Legal Values: Property, the Environment, and Equality

Property is at the heart of economic institutions, beliefs about freedom and security, and people’s understanding of their relationship to the Earth. The focus of this course is (1) understanding the role of property law in harm to the environment and in human relations of inequality and (2) exploring alternatives to the norms and legal forms of property.  To do this, we will integrate analysis of political theory, legal theory, legal history, case law, environmental policy, and issues such as housing and homelessness.  This course will explore the connections between property law and beliefs basic to the economic and political systems of common law countries. For example, we will look at how property law expresses and maintains assumptions about human superiority to other life forms, and the links between those beliefs and settler colonialism.  We will (briefly) look at the legal history of property to understand evolving structures of power and inequality, and the role of property law in that evolution. Legal history provides a perspective that allows us to see that beliefs and practices dominant today have not existed from “time immemorial.” This then sets the stage for examining viable alternatives to existing property structures. In exploring those alternatives, we will look to Indigenous law, comparative law, and the potential for existing legal concepts like “trust” to be re-purposed. We will look at issues of human inequality and the ways they are interwoven with environmental harm. Hierarchies among humans and between humans and the Earth (with humans at the top of a pyramid of life forms) are interconnected through property law. Because property is so embedded in institutions and norms, transformation will require a deep rethinking of core beliefs. We will look at some of the resources for re-envisioning property and the values associated with it. In addition to Indigenous teachings (including learning from the land), these include:  the invocation of spiritual traditions, such as Buddhism and Christianity, to promote care for the earth; theories of the role of competition vs cooperation in evolution and contemporary “human nature;” the importance of nature for human health. Specific topics will include: property and settler colonialism; animals as legal beings; learning to care for the earth; the history of exclusion from the land; the importance of “place” in assessing loss of property; the idea of all land held in trust for the earth community, present and future; the power and threat of the myth of absolute rights of property; property, poverty, and homelessness.

Climate Change Law

Climate disruption is attributable to historical and current day modes of production and consumption. Enduring solutions will require significant shifts in how modern societies are governed. Governance, in this context, is unlikely to succeed without attention to related priorities of sustainability, justice, and cohesion. Yet there is ample evidence that many leaders and institutions are unable or unwilling to address the challenge effectively.
 
This seminar explores legal and policy issues related to efforts to control the causes and respond to the impacts of climate disruption. It approaches the topic from an interdisciplinary perspective that considers law, science, politics, economics, and history. The seminar is also concerned with how these perspectives can support pragmatic strategies in different areas of law and policy and at different levels of decision-making.

The seminar has two thematic segments. The first segment will examine the historical, political, socio-economic, and scientific background within which the modern problem of climate disruption has arisen. This segment will also provide a broad survey of the major international legal regimes that have been developed to address the problem.  
 
The second segment will focus on analyzing legal and institutional barriers to pragmatic action towards forestalling climate disruption and mitigating its impact on society. Particular attention will be paid to core societal functions such as food production, land management, water and wastewater infrastructure, energy, and transportation and communications. Students will have the opportunity to do their research and planning in a relevant area.

Legal Values: Law in the Time of Catastrophe

COVID-19 is the first truly global pandemic of the 21st century. Governments, climate scientists, epidemiologists, and public health researchers have warned that the viral outbreak will affect the world in myriad unforeseen ways and similar outbreaks are likely to recur. All the while that we are overwhelmed by this historical malady, we must not forget the increasing frequency and intensity with which Canada and countries around the world have been struck by forest fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, food scarcity, and historic refugee flows out of conflict and disaster-ridden landscapes. These events are likely to worsen in the coming decades.

Climate change and disasters as umbrella categories are fundamentally problems of governance. But environmental law courses traditionally struggle to make room for them. This course aims to introduce upper year law students to the relationship between law and a range of future-facing global environmental crises that are often overlooked in law school curricula. The readings are designed to: (i) bring law students up to date on social science and humanities research surrounding disasters; and (ii) critically examine a variety of international legal regimes that currently attend to specific kinds of disasters such as pandemics and food scarcity.

As possible, we will pause to examine how these issues are being addressed within Canada, both in terms of the Canadian constitutional framework as well as the concerns of indigenous communities. Like any survey, this course is designed to introduce students to a wide swathe of knowledge about a new subject. As such, there are limits to how deeply we can explore the subject-matter for each week. However, students are encouraged to choose research projects that will allow them to study any of the areas explored in the course, or other related areas, in greater depth.

The seminar will prepare students to serve as law and policy experts on significant national and international environmental concerns that are going to be in high demand in the years to come. By the end of the course, students will be able to:

·understand the socio-scientific, political, and historical context of climate change and other ‘catastrophes’ broadly stated;
·apply these insights and techniques to evaluate the quality and impact of international (and domestic) legal regimes;
·critically analyze the content of official statements, news reports, and popular narratives about disasters and emergency regulation

Sample list of topics (subject to change)
·        Climate, climate change, and disasters (as global, legal and non-legal contexts)
·        Famine and food security
·        Pandemics and global public health
·        Armed conflict and environmental Degradation
·        Small islands and sea level rise
·        Climate refugees and internally displaced persons

Indigenous Peoples and Canadian Law

This course will provide a critical survey of state law as it relates to Indigenous peoples in Canada. Topics will include: the historical context and constitutional framework; Aboriginal rights and title; self-government; treaties and treaty rights; the Indian Act; Inuit rights; Métis rights; and the authority and obligations of the federal and provincial governments.

This course fulfills the prerequisite requirements for the Intensive Program in Aboriginal Lands, Resources and Governments. It is also recommended for students who plan to take an advanced seminar on Indigenous Peoples and the Law.

Indigenous Peoples and Canadian Law

This substantive law course will explore the interactions between Canadian common law and Indigenous law, primarily Anishinaabe law. The content will be viewed through the lens of Indigenous worldviews. Topics will include, but are not limited to: Indigenous sources of law; historical context and constitutional framework re: Indigenous Peoples; Aboriginal Rights, Title and the Doctrine of Discovery; treaties; resource rights and consultation; and the Indian Act and Identity. The course will be presented from a practitioner’s perspective working within Anishinaabe communities, with attention to practical intersections between the various topics. This course fulfills the prerequisite requirements for the Intensive Program in Indigenous Lands, Resources and Governments.

Law & Social Change: The Rise of Environmental, Social & Governance Expectations in Business

Society faces complex global challenges—climate change and environmental degradation, social and financial inequality, digital and data security concerns.  More than ever before, business is being called upon by multiple stakeholders to be part of the solution to these challenges.  The rise of stakeholder capitalism including heightened ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) expectations is one of the most profound changes for business and its legal construct that has occurred in decades. Whether business strategy has an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to societal solutions depends in large part on the legal, policy and regulatory framework that is constructed.  
 
In this course, we will examine the evolving legal construct of stakeholder capitalism and develop an understanding of the components of ESG: the E (Environmental); the S (Social); and the G (Governance).  We will look in turn at the major legal issues and opportunities that come from these potentially profound changes to business including:
 
-measurement, disclosure and transparency of corporations,
-the advent of ESG products,
-legal and reputational risk management by major brands,
-burgeoning litigation claims,
-the role of and levers of policy makers, NGOs and regulators both at home and globally, and
-the expectations of multiple stakeholders including employees, consumers, shareholders and the community including Indigenous communities.
 
To do so, we will invite business and practitioner speakers to supplement the readings and legal teaching with the practical insights of those “on the ground” in this fast-developing space.
 
There is no doubt that the rise of ESG is changing the needed toolkit of lawyers across multiple disciplines and creating new legal fields and innovative areas of expertise.  Combining legal theory with exposure to practical application, the course will assist students to develop the necessary tools to advise on legal issues involving ESG and to prepare for the new career opportunities that are arising.

International Environmental Law: Protection of the Global Environment

This is survey course designed to introduce students to the rules, principles, and policies/politics of international environmental law (IEL). We will explore the dynamics of the international legal system with a focus on the key actors, interests and ideas. While surveying the larger body of IEL, we will examine select themes and legal regimes (e.g., environmentalism, waste/pollution, trade and development etc.) in closer detail. By the end of the course, students will be familiar with the major issues in international environmental law and legal responses to these issues. They will also learn a range of theoretical perspectives and policy frameworks through lawyers conceptualize and frame international environmental problems and imagine possible solutions.

Much of the teaching is conversational and Q&A based, so students are required to read the assigned materials and come to class prepared to discuss them.

Indigenous Peoples and Canadian Law

This substantive law course provides a critical survey of state law as it relates to Indigenous peoples and lands in what is now known as Canada. Topics include but are not limited to: Indigenous sources of law; international law; Indigenous women, gender and law; historical context and constitutional framework re. Indigenous Peoples; Aboriginal title and doctrine of discovery; treaties; resource rights, extinguishment and consultation; the Indian Act and identity; allyship; & community lawyering. The class is taught through the use of a variety of techniques, including class exercises, videos, and collaborative problem-solving. This course fulfills the prerequisite requirements for the Intensive Program in Indigenous Lands, Resources and Governments.

Indigenous Peoples and Canadian Law

This substantive law course explores Indigenous legal orders – mainly nêhiyaw (Cree) and Anishinaabe laws – through the lens of Indigenous worldview(s), and provides a critical survey of state (mainly Canadian) law.  Topics include but are not limited to: Indigenous sources of law; international law; Indigenous women, gender and law; historical context and constitutional framework re. Indigenous Peoples; doctrine of discovery; treaties; resource rights, extinguishment and consultation. This course consists of weekly lectures and in-class discussions. Evaluations encompass: in-class quizzes, participation, and an advocacy component. This course also fulfills the prerequisite requirements for the Intensive Program in Indigenous Lands, Resources and Governments.

Indigenous Peoples and Canadian Law

After acknowledging the reality and internal consistency of Indigenous legal systems, this course will seek to develop critical understanding of Canadian law as it affects Indigenous peoples, with particular focus on constitutional themes. Topics will include the notions of sovereignty and self-determination, relevant British imperial law, the honour of the Crown and the enforceable Crown obligations to which it gives rise, federal and provincial legislative authority, section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, Aboriginal rights and title, treaties and treaty rights, and Indigenous self-government (statutory and constitutional). Ideally, one class session will feature Toronto lawyers who represent Indigenous clients, discussing practice-related issues.

This course satisfies the prerequisite requirement for the Intensive Program in Aboriginal Lands, Resources and Governments. It may also be useful background for advanced seminars about Indigenous Peoples and the Law.