Butler Journal of Undergraduate Research

Faculty Sponsor

Stephen Morillo


Legal historians divide European law into two principal families: common law (British law) and civil law (continental European law). Common law judges favor cases; courts “discover” law on a case-by-case basis and those cases make precedents for future ruling. Civil law courts favor codes; courts compare cases to existing laws and those laws control judges’ rulings. The two rarely interact, save one prominent example: Canada. British common law supposedly superseded French legal traditions in colonial Canada. But is history so binary? Did British common law truly “conquer” French civil law? Through analysis of Canadian legal history, this article demonstrates how French civil law has been part of legal development in Canada throughout its history and plays a role in the country’s modern, hybridized legal system.