Gordon Christie


Relevant Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2020)
Reconceiving the Duty to Consult and Accommodate Aboriginal Peoples: A Relational Approach (2016)

Duty to consult and accommodate jurisprudence does not live up to the promise of reconciliation that the Supreme Court of Canada has identified as the grand purpose of section 35(1) of the Constitution Acts. I argue that a relational framework to the duty to consult and accommodate would forward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples within Canada. I suggest four bijural principles to ground this framework: respect, recognition, reciprocity and reconciliation – all of which find support in Canadian and Indigenous laws. The principle of respect situates Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples within a web of relationships that define our identities and level of self-respect. Practical strategies include making interdependence primary, rejecting colonial attitudes, and creating space for Indigenous communities to foster cultural difference. The principle of recognition involves two aspects: acknowledgement and affirmation. Acknowledgment involves acknowledging historic wrongs, taking responsibility, and moving forward together in light of the history. Practical strategies include recognizing the value of Indigenous storytelling, creating spaces for meaningful listening, and making a commitment to remember and change. Affirmation involves formally entrenching in law the inherent rights of Indigenous communities. It involves rejecting the assumption of settler entitlement to Indigenous lands, putting all issues on the table in political negotiations, and creating a sphere of recognition for Indigenous governance and legal systems. The principle of reciprocity involves engaging with cross-cultural others to create an equally beneficial relationship aimed at mutual understanding. Practical strategies include dialogical engagement with no hidden agenda, starting from a point of wonder, humility and risk, and striving for embodied connections with cross-cultural others. The principle of reconciliation involves a long-term process to rebuild damaged relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Practical strategies include rebuilding trust, developing a shared vision of the future, creating processes to manage conflicts that arise, and implementing concrete actions to move towards the shared vision. In the context of the duty to consult and accommodate, each principle points to attitudinal shifts and concrete actions that have implications for Canadian judges and governments. Implementing this relational framework provides a promising pathway forward to rebuild Indigenous/non-Indigenous relationships within Canada.

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Legal Imperialism and the Democratisation of Law: Towards an African feminist jurisprudence on the development of land law and rights in Nigeria 1861-2011. (2014)

This thesis examines the role of law in the establishment of colonial rule in Nigeria in the 19th and early 20th century and argues that the legal imperialism of this period continues to characterize the post- independence modern legal system creating a crisis of legitimacy, relevance and justice which can only be resolved through a process of democratization of law. Focusing on a case study of the development of land law in Southern Nigeria, from 1861 to 2011, and its impact on women’s land rights, the thesis explores the continuities and discontinuities in land use policy, law and practice and options for democratic reform. It demonstrates that there has been a growing centralization and concentration of power over land in this period, which tends to result in widespread abuse and the dispossession of large groups of people of access to land and livelihoods. It shows how women have been disproportionately affected by these developments and how their dispossession has been facilitated by a colonial legal system – through its discourse, legislation and processes of conflict resolution. Colonial conceptions of law and of gender have intersected to produce a dominant discourse and practices relating to “customary” and “modern” law and rights that goes largely unchallenged today. This thesis analyses these intersections adopting an historical and contextual feminist approach, which I have termed an African feminist jurisprudence, using the term jurisprudence here to mean the philosophy of law. It calls for a shift of emphasis from the customary/modern law dichotomy to focus on substantive issues of equality, equity and justice in law reform as well as the active participation of citizens in governance.

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Raven Grows New Feathers: Realizing Contemporary Indigenous Visions of Justice in Canada through the Culturally Sensitive Interpretation of Legal Rights (2010)

Indigenous peoples in Canada demand self-determination over criminal justice for a number of reasons. Indigenous approaches to justice that resemble restorative justice are thought to be more effective in dealing with Indigenous criminality, to promote the healing of offenders and victims, and to promote relationship reparation in Indigenous communities. Indigenous punitive sanctions such as corporal punishment may also provide a briefer deterrent alternative that avoids the hardening conditions of prisons. Indigenous peoples have little room to pursue these visions of justice. Canadian laws and policies accords only minor accommodations of Indigenous approaches to justice. This is sustained by a political culture that often demands harsher sentences to assure deterrence and public safety. Judicial treatment of the Aboriginal rights provision of the Constitution Act, 1982, provides limited scope for Indigenous peoples to litigate or negotiate for rights to substantive criminal jurisdiction. One approach to overcoming this is to litigate for an Indigenous right of internal autonomy. It gives Indigenous peoples a better position to demand greater accommodation for their justice practices. Another approach is for Indigenous communities to explore avenues for their own economic development, so that they can their own justice systems, free of external influence, to meet their needs. If Indigenous self-determination becomes a reality, there is another issue that is imperative to address. What happens when Indigenous individuals assert their legal rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms against their own justice systems? This engages a tension between Indigenous justice traditions that emphasize collective well-being and individual rights. There is a method for resolving this tension. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples explored the concept of culturally sensitive interpretation of legal rights, re-interpreting legal rights under the Charter to better reflect Indigenous justice traditions while still leaving in place meaningful safeguards against the abuse of collective power. This dissertation puts culturally sensitive interpretation into action by exploring specific proposals with reference to specific rights in the Charter.

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