Out of the Shadows:
The Civil Law Tradition in the Department of Justice Canada, 1868–2000


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L’honorable / The Honourable A. Anne McLellan
Ottawa, Canada K1A 0H8

January 2001

Picture of The Honourable A. Anne McLellanCanadian bijuralism is an integral part of our legal heritage. It is one of our country’s many assets and one that distinguishes us on the international level. Quebec’s system of civil law is helping to define not only Quebec, but also Canada.

I am extremely proud of this publication on the evolution of the civil law in the Department of Justice Canada over the past 130 years. It pays tribute to the many people, both civil law jurists and others, who played a part in this evolution. They have my admiration and respect.

In recent years, the Department has taken concrete steps to ensure recognition of Quebec’s system of civil law. The creation in 1993 of the Civil Code Section, whose mandate is to harmonize federal legislation with the civil law of Quebec, was a very important milestone in this evolution. The presence within the Department of an Associate Deputy Minister responsible for civil law, who serves as our principal spokesperson in relations with Quebec’s legal community, is an example of this government’s commitment to Quebec’s system of civil law. These initiatives attest to the ongoing commitment of the Department of Justice to respect and promote Canada’s legal duality.

It is also my hope that the contribution of these men and women over the years will serve as an inspiration to all employees of the Department of Justice Canada.


A. Anne McLellan

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Picture of Mario DionWe all know that the past is the foundation of the future, a popular notion that seems to take on special significance at the dawn of the new millennium and all the symbolism associated with it.

Since its creation in May 1868, the Department of Justice Canada has undergone a multitude of changes, the only constant in all this change being its core mission. As the Department was evolving, other changes, designed to ensure recognition of Canada’s two legal systems, were occurring albeit at a slower pace. One concrete expression of this recognition is the place that civil law jurists have occupied, and continue to occupy, in the Department.

The pages that follow will introduce you to the men and women who have contributed to building the place that the civil law now occupies in the Department. We wanted to give a human face to this publication. That is why it focuses on individuals and their contribution to carving out, over time, a place for the civil law of Quebec in the federal Department of Justice.

As a result of the efforts of all the individuals involved either closely or remotely in this process, a reality has emerged that has now become firmly rooted in our Department – the increasingly important place of bijuralism, one of the many assets of our great country. I firmly believe, however, that we are just beginning to discover the many facets and benefits of the interaction of our two legal systems in a bilingual setting.

I hope you will enjoy reading this publication as much as I enjoyed reading the successive manuscripts prepared by Mélanie Brunet, the young historian who has worked with us on the project. I am very proud of the progress made by the Department, even though it is clear that our institution should not rest on it laurels. I know that this history of the civil law in the Department will be of interest to all colleagues. Mutual understanding comes from knowledge and an appreciation of how far we have come and just how far we have to go.

I commend this history to you.


Mario Dion
Associate Deputy Minister
Civil Law and Corporate Management

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