Black Legal History Matters, Too: Counter-Narrating Smithers V The Queen

Promoted Event by the Faculty of Law

The Faculty of Law is pleased to host this special event at the Law Society Building on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 12 – 1:00 pm in-person.

This event will not be recorded. Attendance at this event may be eligible for CPD hours. Light refreshments will be served but please bring a lunch. Law students, articling students, and members of the legal profession are all welcome to attend.

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As part of Black History Month, Dr. Amar Khoday examines the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous 1977 decision in Smithers v The QueenSmithers is a criminal law case that focused largely on the issue of causation and is likely taught in most if not all Canadian law faculties annually.

The case arose out of a fight following an under-18 hockey league game where one of the combatants died. In constructing its brief narrative of the facts, the Court drastically understated the racial dynamics that were in play before and during the game which prompted Paul Smithers, a Black teenager, to confront Barrie Cobby, who was white, and his primary racial antagonist. In framing its narrative, the Court caricatured Smithers as a Black aggressor preying on Cobby.

Drawing from critical race theory and various primary sources, Khoday advances a detailed counter-narrative challenging the Court’s official account which largely ignored Paul Smithers’s experiences of racism and interpretation of events leading to Cobby’s death. This counter-narrative also addresses how racism may have played a role in the jury’s decision-making in 1974. A broader account of the Smithers case forces us to consider the importance of social context in the construction of legal narratives and the proper scrutiny needed with respect to screening potential jurors for racial bias. A more comprehensive narrative of the case also invites us to contemplate the role of human rights law in addressing racial discrimination in sports.


Photo of Dr. Amar Khoday-smiling
Dr. Amar Khoday

Dr. Amar Khoday is an associate professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba. He has authored or co-authored over 20 published articles and book chapters, and over 100 blog posts. He is the 2021 recipient of the Terry G. Falconer Memorial Rh Institute Foundation Emerging Researcher Award in the Humanities category. Recently, his article “Black Voices Matter Too: Counter-Narrating Smithers v The Queen” (2021) 58:3 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 567, was the subject of several lectures he was invited to give at McGill University, the University of Ottawa and Western University. The article was also cited in a piece published last year in Pivot by Tamara Thermitus, former president of the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

 Since arriving at Robson Hall in 2012, Dr. Khoday has taught Criminal Law & ProcedureRefugee LawImmigration & Citizenship Law and has created two seminar courses: Law and Resistance, and International Criminal Justice. In 2020, he received the Barney Sneiderman Award of Teaching Excellence (2020). Dr. Khoday has guest lectured for other Robson Hall courses such as: Legal Systems; Canadian Legal History; Theory and Practice of Human Rights: Critical Perspectives; and Selected Topics in Human Rights Research and Methods. He has also been in high demand as a guest lecturer at other institutions including McGill University, the University of Winnipeg, and Western University

Dr. Khoday earned his Doctor of Civil Law (2014) and Master of Laws (2008) degrees from McGill University’s Faculty of Law in Montreal and Juris Doctor (2004) from the New England School of Law in Boston. He is a member of Law Society of Ontario and the Massachusetts bar.

The views and opinions expressed in the blogs are the views of their authors, and do not represent the views of the Faculty of Law, or the University of Manitoba. Academic Members of the University of Manitoba are entitled to academic freedom in the context of a respectful working and learning environment.

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