To celebrate Dal’s 200th anniversary, Dalhousie Research Services is providing an inside look at the remarkable research happening right here at our university. Next in our series of profiles is the Faculty of Law, where our world-class researchers are mixing imagination with innovation to push legal research in bold new directions.
From human rights and health to environment and tax law, Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law researchers lead lectures, workshops and conferences that enhance intellectual discourse and legal debate on our campus, across Canada and around the world.
“Research and advocacy are central to the mission of our law school, inspiring advances in law, policy and justice,” says Camille Cameron, dean of the Schulich School of Law. “Our faculty’s research and subject expertise inform our teaching and enhance the educational experience of our students.”
The innovative work being done by the researchers who call this faculty home has led to new approaches on how law can best address complex problems in a fast-changing world.
Addressing a changing world
Researchers like Professor Jocelyn Downie, who was among the 125 new Order of Canada appointees named by the Governor General in January. Her research focuses on end-of-life law, policy and care — voluntary euthanasia, assisted suicide, terminal sedation and unilateral withholding or withdrawal of potentially life-sustaining treatment.
Dr. Downie has worked extensively on the protection of human participants in research, particularly in the context of increasing commercialization of public universities and hospitals, and on the protection and promotion of women’s health in the areas of abortion and assisted human reproduction.
In February, Professor Elaine Craig launched her ground-breaking new book Putting Trials on Trial: Sexual Assault and the Failure of the Legal Profession, which documents what actually occurs in sexual assault trials in Canada today. In it, she states that the legal profession unnecessarily — and sometimes unlawfully — contributes to the traumatization and re-victimization experienced by those who testify as sexual assault complainants.
Dr. Craig used interviews with senior lawyers and trial transcripts to provide solid empirical evidence to rebut the claim that women are no longer brutalized on the stand during sexual assault trials. She also gives specific recommendations for how lawyers and judges could improve the trial process for complainants without compromising the rights of the accused.
Professor David VanderZwaag, Canada Research Chair in Ocean Law and Governance, is researching several issues surrounding international and regional environmental law. He is aiming to develop legislative and regulatory reforms toward supporting more principled decision-making in ocean governance.
Those are just three researchers from a faculty of close to 40 members and over 450 students that is making significant contributions to legal knowledge.
Centres of excellence
Dal’s Faculty of Law is world renowned for its excellence in marine and environmental law research.
The Marine & Environmental Law Institute (MELAW) carries out research that spans the globe and influences policy and decision-making in a variety of areas like environmental regulation, ocean law and regime building.
“Our faculty and associates provide research and consultancy services in marine and environmental law and policy to governments, international organizations and NGOs in Canada and around the world,” says Professor Phillip Saunders, MELAW Director. “Over the years they have built a reputation as one of the foremost global centres in these two areas.”
The Health Law Institute (HLI), established over two decades ago, is widely recognized for the quality and impact of its research. This includes topics such as patient safety, drug policy, access to abortion privacy and confidentiality of health information, public health emergencies and end-of-life treatment, policy and practice.
“The HLI is a — if not the — leading provider of health law and policy education in Canada,” says Matthew Herder, HLI Director. “and the research of its members transcend the local, national and global policy-making environments.”
The Law and Technology Institute was founded to promote scholarly legal research and advance knowledge in technology law, particularly from a Canadian perspective. It also publishes the Canadian Journal of Law and Technology, the country's leading technology law journal, which is among the most cited and impactful science and technology journals internationally.
"We tackle cutting-edge issues at the intersection of law, technology, and society, from online privacy, to Internet and e-commerce regulation, to cyber-bullying and the application of traditional criminal law rules to digital media," says Professor Jonathon Penney, LATI director. "Our members have national profiles because their work is having national and international impact.”
Building research-related relationships
Graduate students and experts from the Faculty of Law collaborate closely with a wide range of public and private sector external organizations. Many faculty members are regularly asked to provide expert witness testimony, regulatory advisory consulting and commissioned reports.
The Marine & Environmental Law Institute advises the United Nations, a range of international NGOs and all levels of national and international public and private sectors.
Similarly, the Health Law Institute offers wide-ranging consulting and advisory services and runs large research-related external partnerships.
To learn more about the research happening at the Faculty of Law, visit the website.
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