Snell and Vaughan – Supreme Court of Canada: History of the Institution

Supreme Court of Canada: History of the Institution by James G. Snell and Frederick Vaughan (Toronto: The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 1985) is available here in PDF.

The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History has kindly given permission to reproduce the book here. The Osgoode Society publishes work on all aspects of Canadian legal history. Copies of The Supreme Court of Canada can be purchased from the Society for $25. To do so please visit the website at or email

The Osgoode society has published a number of other books on the history of the Supreme Court, including biographies of judges Bora Laskin, Bertha Wilson, Brian Dickson. Those interested in the history of the court are encouraged to consult the following, all also available from the Society:

  • Ellen Anderson, Judging Bertha Wilson: Law as Large as Life (2001)
  • Philip Girard, Bora Laskin: Bringing Law to Life (2005)
  • John Saywell, The Lawmakers: Judicial Power and the Shaping of Canadian Federalism (2002)
  • Robert Sharpe and Kent Roach, Brian Dickson: A Judge’s Journey (2003)
  • Frederick Vaughan, Aggressive in Pursuit: The Life of Justice Emmett Hall (2004)
  • James Walker, ‘Race’, Rights and the Law in the Supreme Court of Canada (1997)
  • David Williams, Duff: A Life in the Law (1984)

The book is available in two versions: the complete book as one PDF file, and the book separated into individual files, one for each chapter or book part, the list of which follows. In both cases the files are scanned images of the print copy but are searchable in a PDF file reader.

The complete book — PDF file (11.3 MB)
The separated book:

    Title and table of contents — PDF file (81.3 KB)
    Foreword — PDF file (68.6 KB)
    Preface — PDF file (172.4 KB)
    Chapter 1 — The Founding of the Court 1867-1879 — PDF file (903.9 KB)
    Chapter 2 — Early Problems 1879-1892 — PDF file (917.9 KB)
    Chapter 3 — The Strong Court 1892-1902 — PDF file (1.1 MB)
    Chapter 4 — The Court in Decline 1902-1918 — PDF file (1.2 MB)
    Chapter 5 — An Instrument of Politics 1918-1933 — PDF file (1.1 MB)
    Chapter 6 — Toward Centre Stage 1933-1949 — PDF file (1008.1 KB)
    Chapter 7 — Supreme at Last 1949 — PDF file (881.9 KB)
    Chapter 8 — A Decade of Adjustment 1950-1962 — PDF file (687.4 KB)
    Chapter 9 — Changing Expectations 1963-1974 — PDF file (699.6 KB)
    Chapter 10 — A New Beginning 1975-1982 — PDF file (803.8 KB)
    Epilogue — PDF file (145.6 KB)
    Appendix — PDF file (76.1 KB)
    Notes — PDF file (1.5 MB)
    Index — PDF file (183.5 KB)

The Court is grateful to Lason for their generous help in scanning this book.