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The 1964 Stanley House Symposium, by Ivan Head

The teaching of international law in Canada has a long and distinguished record, dating back to the mid 19th Century. The earliest - as well as later - yers have been described in considerable detail by Professor R. St. J. Macdonald in his several articles in the Canadian Yearbook of International Law and, in summary form, by Dr. Norman MacKenzie in his forward to the first volume of the Yearbook.


In the century and a bit following the pioneering lectures offered at College Sainte Marie in Montréal in the 1850s by Maitre Maximilien Bibaud, any number of meetings and events can be cited as significant in the history of discipline in this country. Among these would certainly be the gatherings and discussions that preceded the epic launch in 1963 of the Canadian Yearbook. Another, less heralded, event that proved to be considerable stimulus to future activities took the form of a symposium held at La Baie des Chaleurs, Québec, in the summer of 1964. There, at Stanley House, former summer residence of Frederick Arthur Stanley, Governor General of Canada from 1888 to 1893 (and donor of the Stanley Cup, the oldest professional sports trophy in North America) a group of international law professors and External Affairs officers met to discuss the then pressing issue of "Friendly Relations".


By the summer, the 1962 Soviet proposal to formulate a "Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations" had aroused the deepest of suspicions on the part of the United States and a healthy skepticism among others. The proposal had assumed the character of a lightning rod during the dark days of the cold war and, over time, had become the main item before the Sixth Committee. As well, it had been placed prominently on the agenda of the International Law Commission as that body prepared for a meeting in Tokyo in late August. All this activity prompted Max Wershof, the highly respected Legal Adviser to the Secretary of State for External Affairs, to take the then unprecedented step of seeking the advice of a number of international law professors as he prepared the Canadian position. Little then did any of the participants realize that this vexing issue would not be settled until the fall of 1970 when a Resolution of the General Assembly finally approved a Declaration consisting of a brief preamble and seven short principles. Only the heroic Law of the Sea Conference, which produced a Convention consisting of 320 articles and 9 annexes, would take longer to complete (Nine years, 1973 to 1982).


External Affairs had long been accustomed to consulting international law professors from time to time, as MacKenzie had pointed out in this forward. In the post World War II period, for example, each of George Curtis and Maxwell Cohen were frequently called to Ottawa for advice, and each contributed major elements of what would become Canadian policy. Indeed, the previous summer, just such a consultation had taken place in Ottawa in the context of Resolution 1816, adopted by the Sixth Committee as its 17th Session and which envisaged the participation of Unesco in the establishment of exchange and training programmes as a means of promoting and disseminating international law. Consultations engaging larger numbers of academics, however, including younger members of the teaching profession, and extending over a period of several days, had not been attempted. Thus the novelty of the Stanley House symposium.


On this occasion, organized under the auspices of the Canadian National Commission for Unesco, six academics were present: Charles Bourne of the University of British Columbia, Ivan Head of the University of Alberta, Gérard LaForest of the University of New Brunswick, Ronald MacDonald of the University of Toronto, Andrew MacKay of Dalhousie University, and Donat Pharand of the University of Ottawa. From External Affairs, in addition to Max Wershof, Assistant Under-Secretary of State and Legal Adviser, the Symposium Leader, were Pierre Charpentier of the Legal Division and Peter Dobell, First Secretary at the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations The programme was organized in a fashion to permit the "Friendly Relations" theme to be examined methodically over the four day period at Stanley House. In advance of the gathering, the participants had been assigned topics on which they were expected to deliver brief papers and then lead discussion. These ranged from legal aspects of East-West détente, to Soviet concepts of state and law, to the renunciation of force in the settlement of territorial disputes, to wars of national liberation.


The discussions were stimulating, disciplined by the rigorous mind of Max Wershof and punctuated with illustrations of the day to day realities of international negotiations by Charpentier et Dobell. As is often the case in gatherings of this kind, however, the event quickly assumed a flavour of its own as the intimate and beautiful surroundings encouraged the participants to engage more broadly the role of law in the international community and to discuss the future role of the discipline in Canada. Over meals, and - on those occasions when the drizzly rain offered brief respite - on walks along the gravelly shoreline, in smaller groups or as a whole, ideas were offered and debated, plans formulated and abandoned, friendships formed and strengthened. Well before the group departed by train for Montréal in the late afternoon of the fourth day, a clear consensus had emerged that exercises of this sort must be continued and made more frequent, broadening to include larger numbers over time but always maintaining the vital link between teachers and practitioners.


Over the years, the six professors included in this memorable exercise maintained and enriched their relationships even as careers led to sometimes expected and often unexpected excursions. Deanships would come to four of them, a University presidency to one. Three would receive judicial appointments: one to the Supreme Court of Canada, one to the Federal Court of Canada, one to the European Court of Human Rights. One would become the senior foreign policy adviser to the Prime Minister of Canada. In the decades that followed, all six continued to make important contributions to the scholarship of their discipline, whether as active teachers or otherwise. Charles Bourne, the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Yearbook retained that responsibility for 32 years. Each of the others, for lengthy periods, served as members of the CYIL. Editorial Board, and each would play key roles in the birth and maturation of the still to be created Canadian Council on International Law, none more so than Ronnie MacDonald and Donat Pharand.


There would be many more seminars and symposia in years to come, sponsored by government or by academia, but this gathering in 1964 beside the grey and chilly waters of La Baie des Chaleurs is deserving of permanent recognition in the rich history of Canadian international lawyers.


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