Black Legal History Matters Too: Counter-Narrating Smithers v The Queen

February 7, 2023 @ 9:00 am – 10:00 am
New Chancellor Day Hall, Room 609, McGill
3644 Peel St
QC H3A 1X1
Penelope Plessas

In this presentation, Dr. Amar Khoday examines the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous 1977 decision in Smithers v The Queen. Smithers is a criminal law case that focused largely on the issue of causation and is likely taught in most if not all Canadian law faculties annually. The case arose out of a fight following an under-18 hockey league game where one of the combatants died. In constructing its brief narrative of the facts, the Court drastically understated the racial dynamics that were in play before and during the game which prompted Paul Smithers, a Black teenager to confront Barrie Cobby, who was white, and his primary racial antagonist. In framing its narrative, the Court caricatured Smithers as a Black aggressor preying on Cobby. Drawing from critical race theory and various primary sources, Khoday advances a detailed counter-narrative challenging the Court’s official account which largely ignored Paul Smithers’s experiences of racism and interpretation of events leading to Cobby’s death.


Dr. Amar Khoday is an associate professor at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Law. He earned his Doctor of Civil Law (2014) and Master of Laws degrees (2008) from McGill University and his Juris Doctor (2004) from the New England School of Law in Boston. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in history from Concordia University. He is a member of the Law Society of Ontario and the Massachusetts bar. A researcher with varied interests, he is the author or co-author of over 20 articles or book chapters in addition to numerous blog posts. These interests include criminal law and procedure with a focus on rights related to police interrogations and detentions, legal history, race and the law, as well as the intersections of law and resistance. Prof. Khoday is a former O’Brien DCL Graduate Fellow from the McGill Faculty of Law

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