Much Ado About Magna Carta, Part 1

It's been hailed as the cornerstone of our justice system. From property rights to women's rights, the rule of law, equality before the law and defined roles for judges: all roads, it seems, lead us back to Magna Carta Libertatum. But is this entirely true?
(Lisa Sakulensky)
Listen to the full episode53:59

It's been hailed as the cornerstone of our justice system. From property rights to women's rights, the rule of law, equality before the law and defined roles for judges: all roads, it seems, lead us back to Magna Carta Libertatum. But is this entirely true?  To mark the 800th anniversary of this great charter of liberty, IDEAS in partnership with the MUNK School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto presents dynamic legal minds and scholars, along with our very own Magna Carta Chorus, to reveal the meaning – and relevance – of the charter today.

**This episode originally aired June 15, 2015

Much Ado About Magna Carta, Part 1 - Original airdate: Monday, June 15, 2015
One of the remaining Magna Carta manuscripts from 1215. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
David Cole, from Georgetown University Law Centre, legal scholar, author and commentator, Nathalie Des Rosiers, Dean, Faculty of Law (Common Law Section) at the University of Ottawa, Bob Rae, lawyer, mediator and political leader, and moderator Stephen Toope, Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs, probe property rights and the rule of law to see how they play out today, legally and politically. 

Much Ado About Magna Carta, Part 2 - Original airdate: Tuesday, June 16, 2015   
David Cole
, legal scholar, author and commentator, Nathalie Des Rosiers, Dean, Faculty of  Law (Common Law Section) at the University of Ottawa;  the Honourable Stephen T. Goudge, Q.C., former judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal, and moderator Stephen Toope, Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs  consider  the  lingering influences (or not) of  the Magna Carta on criminal law and the role of judges. 

Participants in the program


David Cole is the Hon. George J. Mitchell Professor in Law and Public Policy at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches constitutional law, national security, and criminal justice.  He is also the legal affairs correspondent for The Nation, and a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, and the author of several award-winning books, including Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism, which received the American Book Award in 2004.   He has litigated many significant constitutional cases in the Supreme Court, including cases establishing that Americans have a constitutional right to burn the American flag.  The late New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis called David "one of the country's great legal voices for civil liberties today."

Nathalie Des Rosiers is Dean, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section at the University of Ottawa. She has served as the General Counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association from 2009 to 2013.  Prior to her appointment to the CCLA, Professor Des Rosiers was Dean of the Civil Law Section, University of Ottawa (2004-2008), President of the Law Commission of Canada (2000-2004).  She has been in private practice in Montreal and London, Ont. She has received the Order of Canada in 2013, the Order of Ontario in 2012, an Honorary Doctorate from the UCL (Université  catholique de Louvain) in Belgium in 2012, an Honorary Doctorate from the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Medal from the Law Society of Upper Canada, the NUPGE Award, the APEX Partnership Award and was named one of Canada's 25 most influential lawyers in both 2011 and 2012.

Bob Rae was elected eleven times to the House of Commons and the Ontario legislature between 1978 and 2013. He was Ontario's 21st Premier from 1990 to 1995, and served as interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada from 2011 to 2013. He is working now as a lawyer, negotiator, mediator, and arbitrator, with a particular focus on first nations, aboriginal, and governance issues. He also teaches at the University of Toronto School of Governance and Public Policy, and is a widely respected writer and commentator. An author of four books and many studies and reports, Bob Rae is a Privy Councillor, an Officer of the Order of Canada, a member of the Order of Ontario, and has numerous awards and honorary degrees from institutions in Canada and around the world.


Professor Stephen J. Toope is Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs. Before joining the Munk School in January 2015, Professor Toope was President of the University of British Columbia from 2006 to 2014. He represented Western Europe and North America on the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances from 2002-2007. He continues to conduct research on many aspects of international law and is currently working on issues of continuity and change in international law, and the origins of international obligation in international society. Before joining UBC, Toope was President of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, and Dean of Law at McGill. A Canadian citizen, Professor Toope earned his PhD from Trinity College, Cambridge, his degrees in common law (LLB) and civil law (BCL) with honours from McGill University, and graduated magna cum laude with his AB in History and Literature from Harvard University.

The Magna Carta Chorus

Barry MacGregor has been acting since 1949. He has appeared on stages in Britain, Europe, the United States and Canada. He was a long-time member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Stratford Festival and the Shaw Festival. He's also performed in many radio and television programs, including IDEAS on CBC Radio One.

Sharry Flett has acted in theatres across Canada and played leading roles at the Stratford Festival (4 seasons) and the Shaw Festival (26 seasons). She was twice nominated for Gemini Awards as Best Actress (CBC TV Drama). She's also taught acting at the Shaw Festival, George Brown Theatre School, University of Toronto, Queen's University, and the National Theatre School in Montreal.




Suggested Reading List:

David Cole:
Jill Lepore, The Rule of History: Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, and the hold of time, The New Yorker, April 20, 2015. 

Bryan Stevenson,  Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,  Spiegel & Grau, 2014.

David Cole and Jules Lobel, Less Safe, Less Free: Why America Is Losing the War on Terror, The New Press, 2009.

Nathalie Des Rosiers:
John Borrows, Questioning Canada's Title to Land: The Rule of Law, Aboriginal Peoples and Colonialism in Law Commission of Canada, Speaking Truth to Power - A Treaty Forum. Available on the website of the B.C. Treaty Commission

Marian Botsford Fraser, Acting for Freedom - 50 years of Civil Liberties in Canada, Second Story Press, 2014.

Henry Elliot Malden, Ed., Magna Carta Commemoration Essays (1917), The Royal Historical 

Helena Florence Normanton, Magna Carta and Women, (1915) Women's Freedom League.

Margaret Beare, Nathalie Des Rosiers and Abirgail C. Deshman, Putting the State on Trial. UBC Press, 2015.

Bob Rae:
Tom Bingham, The Rule of Law,  Penguin,  2011

Ronald Dworkin, Law's Empire, Harvard University Press, 1988

Lord Sumption, Magna Carta then and now, Address to the Friends of the British Library, 9 March 2015.   

Magna Carta Canada 2015 Tour

An original copy of Magna Carta is touring Canada until  December 29th, 2015. 
Magna Carta: Law, Liberty and Legacy opened on Friday, June 12th at the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa/Gatineau.

The exhibition will also be stopping in Winnipeg, Toronto and Edmonton.

August 15, 2015 to September 18, 2015:  Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Winnipeg
October 4, 2015 to November 7, 2015:  Fort York National Historic Site, Toronto
November 23, 2015 to December 29, 2015:  Legislative Assembly of Alberta Visitor Centre, Edmonton

For more information, please visit the Magna Carta Canada website.

The Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto​ ​brings together the best minds to advance the latest thinking on global issues. Its mission is to integrate research on global affairs with teaching and public education.


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