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Property on Trial is a collection of 14 studies of Canadian property law disputes — some well-known, some more obscure — that have helped to shape the contours of the principles and rules of property law over 150 years.
These studies, written by some of Canada’s leading legal historians, range in time from a discussion of a nineteenth-century dispute over the ownership of seal pelts in Newfoundland to modern questions of what constitutes private property in a digital age.
They investigate the relationship between private and public interests in property; the limits of private property owners’ rights in relation to others, particularly neighbours and family; and the intersection of property law principles with other branches of the law, including criminal law, family law, and human rights.
The authors describe, in rich detail, the social, cultural, and political contexts in which the events unfolded, the backgrounds and personalities of the litigants, the skills of the lawyers, and the judicial attitudes of the day. On the one hand, Property on Trial is a collection of thoughtful and compelling stories about conflict in a wide variety of contexts, each with its own heroines and heroes, villains and ne’er-do-wells, winners and losers. On the other, it is an insightful look at the history of property law doctrine in Canada.