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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

Flawed Precedent

The St. Catherine’s Case and Aboriginal Title

Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

Flawed Precedent

The St. Catherine’s Case and Aboriginal Title

In 1888, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ruled in the St. Catherine’s case. This precedent-setting decision would define the legal contours of Aboriginal title in Canada for almost a hundred years. In Flawed Precedent, preeminent legal scholar Kent McNeil examines the trial and its context in detail, demonstrating how erroneous assumptions and prejudicial attitudes about Indigenous peoples and their land use influenced the case. He also discusses the effects the decision had on law and policy until the 1970s when its authority was finally questioned in Calder and in other key rulings. McNeil has written a compelling account of a landmark case that undermined Indigenous land rights for almost a century.


Table of Contents

Introduction: Judicial Precedent and Indigenous Rights

1 The Political and Ideological Context of the 1880s

2 The Historical Context

3 The Factual Background, Cause of Action, and Evidence

4 Chancellor Boyd’s Trial Decision

5 The Ontario Court of Appeal Decision

6 The Supreme Court of Canada Judgments

7 Lord Watson’s Privy Council Decision

8 The Decision’s Impact and the Debate over Indigenous Land Rights in British Columbia

9 The Modern Case Law

Conclusion: A Lesson in Judicial Precedent

Notes; Bibliographic Essay; Index of Cases; Index

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