Reflections on Canada’s Past, Present and Future in International Law by Oonagh Fitzgerald, Valerie Hughes, Mark Jewett, eds.

AuthorRobert Hage
Publication Date01 December 2019
Date01 December 2019
SubjectBook Reviews
In sum, Other Diplomacies, Other Ties: Cuba and Canada in the Shadow of the US
features a few original contributions, but overall the ideological parameters of this
book severely limit what could be said critically about Canada–Cuba relations.
Oonagh Fitzgerald, Valerie Hughes, Mark Jewett, eds.
Reflections on Canada’s Past, Present and Future in International Law
´flexions sur le passe
´, le pre
´sent et l’avenir du Canada en matie
`re de droit international)
Waterloo, ON: Centre for International Governance Innovation Press, 2018. 497 pp. $85.00
ISBN: 9-7819-2809-667-2
Reviewed by: Robert Hage (, Canadian Global Affairs Institute,
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
What can you say about an extensive volume on Canada’s approach to inter-
national law when the last and only comparable work, Canadian Perspectives on
International Law,
was published in 1974? It has been a long time coming. The
book’s editors, all associated with the $60 million International Law Research
Program (ILRP) at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, decided
to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary by tracing Canada’s approach over the past
150 years while pointing to future opportunities and challenges.
One immediate challenge is the size of the 497-page book itself. The editors
have responded by dividing it into four topical parts and enlisting more than
thirty Canadian academic and practising legal experts who write with clarity, and
with an eye both to the past and the future. They note that the field of inter-
national law is constantly being expanded. They recognize that they are addressing
not just the relatively small group of academics, students, and government practi-
tioners of 1974, but a much wider audience. International law in Canada has now
become a feature of most law schools’ curricula, a subject of interest across federal,
provincial, and even municipal governments, the private sector, and medium-to-
large law firms.
In other words, the book has to be useful. The editors decided not to try to be
comprehensive, as the 1974 volume did, but to tackle a number of key issues rele-
vant to their wider audience. This includes substantial sections on treaties, trade,
environment, intellectual property (IP), human rights, and humanitarian law.
Reflections on Canada’s Past, Present and Future in International Law has gone
beyond the 1974 Canadian Perspectives on International Law in other ways. The
submissions are largely in English, but there are a good number in French, as well
as a section on Indigenous legal traditions and international law—a first.
Given the calibre of the authors, the compendium is not just a ‘‘how-to’’ book in
the development of international law, but also a critique of what Canada is doing
right and where Canada’s approach and implementation of international law could
be improved. Canada’s evolution as an independent state from Great Britain meant
Canada initially lacked the capacity to enter into direct treaties. The role of
Book Reviews 625

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