Professor Rabiat Akande publishes “provocative account” of British rule in Northern Nigeria, its governance of religion and its impact today

Photo of Professor Rabiat Akande on white background
Professor Rabiat Akande

A new book by Professor Rabiat Akande is being hailed as a “novel commentary on the dynamic interplay between law, faith, identity and power.”

The book, Entangled Domains: Empire, Law and Religion in Northern Nigeria, focuses on colonial northern Nigeria, drawing on detailed archival research from two continents to vividly illustrate the constitutional struggles that were triggered by the colonial state’s governance of religion – as well as the legacy of that governance agenda in the postcolonial state. It was published in May by Cambridge University Press.

According to the publisher’s description, the book examines how the colonial state paradoxically insisted on its separation from religion, even as it governed its multi-religious population through what remained of the precolonial caliphate. In the process, the book offers a “provocative account of secularism as a contested yet contingent mode of governing religion and religious difference.”

Samuel Moyn, a professor of law and history at Yale Law School, calls the book an “impressive achievement in a book jacket quotation.

“With the shift away from sponsoring Christian missionary projects, the British empire turned to indirect rule with secularist features,” he is quoted as saying. “In this enterprising history of law and politics in northern Nigeria between past and present, Rabiat Akande illuminates how such secularism intruded on religious and social identity and reshaped it, with profound legacies for the constitutionalism that followed in the postcolony.”

Akande works in the fields of legal history, law and religion, constitutional and comparative constitutional law, Islamic law, international law and post-colonial African law and society. In 2019, she graduated with her doctor of juridical science (SJD) degree from Harvard University. She taught courses at Harvard Law School and at Harvard’s Department for African and African American Studies. She also served as adjunct faculty at Northeastern University School of Law. Prior to her graduate work, she was an associate at G. Elias Solicitors and Advocates in Lagos, Nigeria.

Osgoode authors contribute to significant book on systemic Islamophobia in Canada

book cover: Systemic Islamophobia in Canada

Professors Rabiat Akande and Faisal Bhabha and adjunct faculty member Naseem Mithoowani have contributed to a new book on systemic Islamopobia in Canada that they hope will shed light on the enduring problem and provide insight into potential policy and legal solutions.

Systemic Islamophobia in Canada: A Research Agenda was published in April by University of Toronto Press. It was edited by Anver Emon, a professor of law and history in the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto.

“Islamophobia remains a pervasive problem globally and here in Canada,” said Akande, “and the book is an attempt to grapple with that phenomenon, utilizing a variety of interdisciplinary approaches that take nothing for granted, including the term Islamophobia itself.”

Akande is the author of a chapter titled Centring the Black Muslimah: Interrogating Gendered, Anti-Black Islamophobia, which argues that the effects of Islamophobia are not evenly distributed among Muslims and that those marginalized experiences should be centred within the Muslim community, particularly those at the intersection of gender and blackness.

“Personally,” she added, “I wanted to contribute to the book because I felt that so much continues to be elided in current policy discourse and advocacy efforts, particularly as it concerns the intersection of blackness and gender.”

Bhabha, who authored a chapter titled Fighting Antisemitism by Propagating Islamophobia: The Palestine Trope, said the book is the first he knows of to bring together current Canadian scholars to examine the issue of systemic Islamophobia in contemporary society – locally, nationally and globally.

“Most academic study of Islamophobia to date has been focused on theory and definitions and everyday occurrences, from hate crimes to microaggressions, in which the state is either absent or acting as referee,” he said. “However, this study shows how government and large institutions like universities, banks, public schools, etc. are not neutral but rather complicit in the propagation and perpetuation of Islamophobia through systems and institutions.”

Bhabha said his chapter deals with the case of a Toronto imam who was fired from his position as a part-time teaching assistant and exam invigilator at Toronto Metropolitan University in 2017 after a little- known online publication incorrectly reported that he had openly prayed in a prominent Toronto mosque for the killing of Jews.

“My chapter shows how the information the university relied upon was biased and a product of far-right networks,” he said. “The chapter asks what meaning the university’s affirmation of equity, diversity and inclusion can have when the university actively promotes one form of discrimination in the name of combatting another.”

Mithoowani, a Toronto immigration lawyer who authored a chapter titled Immigration and Systemic Islamophobia, said she was drawn to contribute to the book because it is one of the first serious studies of the subtle ways that our societal systems function to perpetuate bias against Muslims or those perceived as Muslims – even if it is largely done without ill intent or motive.

“This book begins that exploration,” she said. “If we are ever going to truly confront Islamophobia, this is a necessary step.”

She said her chapter explores the subtle ways that Muslims are shut out of immigration to Canada, including the uneven application of inadmissibility provisions related to national security and Canada’s disproportionate rejection of study or tourist visa applications from Muslim-majority countries.

“Given the importance of immigration to our society,” she noted, “this is a topic that I think deserves close attention.”

Bhabha said the book does not attempt to offer solutions to systemic Islamophobia but lays the groundwork for future research that may include prescriptive elements.

Akande said the challenge of finding solutions to systemic Islamophobia is addressed by the book’s authors in a variety of ways.

“In my chapter, I argue that a good beginning is to ‘listen’ to unmediated accounts of the experience of Islamophobia,” she noted. “I think this is particularly crucial to understanding voices that remain inadequately represented in policy and legal debates on Islamophobia.”


Professor Philip Girard announced as co-winner of 2023 W. Wesley Pue Book Prize

Image of book cover: A history of law in Canada volume 2

Professor Philip Girard is a co-recipient of the 2023 W. Wesley Pue Book Prize, awarded annually by the Canadian Law and Society Association (CLSA) for the best book on law and society published in the previous year in English or in French.

This year’s award, announced during the CLSA’s annual meeting at Osgoode on May 27, honours A History of Law in Canada Volume Two: Law for the New Dominion, 1867-1914, co-written by Girard, Jim Phillips, a professor of law, history and criminology at the University of Toronto, and R. Blake Brown, a professor of history at St. Mary’s University in Halifax. The book was published in 2022 by the University of Toronto Press and was designated as the 2022 members’ book by the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History.

“With History of Law in Canada, Volume Two, Jim Phillips, Philip Girard and R. Blake Brown have significantly contributed to law and society scholarship with a monumental book of legal history,” reads the award citation.

“Comprehensive and meticulously sourced,” it adds, “Phillips, Girard and Brown illustrate how plural legal orders – Indigenous law, common law and civil law – were impacted by the process of developing and consolidating a national legal order in Canada, and how fundamental aspects of the Canadian legal order took form between 1867 and 1914. Such a new and outstanding work in law and society is absolutely deserving of the CLSA’s W. Wesley Pue Book Prize.”

Founded in 1985, the CLSA is made up of scholars from many disciplines who are interested in the place of law in social, political, economic and cultural life. The Pue Prize, one of three main prizes awarded by the association each year, is named in memory of William Wesley Pue, a past president of the organization and a professor of legal history at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia who died in April 2019.

In 2011, Girard became the first Canadian to be made an honorary fellow of the American Society for Legal History and in 2021 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2021, he was also awarded the David Walter Mundell Medal for excellence in legal writing by the attorney general of Ontario. After a distinguished academic career spanning more than 40 years, he will officially retire from Osgoode in June 2023.

Workshop examines early contributions of women to legal education in Canada

Patricia McMahon headshot on white background
Professor Patricia McMahon

Legal scholars from across Canada gathered at Osgoode May 25th and 26th to advance work on a unique book examining the critical impact of women in shaping legal education in Canada.

“With women now making up more than half of most law school classes, it’s important to examine and analyze the lives and contributions of the women who taught them, especially because it has taken so long to have that same kind of representation in the front of the classroom,” said Osgoode Professor Patricia McMahon, who co-covened the workshop and is co-authoring the book’s concluding chapter.

Twelve of the book’s 16 contributors attended the third and final workshop, which was funded by Osgoode, the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies at Osgoode and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connection Grant.

The project is led by the book’s co-editors, Anna Lund, an associate professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta, and Virginia Torrie ’09, ’10 (LLM), a former associate professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba.

McMahon said the book will detail the diverse lives and contributions of the early women members of Canada’s legal academy, including some of the first women appointed to tenure-track positions, as well a university registrar, a librarian, an Indigenous Elder and the first Black woman law dean.

She said she joined the project in its early stages because of her work with the oral history program at the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, where she serves as program director. The society’s oral history program has so far collected more than 700 oral history interviews with members of the legal profession, including many women.

The as-yet untitled book is expected to be published by University of British Columbia Press later this year or early next year.

AI could be used to enhance human rights for asylum-seekers, says Professor Sean Rehaag in op-ed

Photo of Professor Sean Rehaag on white background
Professor Sean Rehaag

Doctoral students from global law schools gather for ATLAS Agora

PhD students from law schools around the world will take their scholarship to the next level in June as they gather for the 13th annual ATLAS Agora Summer School at Osgoode.

The unique event, which has been run since 2008 by the Association of Transnational Law Schools (ATLAS), will bring together 21 doctoral students from June 2 to 9. Along with Osgoode, the participating law schools or law faculties will include Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Law in Israel, the Charles University Faculty of Law in the Czech Republic, Erasmus School of Law in the Netherlands, the University of Antwerp Faculty of Law in Belgium, the Sutherland School of Law at University College Dublin in Ireland, Université de Montréal Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Law at the University of Graz in Austria.

The theme of this year’s event is “Interdisciplinary and Public Facing Approaches to Legal Research.”

“This year’s ATLAS Agora is unique because all of its components are designed to help grad students ‘become’ well rounded academics,” said Professor Saptarishi Bandopadhyay, who is serving as this year’s ATLAS Agora director.

“The goal is to equip future grad students to see themselves as full-fledged academics and scholars in the real world,” he added. “We want to encourage them to think broadly about their specific legal questions, to encourage them to seek funding, to produce research that is of relevance to both specialist audiences and the general public, and to teach them to read the work of their peers critically but supportively.”

During each day of the Agora, the doctoral students will participate in an interdisciplinary seminar, PhD dissertation workshops and a professional development/knowledge dissemination seminar. Nine Osgoode faculty members are among those leading the seminars: Professors Jeffery Hewitt (Law and Indigeneity), Patricia McMahon (Legal History), Barnali Choudhury (Private Law and Climate Change), Rabiat Akande (Law & Religion), Emily Kidd White (Law and Emotion), Jennifer Nadler (Law and Philosophy), Deborah McGregor (Grant Applications) and Allan Hutchinson (Writing Essays/Op-Eds).

One of the highlights of this year’s Agora will be the PhD dissertation workshops, which are modelled on workshops organized at Harvard Law School, said Bandopadhyay. The students were asked to submit a paper of up to 8,000 words in advance and to read the papers of those in their group. Each workshop session will include four students and one faculty chair. Each paper will be discussed for approximately 30 to 35 minutes. Osgoode faculty leading the workshops will be Professors Craig Scott, Karen Drake, Dana Scott, Faisal Bhabha and Bruce Ryder.

Scott, who serves as associate dean, academic, and who co-created ATLAS in 2006, said ATLAS Agora was the first event of its kind for law school doctoral students and remains unparalleled in the international law school community.

“It was an Osgoode initiative, but we needed the five original partners to sign on,” he recalled in an email. “I am not aware of any similar doctoral consortium arrangement still.”

Due to complications related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlas Agora Summer Schools were cancelled in 2022 and 2020 and the 2021 event was held online.


Grad hopes scholarship will help inspire Indigenous youth

Photo of Justin Thompson outside Osgoode building with ivy in the background
Justin Thompson

Justin Thompson ’23 hopes a major scholarship he recently won will help inspire other Indigenous youth to reach for the stars.

The member of Nipissing First Nation near North Bay, Ont., who will officially graduate from Osgoode in June, was recently named a recipient of the $10,000 John Wesley Beaver Memorial Award. John Wesley Beaver was a former chief of the Alderville First Nation in eastern Ontario who served as a fighter pilot in the Second World War and rose to become a high-ranking executive at Ontario Power Generation. The scholarship is offered annually by Ontario Power Generation through Indspire, a national Indigenous charity that invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

“Indigenous students want to see someone like themselves who is achieving things,” said Thompson. “So getting the award helps to show that anything is possible for Indigenous students and the sky is the limit.”

Thompson, who is the first in his immediate family to attend university, said the award also represents for him one more sign of hope that Indigenous youth and their communities can look forward to a brighter future after many generations of suffering under colonial oppression. His own great-grandmother, Agnes, was a residential school survivor.

In 2014, for example, his community enacted its own constitution, effectively supplanting the federal Indian Act, with its history of injustice. In addition, Nipissing First Nation is currently developing its own citizenship law, which will allow the community to decide who is a citizen and not the federal government. Alongside these developments, he added, the community is enjoying better times economically and is eagerly awaiting the results of the Restoule case, a landmark case currently before the Supreme Court of Canada that could see members of the Anishinaabe Nation in Northern Ontario win better compensation for the lands they agreed to share with the Crown under the 1850 Robinson Huron Treaty.

“We’ve seen all these exciting changes,” said Thompson. “So I want to play my part in helping my community become more sovereign and to exercise its rights of self-determination, loosening the grip of the Indian Act.”

Even as a teenager, he said, that desire drove his decision to become a lawyer. The scholarship has helped him to realize that dream, he added. In July, after completing his bar admission exams, he will begin articling in the Toronto office of Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP, one of Canada’s leading Aboriginal law firms.

As an aspiring Indigenous lawyer, Thompson said, Osgoode was his first choice of law school after he completed undergraduate and graduate studies at Trent University in Canadian and Indigenous studies. His graduate research there focused on the issue of Indigenous over-incarceration and the lasting impacts of the Indian Act related to the criminalization of Indigenous individuals.

“I came to Osgoode specifically for the Indigenous Intensive,” he said. “And the Indigenous faculty here have been an amazing source of support.”

The only program of its kind in North America, the Intensive Program in Indigenous Lands, Resources, and Governments (IPILRG) explores the legal issues related to Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous rights through the combination of a rigorous academic experience with challenging placements in Indigenous, Aboriginal or environmental law.

“The Intensive was my favourite aspect of law school,” said Thompson. “It was a bit disrupted by COVID, but (Professors) Amar (Bhatia) and Jeff (Hewitt) made sure we had all the support we needed.”

As an Indigenous law student, Thompson said, other highlights of his Osgoode experience included participating in the Kawaskimhon National Aboriginal Moot and his leadership roles with the Osgoode Indigenous Students’ Association (OISA).

“We took on a lot of important initiatives,” he said, citing in his third year the association’s ReDress Week event, its Moose Hide Campaign against domestic and gender-based violence and its Orange Shirt Day, which featured guest speaker and Osgoode alumna Kimberley Murray, the federal government’s Independent Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites associated with Indian Residential Schools.

Third former dean appointed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario

Photo of Deans MacPherson, Monahan and Sossin
Former deans (L-R) James MacPherson, Patrick Monahan and Lorne Sossin.

Justice Patrick Monahan has become the third former Osgoode dean to be appointed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario, joining Justice Lorne Sossin and Supernumerary Justice James MacPherson.

Federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti announced the appointment May 15. Justice Monahan replaces Justice I.V.B. Nordheimer, who became a supernumerary judge effective September 1, 2022.

An Osgoode graduate and, later, a faculty member for more than two decades, Justice Monahan served as dean of the law school from 2003 to 2009. He went on to become provost and vice-president academic of York University from 2009 to 2012 and deputy attorney general for Ontario from 2012 to 2017. He was appointed to the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario in 2017.

Justice MacPherson was dean from 1988 to 1993, while Justice Sossin’s term stretched from 2010 to 2018.

The three former deans share the Court of Appeal bench with 10 other Osgoode graduates, including Chief Justice of Ontario Michael Tulloch ’89, the province’s first Black chief justice. Other graduates include Justice David Brown ’05 (LLM), Justice Steve Coroza ’03 (LLM), Justice William Hourigan ’90, Justice Alexandra Hoy ’78, Justice Peter Lauwers ’83 (LLM), Justice Sarah Pepall ’83 (LLM), Justice Gary Trotter ’90 (LLM) and Justice Benjamin Zarnett ’75.

Osgoode graduates have served at every level of court across Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada, where three graduates are current sitting judges: Justice Malcolm Rowe ’78, Justice Andromache Karakatsanis ’80 and Justice Michelle O’Bonsawin ‘14 (LLM), the high court’s first Indigenous justice.


IP Innovation Clinic to benefit from $300,000 Ontario grant

Photo of Professor Pina D'Agostino on white background

A new $300,000 grant from the Ontario government will better equip Osgoode students to thrive in the province’s burgeoning knowledge economy.

The funding from Intellectual Property Ontario (IPON) will benefit the IP Innovation Clinic, Canada’s largest pro bono IP legal clinic and part of the law school’s comprehensive intellectual property and technology law program.

“With these resources, we can serve many more clients who do not have money to pay for expensive legal fees,” said Professor Pina D’Agostino, the founder and director of the IP Innovation Clinic. “We are also able to train many more law students to be IP and business savvy to protect key assets in the disruptive tech economy.

“The IPON funds,” she added, “will be invaluable to help scale the many successes of the IP Innovation Clinic working with Ontario’s startups.”

The grant will help create two new staff positions – an assistant director for the IP Innovation Clinic and a business development and commercialization manager for York University’s Office of the Vice-President Research and Innovation (OVPRI). It will target researchers especially in the areas of artificial intelligence, automotive and medical technology.

The IP Innovation Clinic operates in collaboration with Innovation York, which also supports researchers. The Osgoode student volunteers who staff the clinic, known as Clinic Fellows, are supervised by lawyers from Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP, Bereskin & Parr LLP and OWN Innovation. Guided by their lawyer mentors, Clinic Fellows provide legal information support to inventors, entrepreneurs and start-up companies and learn about common early-stage IP and business issues facing actors in the innovation ecosystem.

Intellectual Property Ontario (IPON) is a provincial agency that provides IP support and services directly to clients and postsecondary institutions to help Ontario businesses and researchers innovate and grow.

In a written statement, Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop said this latest grant advances IPON’s mandate to provide Ontario post-secondary institutions and innovators with the funding, tools, knowledge and connections they need to harness the value of their IP.

Professor Pina D’Agostino to co-lead historic York research initiative

Photo of Susan Boehnke, Queen’s University with York University’s Giuseppina D’Agostino, Doug Crawford and Gunnar Blohm, Queen’s University.
D’Agostino, second from the left, with (L-R) Queen’s neuroscience researcher Susan Boehnke, inaugural scientific director Doug Crawford of York and inaugural vice-director Gunnar Blohm of Queen’s.

Professor Pina D’Agostino has been named the inaugural vice-director of a pioneering, $318-million,  interdisciplinary research initiative geared to ensuring that cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) are used for the benefit of humankind.

Announced April 28, the historic, seven-year project will also include six other Osgoode professors as members: Professors Valerio De Stefano, Karen Drake, Jeffrey Hewitt, Deborah McGregor, Roxanne Mykitiuk and Jonathon Penney.

The project, to be called Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society, will receive $105.7 million in federal government support through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), with $82.8 million of that going to York and $22.8 million to Queen’s University, its institutional partner on the project. York will contribute an additional $126 million over the life of the project, with further contributions committed by other collaborating partners.

Osgoode’s legal experts will join thought leaders from eight of York’s Faculties and three of Queens’ to focus on how emerging technology is transforming society and how the identified risks and benefits for humanity can be balanced.

Dean Mary Condon congratulated all seven Osgoode faculty members for their involvement in the project.

“The legal expertise, innovative thinking and leadership experience of our faculty members, led by Professor D’Agostino, will make a critical contribution to this important research,” she said. “As we confront the rapid rise of powerful and potentially disruptive technologies like AI, our legislative and legal responses will help determine if and how they contribute to society’s well-being.”

Associate Dean, Research & Institutional Relations, Trevor Farrow also welcomed the news. “Pina has been an innovator at Osgoode and York for years,” he noted. “It’s really great to see the work of all of these Osgoode faculty members getting so much well-deserved attention and recognition.”

D’Agostino was also recently appointed by the Ontario government to the board of directors of the Toronto-based Ontario Centre of Innovation, which supports startups and helps commercialize research developed by Ontario colleges, universities and research hospitals.

Internationally renowned neuroscientist Doug Crawford, the York Distinguished Research Professor in Neuroscience, has been appointed as the inaugural scientific director for Connected Minds, while Sean Hillier, director of York University’s Centre for Indigenous Knowledges & Languages, will serve as inaugural associate director.

A key structural component of the program is an Indigenous-led focus. The project will employ an overarching decolonization, equity, diversity and inclusion (DEDI) strategy and will feature a dedicated Indigenous research space on York’s Keele Campus.