Framing the work of the Law Commission of Canada

Intersections provide a constructive framework for understanding, developing, and implementing the promise and potential of the Law Commission of Canada, an independent agency committed to engaging the people of Canada in the ongoing and dynamic evolution of law.  

The word intersection and related words - to intersect, intersecting, intersectionality - help to situate law, consider its roles and functions, and engage with its shape and directions. As the Commission takes on wide-ranging and multi-vocational projects supported by intersection as framing notion, it does so with a sense of purpose captured by intersecting commitments to living law, pursuing justice, and renewing hope. 

Imagine an intersection 

An intersection is something we cross, perhaps with the help of someone who watches out for traffic and ensures safe passage. It can indicate a corner, a location, or a reference point on a map: “meet you at the intersection of X and Y”. The site of an intersection may be marked by the ever-changing mix of people and animals, vehicles and vegetation, buildings and businesses. The sources and directions of the paths that converge at and continue through an intersection can be identified and traced.  

As sketched below, both law and the Law Commission of Canada support the creation and crossing of intersections, situate themselves at intersecting corners, thrive on complicated and intersecting coexistence, and construct opportunity for productive and intersecting convergence and collaboration.  

Note that the image of an intersection may appear more obvious as a metaphor if drawn from a busy urban context. But one could also imagine an intersection in rural surroundings. Regardless of setting, we can think of how people traverse, locate, contribute to, and evolve within intersections in their lives and spaces. A wide range of potential intersections reveals an equally wide range of possibilities for law and law reform.  

Law and intersections 

Law in an intersection: 

The role of crossing guard in an intersection captures a particular function of law discernible in many contexts: the exercise of capacity and authority to direct traffic, manage risk, and ensure safety across busy and potentially dangerous streets. In the lives of children embarking on the adventure of walking to school, a crossing guard functions as an additional supportive adult. Within the lives of people trying to navigate challenging terrain, to get to where they need to be, law may play an analogous role. Often perceived as a tool or mode of problem solving, law as crossing guard complements that perception with the added function of accompaniment.  

Law at an intersection: 

Law operates at an intersection along with other modes of understanding, exploring, and organizing social life. Whether in a small neighbourhood or a busy metropolis, law meets those who have traveled other routes to get to the corner. Paths to expertise and knowledge in law intersect with those carved out in literature or music, engineering or health sciences, sociology or anthropology, architecture or forestry, early childhood education or business. The operation of law may be marked by unique considerations and constraints, but that doesn’t mean its rules and activities operate in isolation from their counterparts attached to, for example, street cleaning, garbage pick-up, policing of traffic, or sustaining a farmers’ market.  

Law as an intersection: 

Constructed and sustained by people of all ages, speaking in many voices, and constituting communities of all kinds, law can feel like a busy, noisy intersection of countless moving pieces and a space for ongoing and messy reconciliation. Law as a site of movement and activity should incorporate the complex identities, power dynamics and segments of the societies within which it evolves; in a context of constant exchange, law can play a significant role in supporting and shaping human relations and endeavours, from generation to generation. Strikingly different than a picture of law as compilation of formal rules, the intersection as image explicitly conjures up active engagement with, resistance to, and participation in the making and sustaining of law. 

Law of an intersection: 

The law of an intersection isn’t found in any one formal document. The infrastructure under the roads, the obligations of property owners, the details of snow-clearing contracts, the daycare protocol for walking to the park: these are examples of the norms that govern the use of an intersection. Any given space may include a mix of formal regulations and informal practices, written and unwritten rules, mechanisms of public and private law. Legal traditions, systems, jurisdictions, and languages encounter and coexist with each other. The lessons for working with law in Canada are profound. Active immersion, astute observation, insightful interpretation, and multilingual fluency in the many systems at play are all valuable and often crucial pieces in naming, describing, and living with law. 

Intersections and the Law Commission of Canada 

The Law Commission itself can be understood through the metaphor of intersection. Like law, it may take on the role of crossing guard, assisting others in following a meaningful trajectory. As a site of intersection, the Commission serves as meeting place and reference point on the dynamic map of law and justice in Canada. It provides space for the intersections of research, reflection, and reform. And its work intersects with that done within the distinctive spheres of legal practice, legal education, policymaking, regulation, litigation, and judicial decision-making.  

These images and reflections form the foundations for framing subjects of inquiry, directing research, and shaping recommendations. They invite the Law Commission to consider multiple ways in which law can assist crossing, support sharing, and construct communities; they also remind us of how law can do the opposite by blocking movement, suppressing flourishing, and damaging individual or collective wellbeing. Intersections may prompt us to think of Canada in the world and of worlds within Canada, or of the complicated and perhaps permeable boundaries between human and non-human, whether living or artificial. Solidly grounded in the complex reality of law, the framing notion of intersection mandates ambitious creativity in delineating the scope of meaningful law reform. 

The approach taken by the Law Commission of Canada to law and law reform - open to and grounded in intersection, interaction, and integration – strives to avoid unrealistic or misleading silos, compartmentalization, and insularity, whether substantive, institutional, jurisdictional, or tradition-based. It acknowledges and embraces the intersection of law’s substantive realms and subjects, the interaction of institutional structures of law, the integration of legal traditions and jurisdictions, and the interweaving of concepts found in and beyond law’s disciplinary domain.  

Living Law, Pursuing Justice, Renewing Hope – the vision of the Law Commission: 

This triptych of co-existing, intersecting commitments provides and shapes the ways in which we ask questions. That is, in everything the Law Commission does, this three-part raison d’être can provide a check or map for the work: Have we considered input from and impact on people’s lives? Have we connected law reform to the overarching and shared pursuit of justice across Canadian society? Have we incorporated inquiry from the perspective of our next generation(s)? 

Dream, Repair, Build, Share – a compass for the Law Commission: 

Four kinds of vocation mark the activities of the Law Commission: 1) future direction and development (Dream); 2) revision and renovation (Repair); 3) connection and conversation (Build); or 4) education and enrichment (Share). Integrated within the research, outreach, and reform components of the work of the Commission, the purposes captured by “Dream, Repair, Build, Share” intersect even as they maintain distinctive forms and features. Together, these four active verbs constitute the points of a compass used to navigate any given space of exploration; at the same time, they name the quadrants of the worksites within which the stages of the Commission’s projects may unfold.  


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