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


In September 1999, I was given the task of writing the history of civil law at the Department of Justice Canada. At that time, nothing had been done in this area, and I had no idea of the work involved. After many hours of research in the archives and several interviews with witnesses to this history, it became obvious to me that the civil law specialists who have worked at the Department since 1874 share a fascinating past, as the following pages show. Such a study, however modest it may be, would not have been possible without the participation and support of a number of people.

In the first place, I wish to thank the Associate Deputy Minister (Civil Law and Corporate Management), Mario Dion. His great interest in the science of history and his confidence in my abilities have contributed to the success of this project. I also thank the members of the reading committee, Suzanne Poirier, Marie-Claire Wallace and Nicole Marcotte, whose comments and advice have greatly improved the quality of the document. In addition, I wish to express my thanks to the following people: Rebecca Gemmill, Analyst – Record Retirement; Cathy Allard, Internal Communications Advisor and Editor of Inter Pares; Michel Vermette, Director, Civil Litigation and Real Property Law (Quebec) Section; Claude Joyal, Annie Côté and Micheline Van Erum, of the Quebec Regional Office; and the staff of the National Archives of Canada, who made it easier for me to access essential sources.

My thanks are also due to all those who so graciously consented to be interviewed. Their contributions have given this history a human face, with all its subtleties and anecdotes. In addition, their enthusiasm for making known the history of the Department’s civilians confirmed to me that the memories of these individuals should be preserved in order to enrich the collective memory of their successors. In this respect, I particularly wish to thank Paul Ollivier, Paul Coderre, Alban Garon, Roger Tassé and Jean-Claude Demers, who read the third part of the study to detect any errors of interpretation that might have crept into the text.

On a more personal note, I wish to acknowledge the wholehearted support of my parents, Rosanne Moreau and Fernand Brunet. I also wish to thank Sara Wallace, Martin Auger and Isabelle Charron for their friendship and for the interest they showed in this project. Finally, I wish to express my most profound gratitude to Yves Pelletier for his unwavering support, both moral and technical.

Mélanie Brunet

Date modified: