executions. Along with other Beatles, he guarded Western hostages while handling communications with their families. He was identified by the FBI in September, but his name has yet to be released publicly. British PM David Cameron has ordered MI5, MI6, and GCHQ to track and capture him.

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The Meat of the Discrimination Problem

The hidden discrimination against vegetarians, and why it actually matters

One of the fundamental rights protected by the Charter is the right to freedom of conscience and religion. This right is so important that the Charter also prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion. And while recent case law has held that these rights do not extend to the more marginal or fringe religious sects and cults, it is not clear that this should make any moral difference.

In other words, if some group’s beliefs are not constitutionally (or otherwise legally) protected, does this give us moral license to dismiss, disregard, and disrespect the genuinely held beliefs of another group?

On reflection, I think the answer is clearly no. Even though an individual is not part of an historically disadvantaged group, she may still be subjected to wrongful discrimination on the basis of some other affiliation or physical characteristic.

This is an obvious point – that South Park episode where Cartman undertakes to commit genocide on “gingers” is a case in point. Having red hair and freckles may not entitle you to special legal protection, but it is clearly wrong to be discriminated against on the basis of these physical features. And unsurprisingly, most people tend to behave in a way that acknowledges the wrongfulness of this kind of discrimination.

Yet there is another form of wrongful discrimination that goes almost entirely unnoticed – not just within Canadian society at large, but also within these halls. There is a form of discrimination that disadvantages a group of people on the basis of their beliefs.

I am referring to the ethical vegetarians/vegans – people who refrain from eating animal products because of their belief that doing so is morally wrong.

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A Christmas Carol for My Fellow Osgoode Students

Replacing darkness and despair with hopes of goodwill and renewed optimism

As the holiday season quickly approaches, and another year slowly comes to an end, it seems only fitting to pause and reflect upon the moments that have passed us by, those we currently live in, and those yet to come. It is far too easy for us law students to narrow the perspective on our lives during this time of the year to little more than eating, studying, and sleeping. And at times, two of those three seem merely optional. To persist down this path may bring the immediate rewards of academic glory and the justification needed for a seventh eggnog latte in one day, but it also detracts our attention away from the bigger picture we are part of, the reasons why we have chosen to walk this path in the first place. So in true Dickensian fashion, this salty, old Scrooge would like to explore the depths of her own soul in hopes of arriving at the traditional epiphany often espoused as the end of another year gone by. After all, what kind of a paper would this be without the pontifications of its staff? No, don’t answer that.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

I think it’s safe to say that each and every one of us has found ourselves in our present predicament – it is, after all, both a blessing and a curse – as a result of circumstances that bear a great significance in our life. So while it’s easy to dismiss the cliché question ‘Why did you apply to law school?’ in jest, the likely reality is that the answer is the motivation influencing how our journeys take shape during these next years. To that end, it seems somewhat appropriate to reflect on where we started, regardless of where we currently stand, to gain a full appreciation of just how far we’ve already come since then. It might seem trite to point out, but the value isn’t in revealing the process per se, but rather the substantive insight that it can provide.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I’m probably one of the black sheep as far as one’s expectations of a law student is concerned. Or at the very least, I’m a dark shade of grey. I didn’t arrive at law school through the front doors like most. Instead, I slipped in through the delivery doors after spending a good ten years traipsing about the yard looking at cloud bunnies in the sky and occasionally pondering whether it’s possible to build an elevator to space. I was an art student. My Ghost of Christmas Past brings memories of a career that indulged in radicalism and scoffed at the notion of doing anything conventional. It was a time where I was free-spirited in thought and not yet tempered by the pragmatic realities that quickly become evident after a single semester of law school. I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but I was fortunate to have the opportunity to find myself in a field that fosters innovation without placing barriers that prevent unexpected possibilities. It wasn’t necessarily the creation of the work that I was most passionate about, but rather the mindset involved in the process.

My Ghost also reveals to me the memories of my time back home in Vancouver where I was surrounded by the love and support of my friends and family, a time when I came home after work every night to my partner. As I’m sure many of us have discovered, there truly isn’t a better test of the strength of those connections than choosing to study law nearly 4500 kilometers away. In looking back on the life I was living, I begin to appreciate the sacrifices I’ve made in order to be here. I took a risk by leaving an established career to pursue what is arguably a complete turnaround from where I stood with no guarantees of success – in fact, quite the opposite! I lost several good friends and a fiancé as a result of the distance and the demands on my time. I don’t reflect on these things as an act of self-pity. I look at them as an indication of the strength of my commitment to these goals, as a reminder to keep moving forward lest I cheapen the integrity of the sacrifices I’ve made.

The Ghost of Christmas Present Continue reading

A Trio of Film Reviews, Currently in Theatres

Spying, Sports, Showbiz – The “Dark Side” of Modern Society

Citizenfour (2014) 3/4

Fellow citizens: There is little time to plan.

Fellow citizens: There is little time to plan.

Urgent, fascinating, and tastefully designed, Citizenfour is a primal political fable for the digital age; prosaic in its presentation, profound in its details, and perturbing in its implications. Alarming and essential, it’s a tapestry of escalating suspense; a masterful fusion of journalism and art; a rare, remarkably intimate look at a crucial historical event as it happened; a living document of a global scandal straight from the mouth of the whistleblower.

In June 2013, director Laura Poitras (My Country, My Country, The Oath) – recipient of the 2012 MacArthur Genius Fellowship and co-recipient of the 2014 Pulizer Prize for Public Service – became the first journalist contacted by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. After a series of encrypted e-mails, Poitras travels with Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings to discuss the strategic release of voluminous evidence of industrial-scale surveillance that will result in the biggest intelligence leak in history.

As Poitras’ third film, Citizenfour is the culmination of a post-9/11 trilogy that spans a dark horizon from Iraq to Guantánamo. It’s a wow of a thriller; an enthralling, thought-provoking tale torn from recent headlines; and a compelling work of cinema, with all the paranoid density and abrupt changes of scenery of a John le Carré novel and a soul that isn’t computer generated. This is bold, fearless filmmaking, with more in common with All the Presidents Men and The Conversation than any modern “true narrative.”

Blending the brisk globetrotting of the Bourne trilogy with the atmospheric effects of a Japanese horror film, Poitras adapts the cold language of data encryption to recount a dramatic saga of abuse of power, and demonstrates that information is a weapon that can cut both ways. It’s likely that her storytelling will be overshadowed by her opportunity, her craft by her access, and her thoroughly, unashamedly partisan attitude towards Snowden is an easy target. But she succeeds brilliantly in evoking a shadow villain intent on world domination.
Like a 1970s paranoia thriller with real-world consequences, Citizenfour is a useful primer in the civil liberties and consent issues that Snowden’s disclosures raised. It’s a real-time tableau of the confrontation between the individual and the state; a gripping record of how our rulers are addicted to gaining more and more power and control over us, if we let them. Dictatorships have always relied on the massive gathering of information in order to control their populations; in this brave new cyber world - a Huxleyan or Orwellian dystopia – democracies may similarly be crossing the line. Senators lie and congressmen squirm, and nobody is held accountable except Snowden.

Citizenfour wears many hats: it’s a bombshell revelation, a character study, a world-girdling espionage thriller, a crucial social document, an oblique manifesto, an expertly crafted exposé, and a model of understatement. It may be the most disturbing political documentary since Alex Gibney’s Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side. Its very existence makes us feel the danger of government invasion, yet it stands as a testament to the fact that while cowering under the corporate jackboot, we still have the power of expression, and that’s all we need to get a resistance off the ground.

If Citizenfour ends abruptly, it’s only because the real-life story is still far from over. How often do you watch someone change the world in real time? Big Brother is back, and he’s gone digital. Anyone with a phone should see it.


Foxcatcher (2014) 3/4  Continue reading

Community Interrupted

Towards a Less Constitutional Constitutionalism

On November 12, 2014, Stacy Douglas, assistant professor at Carleton University and constitutional scholar, visited Osgoode Hall Law School as part of the Law.Art.Culture Colloquium Series. She presented on the problem that constitutions, often considered to be the primary devices with which to construct new political communities, have a tendency to conflate the everyday management of populations with the vast horizons of political possibilities. Her legal interests are motivated by broad questions about theories of democracy, the role of the state, the relationship between government and the governed, and processes of decolonisation.

Stacy Douglas speaks of the need to interrupt the constitutional “fetishizing” in the political community.

Stacy Douglas speaks of the need to interrupt the constitutional “fetishizing” in the political community.

Currently, she is tackling issues related to monumentalizing the constitution and the need for counter-monumental memorializing in order to interrupt constitutional “fetishizing” and decentre the constitution in the political community.  Her research focus is on exploring ways to un-think the hegemony of the liberal subject in the sovereign community, and looking to the museum as a possible place that can function as an external site where radical reflexivity is possible. Prior to her presentation, I had the opportunity to interview Stacy to explore what inspired her research, and the importance of writing the interruption to transform the political community.

Michael:  So I read a couple of your articles, your latest ones on constitutionalism and museums. Reflecting on my visits to museums, I never considered them as manufacturers of community, but it’s an interesting thought. What first got you interested in this area of study in the first place?

Stacy: My manuscript begins with an anecdote about me as a young person growing up in Peterborough, Ontario, going on class trips to museums. In particular, I talk about an experience of going to a museum where the staff asked us to assume roles in order to relive history; the role they wanted us to relive was that of settlers coming to Canada. Staff told us, “Pretend you are all immigrants fleeing Europe and you’re getting on the Mayflower and coming to a new land.” I remember distinctly being asked to get into bunk beds that were supposed to help simulate the trip; we all crammed in. They asked us to effectively think and feel the story of who belonged to the supposed history of Peterborough.

That memory has persisted in my mind, begging questions about community and belonging and what kinds of histories are presumed to “belong” to Peterborough. Many of my classmates were not European immigrants, so it wasn’t their story, and it certainly wasn’t the story for my Ojibwa classmates. It’s that narrative force of the museum and its authorizing power that has constantly returned to me.

M: How do you relate how museums function to that of constitutions?

S: That’s a good question. I talk about it in a lot of different ways in my work. The most succinct way I can put it is that both museums and constitutions are sites where imaginations of political communities are launched. They both tell stories about who belongs and who doesn’t belong. They both tell stories about the kind of parameters of community and jurisdiction. And they do that in numerous ways. One example is the use of time—specifically teleological time—the use of linear time to anchor their imaginations of the political.

Crucially, however, even though museums and constitutions have these similarities, I also argue that museums can do things that constitutions cannot and that difference is important. Different kinds of constitutional theorists have tried making the constitution reflexive; what I say there is that the attempt to do so, especially about their boundaries and borders, is not possible. Constitutions delimit; that is what they do. If it’s not delimiting political community or claiming to then it’s not a constitution; it has to have a body politic to found itself.

Museums, even though they have this long history of also delimiting in this way, can actually undo that by adopting counter-monumental memorializing practices. This term, I borrow from South African scholars; they have written a lot about their relatively new constitution (1996), and on the problematic ways it is lauded as a quick fix for their problems. I argue that one of the ways we can attend to this problem is to look at the museum as a site with which we can interrupt that monumentalization.

M: I recently heard Jeffery Hewitt speak on Aboriginal law and evidence, and he was talking about the progression of Aboriginal rights through the Constitution. One thing I took from his talk was that although Aboriginal peoples have rights enshrined in the Constitution Act, 1982, those rights are imposed upon them by, and interpreted through, the sovereign structure in which the Constitution was founded. Museums, on the other hand, are places that don’t have that inherent limitation. Are museums then a source of political community where other people’s narratives, rather than just the dominant one, can be told in a space where we can interact and learn about them?

S: What I am trying to get at are the inheritances of the Western liberal individual that come through our juridical structure. How do we deal with that while simultaneously attending to the everyday need to make decisions, to navigate, and negotiate conflict? While I am aspirational for a juridical structure that gets away from that inheritance of sovereignty, I don’t know how that’s going to happen, I don’t think we can fix it within the system. As long as that system exists, what we should do is to work on not fetishizing it as the sole site of political community. As thinkers dedicated to figuring out how to change our political horizons, we need to stop centering the constitution, or at least realize the limitations of it, and look to other sites from which we can attack these footholds.

M: That’s interesting. A lot of what I’ve heard about Aboriginal law cases, those cases didn’t happen by accident. Aboriginal people violated the law purposefully in order to challenge the law, bring the legal issues to court, and progress their rights through the constitution. It’s also interesting that there may be a second path, outside the Constitution and within the community itself, that can at least advance the cultural narratives on how our communities should look like rather than how they’re imposed on us by the structures of our society.

S: Part of what I’m saying is that it’s not only the constitution that pulls on these inheritances of sovereignty and the Western liberal individual. I think part of the problem is our delimitation of community and our thinking about who is in and who is out. I draw on the work of Jean-Luc Nancy in this regard. Nancy argues that every time we draw a border around community, or any other absolute for that matter, anytime we make this solid, circular boundary and say this is a thing on the inside and it is absolutely autonomous, we are telling a lie about that thing. What happens is that every time we draw that border, it is always exposed to that which is outside of it. It is always in relation. So whenever we say, “Here is the absolutely autonomous individual or nation or community,” whether it is a romanticized indigenous community or a romanticized left multitude or a nation state, any of those things, we’re always telling a lie about that structure, about its autonomy, its sovereignty. Continue reading


Food Adventure #6: BIG CROW (176 Dupont St.)

Kate: Karolina and I decided that since our last brunch adventure was such a hit (though, technically, the restaurant was a miss), she would be my official brunch companion for the rest of the year. Per her suggestion, we decided to check out Big Crow, which is run by the owners of Rose and Sons and Fat Pasha in a small tent-like structure directly behind R&S. There is no sign (at least that I could see – we have established that law school has made me blind), so I found myself wandering into R&S to ask for directions. Let me save all of you the confusion: there are concrete steps to the right side of Rose and Sons – head to the white building in the back.

In true Canadian fashion, every meal is better when paired with a fried slab of bacon!

In true Canadian fashion, every meal is better when paired with a fried slab of bacon!

Karolina: Big Crow is indeed hard to find. Were it not for the instructions Kate texted to me as I walked over, I would’ve arrived even later than I already did. But experience has taught me that all the places worth seeing (and worth being seen at, for that matter) lack ostensible signage. It was partly for this reason that I expected great things from Big Crow, but also because wandering into alleyways and entering unmarked sheds as a prelude to brunch added a just enough whimsy and pseudo-clandestineness to set our meal off on good footing.

Brunch Hours

Big Crow is open for brunch from 11-3 on Saturdays and Sundays. Hopefully you aren’t an early riser, or you may need some pre-brunch sustenance.

Wait Time/Service

Kate: When I was checking out the menu for Big Crow a couple of days before we went, I discovered that it takes reservations – a first of any of the restaurants I have checked out thus far. If you aren’t a planner, you would still likely be able to find a seat, because there were a few empty tables the whole time we were there.

Karolina: The empty tables were perturbing, especially considering (spoiler alert) how incredible the food was. I’m almost hesitant to write this review at all, simply because I’m worried that the lack of patrons can be attributed to few people knowing about this place (it just opened in July), and I don’t want to give away what I regard to be Toronto’s best kept brunch secret. But so much for that.

Kate: I didn’t realize it was so new! I no longer feel that slight bit of shame for, you know, having to ask where the restaurant was. Once we were seated, it only took an hour between when we ordered and when we left – half as long as last week. Our server was extremely friendly and attentive, and refills of water and coffee (when ordered – see below) came in good time. The server kind of reminded me of Cam from Modern Family?

Karolina: I could see that, but I would describe him more like Cam with an edge. His acid wash Canadian tuxedo, studded fedora, and rattail hairstyle reflected the casual but carefully curated atmosphere of Big Crow. He neglected to ridicule my enthusiastic photo-documentation of the food and the restaurant, for which I am eternally grateful.

Kate: How did I miss the rattail?! So disappointed. He actually seemed kind of thrilled when you asked to take pictures…


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