Grand Juries and ‘Proper Authorities’: Low Law, Soft Law and Local Governance in Canada West/Ontario, 1850-1880
Essays in the History of Canadian Law, Forthcoming
36 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2010
Date Written: January 13, 2010
Much of the ‘old regime’ of local law and governance in Canada West/Ontario changed drastically in the mid nineteenth century. The Municipal Act of 1849 set out an seemingly comprehensive and ostensibly democratic legal framework for local government throughout the province. Yet the practice of grand jury presentments on matters of local governance, an established feature of colonial administration, unauthorized and indeed unmentioned by the municipal legislation, continued to flourish. In this paper I inquire into the survival of the grand jury’s role in local governance during the period 1850-1880. I argue that grand jury presentments on issues relating to local affairs can be seen as a soft law version of low law administration. Without any mechanism of enforcement or explicit legitimacy, grand juries appear to have been at least as effective as the new provincial inspectorate in influencing the elected polity in the municipal jurisdiction of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville.
Keywords: grand juries, local governance, low law, soft law, Ontario legal history
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