Professor Hamar Foster, Faculty of Law


Sept. 26, 2014
4 p.m.
Harned Hall, room 110

One Hundred Years of Advocating for Justice: Litigating the Calder Case

Featuring Hamar Foster, QC

Using video clips, photographs and other visual aids, Professor Foster will outline and discuss the legal and historical context of the Calder Case, decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1973. Although the case began in the 1960s, its roots reach as far back as the 1870s, and it is one of the main reasons that Canada developed a comprehensive land claims process. The case, which refers not only to decisions of Canadian and other Commonwealth courts but to United States jurisprudence as well, remains highly relevant today.

About Professor Foster

Hamar was born in 1948 in Alberta but grew up in British Columbia. Between high school and law school graduation his summer jobs included working at a fish cannery in Prince Rupert, paving roads in Kamloops, Salmon Arm, Smithers and Invermere, working as a summer student at the federal Department of Justice - and even a short stint as a police officer.

He has a B.A. in Philosophy from Queen’s University in Kingston (1970) and an M.A. in History from the University of Sussex in England (1971). His law degrees are an LLB from UBC (1974) and an M. Jur from the University of Auckland in New Zealand (1989).

While at law school and for a couple of years afterwards he taught Philosophy and then Law part-time at Capilano College in North Vancouver. After law school he successfully purged his mind of all trace of the rule against perpetuities by riding his bicycle from Victoria to St. John’s, Nfld. Cycling trips through the U.K. and Ireland, and through Oregon and California, soon followed.

Hamar clerked for the Chief Justice of British Columbia and articled with what was then Shrum, Liddle & Hebenton in Vancouver in 1975. After that he went into partnership with Joanne Prowse and Paul Williamson, practicing law in Gastown until he took up a teaching post at the University of Victoria in the fall of 1978. Although his practice was primarily criminal – or perhaps because it was - he still has occasional nightmares about otherwise long-forgotten conveyances and probate files.

Hamar has taught Legal Process, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Advocacy, Aboriginal Law, English and Canadian Legal History, Property and Evidence. He also taught in the Akitsiraq law program in Iqaluit, Nunavut. His primary reason for leaving the practice of law was his desire to teach, and recently the graduating classes of 2010 and 2014 conferred the Terry Wuester Master Teacher Award on him.

Over the years he has co-edited five books of essays and authored or co-authored seventy articles or so. His primary research focus has been comparative criminal law and the legal history of western and northern Canada, with a particular emphasis on relations with Aboriginal peoples. An example of the former, written with Professor Robert Harvie of Saint Martin’s College, Washington, is “Shocks and Balances: United States v. Burns, Fine-Tuning Canadian Extradition Law and the Future of the Death Penalty,” 40 Gonzaga Law Review (2004/2005) 293. An example of the latter is “One Good Thing: Law, Elevator Etiquette and Aboriginal Rights Litigation in Canada” (2010), 37 The Advocates’ Quarterly 66.

Hamar’s most recent books are Foster, Raven and Webber, ed., Let Right Be Done: Aboriginal Title, the Calder Case, and the Future of Indigenous Rights (UBC Press 2007); Foster, Berger and Buck, ed. The Grand Experiment: Law and Legal Culture in British Settler Societies (UBC Press 2008); and Foster, McLaren and Pue, ed. The British Columbia Court of Appeal, 1910-2010 (a special issue of BC Studies). Hamar’s legal history research has led him as far afield as the Public Record Office in the U.K. and the Turnbull Library in Wellington, N.Z. It has also involved journeying to Tulita (Fort Norman) at the confluence of the Mackenzie and Great Bear Rivers in the N.W.T and diving the wreck of the Thrasher, which sank off Gabriola Island in the late nineteenth century. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1994, and is currently working on a book about the campaign for Aboriginal title in BC in the years 1900-1928.

Hamar was a member of the Law Society of British Columbia’s Advisory Committee on Independence and Governance from 2004 to 2011. He is a member of the National Advisory Board of the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, and he was on the BC Court of Appeal Centennial Committee from 2005 to 2010. In the latter capacity he participated in the making of the video, Though the Heavens Fall, a look at the BC Court of Appeal on its 100th anniversary. From 1978 to 2008 he was a director of the BC Civil Liberties Association. He was made a QC in 2010.

He has been married to Katherine Cook, formerly of West Virginia and Ontario, since 1984. They have two children: Cayce, 28, who is currently teaching in Bella Bella, and Rachel, 22, who travelled the world after graduating from high school and who is now attending the University of British Columbia.

Hamar has been an enthusiastic member of the Victoria City Rowing Club since 1992 and was on the executive of the Club from 2007 to 2010. He has an old but trusty sailboat that he wishes he could use more often.

College of Arts and Sciences