Achieving Human Rights in a Multicultural Society:
Reparations, Human Rights and the Limits of Law

The Inaugural John and Mary A. Yaremko Forum in Multiculturalism and Human Rights

April 12 and 13, 2003
Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
Flavelle House, 78 Queen's Park Cres., Classroom

This conference will address these themes and the challenge they pose in a multicultural society.  It will use the Chinese Canadian Head Tax case which seeks restitution of racially discriminatory taxed imposed nearly a century ago as a focal point for exploring the promise and limits of law in redressing the past human rights abuses. What is the legal significance of past widespread human rights abuses?  Though often thought of as a problem of transitional justice, reparations claims like the ongoing Chinese Canadian Head Tax claim place these questions squarely before ordinary domestic courts.  Do these questions properly belong before courts or legislatures?  How should courts in a multicultural society approach such questions?   Are monetary reparations appropriate for remedying such human rights abuses or should the focus be on more forward looking measures?  Who should pay for the problems of the past?  Is law competent to provide a solution given that it was often complicit in the original human rights violations?

The conference is organized by David Dyzenhaus and Mayo Moran of the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto.   Topics include the historical backdrop of legalized discrimination against the Chinese in Canada, the role of law and memory in moral regeneration, the use of old private law doctrines to seek reparations, and the implications for legal theory and the rule of law.  Speakers include Constance Backhouse (Ottawa), John McLaren (Victoria), John Torpey (UBC), Mary Eberts (Co-counsel), David Dyzenhaus, Mayo Moran, Audrey Macklin, Darlene Johnston, Lorne Sossin (Toronto), Catherine Lu (McGill), Julian Rivers (Bristol), Lionel Smith (McGill), Dennis Klimchuk (Western), Tony Sebok (Brooklyn), Jeremy Webber (Victoria), and Vivian Curran (Pittsburg), with Hanoch Dagan (Michigan) participating as a session chair.