Errors of Fact and Law: Race, Space, and Hockey in Christie v. York
(2012) 62 UTLJ
41 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2012 Last revised: 30 Jun 2012
Date Written: March 28, 2012
Christie v. York has pride of place among decisions wrongly decided in Canadian legal history. Fred Christie and two friends had been on their way to a hockey game when they entered the York Tavern at the Montreal Forum seeking a beer before the game when the York denied them service on the grounds of race. Or so the facts tell us. As it turns out, a significant error has long been woven into the story of Christie v. York. What were Christie and his friends doing that night at the Forum? This article reveals that they were not attending a hockey game. The real facts, long hidden from view, involve a hot summer night, the Canadian Olympic boxing trials, Joe Louis, American race riots, and a local black boxer. And yet, even in error, hockey matters in the case, especially in Justice Henry Davis’s famous dissent. Recasting Christie as a case that turns on the judicial construction of facts, this article highlights the importance of real space and circumstance in creating notions of identity, belonging, and equality. While Christie’s errors of law have been the principal source of interest among legal scholars to date, this article argues that Christie’s facts, both real and imagined, provide a far richer contribution to the legal history of the complex relationship between race and space and law.
Keywords: legal history, law and racism, law and geography, Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Henry Hague Davis
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