by Christopher P. M. Waters (ed). Leiden, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2006. 408pp. Hardback. €125.00/$169.00. ISBN: 9789004153813.

Reviewed by Denise DeGarmo, Department of Political Science, Southern Illinois University. Email: ddegarm [at]


Canada’s historical legacy consists of more than two hundred years of colonial domination by Great Britain (1764-1982). Although Canada achieved self-governing status in 1867, she remained a part of the British Empire until full sovereignty was granted in 1982. Consequently, the British have significantly influenced the structure and norms of Canada’s governmental institutions. Canada’s legal system, for instance, is predicated upon the British model. This model relies heavily on written and unwritten laws, customs, traditions and prior judicial decisions for its legal standards. Given the extent of historical linkages, one might think that Canada would exhibit similar behavior to that of Great Britain, especially in the area of domestic and international law. Certainly, there are some commonalities. However, there are also significant points of departure.

The similarities and differences in the interpretation and application of international law by Great Britain and Canada are the focus of BRITISH AND CANADIAN PERSPECTIVES ON INTERNATIONAL LAW. The book is an outgrowth of a 2005 international law conference hosted by the British Association for Canadian Legal Studies Group, and it is a collection of essays written by experts from both sides of the pond. The contributors provide insights into the experiences of both Canada and Great Britain in terms of their respective perspectives in national, regional, and international settings. Additionally, the book explores the contributions of both Canada and Great Britain to the development of international legal norms.

The international behaviors of Canada and Great Britain are analyzed using the comparative international law approach. Rather than dealing with comparative law and international law as mutually exclusive methods of analysis, this approach integrates them in order to better comprehend how different states perceive and understand international law. This mode of inquiry has been greatly enhanced by globalization. Globalization has fostered increased access to international legal information from different jurisdictions across the globe, while allowing for more comprehensive and detailed comparisons. Additionally, both British and Canadian scholars are particularly open to this method of inquiry.

The book is divided into 5 parts that address the following areas of international law: comparing perspectives, international crimes, human rights, human security, and the courts. Interestingly, the essays contained in each section are often relevant to more than one part of the book. The reader should keep this in [*874] mind as he/she moves from one part to the next. Thinking about the essays from multiple perspectives will greatly enhance the reader’s understanding of international law.

The first part compares British and Canadian perspectives on international law. Stephen Toope examines how print media cover international law. According to Toope, print media coverage in both Great Britain and Canada is extremely poor. In instances where reports do exist, they are cursory at best. This is especially true in Canada. Toope is concerned with the way in which the media cover issues involving international law because of the influence media have on public opinion and policy formation. According to Toope, poor media coverage translates in to poor policy choices and an ill-informed public.

Part two is devoted to the discussion of crime as it relates to international criminal law, international humanitarian law, and extraterritorial jurisdiction. Christopher Harland uses the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as a backdrop against which to examine the way Great Britain and Canada have internalized international human rights law. Harland concludes that Canada has had a much easier time applying human rights law at the domestic level than has Great Britain. In a similar vein, James Sloan analyzes how Canada and Great Britain have tried to insulate their militaries from possible prosecution for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. He finds that neither entity has been entirely successful in achieving this goal. Helena Torroja, on the other hand, examines the past failures of the International Criminal Court to prosecute war criminals. Troy Lavers turns her attention to the extension of jurisdiction over international and transnational crime. She discovers that Great Britain and Canada are both quite conservative when it comes to the extension of jurisdiction because of concerns associated sovereignty. Finally, Chile Eboe-Osuji proposes that British and Canadian legal concepts should be incorporated at the international level.

In the third part, experts analyze the behavior of Canada and Great Britain in the area of human rights. Holly Cullen examines the attitudes of Canada and Great Britain towards regional and international human rights regimes. Cullen finds that Canada is more supportive of international efforts to secure human rights and has opened up its own human rights record to the international community. Great Britain, on the other hand, takes a more regional approach to international human rights law, in part because of its membership in the Council of Europe. Charlotte Skeet examines women’s rights on both sides of the pond. She suggests Great Britain could learn a lot from the actions of Canada in this area. Rebecca Wallace and Anne Holliday agree with Skeet’s analysis and suggest that Canadian experience with women’s rights, especially in terms of refugee issues, should serve as an example for Great Britain and the rest of the international community. David Jenkins analyzes the impact of the “War on Terror” on accepted norms of human rights. He discovers that unlike other members of the international community, Canada and Great Britain have not eroded their [*875] human rights protections in light of growing threats of terrorism.

Part four focuses on issues of human security. Susan Breau suggests that two of the most important things that Great Britain and Canada could do to foster human security is to provide individuals with freedom from fear and freedom from want. Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger explores the extent to which sustainable development has been incorporated into international trade law. She discovers that, although Great Britain and Canada have different strategies, they both have made sustainable development a top priority. As such, both have done a good job of incorporating sustainable development measures into their bilateral and multilateral negotiations as well as their trading rules. Markus Gehring and Kristin Price look at climate change and the Kyoto protocol from Canadian and British perspectives. Gehring and Price discuss the trading emission schemes and explore the potential for each of these schemes to be more widely adopted by the international community. Henry Lovat and Osman Aboubakr examine the role of corporate social responsibility in achieving human security, suggesting that domestic regulation is more successful in securing this goal than are international efforts. William Flanagan discusses the need for the international community to provide the developing world with better access to medications, in particular medicines to treat HIV. Flanagan asserts that increased access will only occur with the reformation of global trading rules and national patent laws. Canada and Britain could have a greater impact on reducing international disease by making changes to their own patent rules. Catherine Brown and Martha O’Brien explore the relationship between international trade rules and tax sovereignty. They reveal that, while Canada has been able to maintain tax sovereignty, Great Britain’s tax sovereignty has been eroded through its membership in the European Union.

The final part of the book is devoted to a discussion of the role of courts in the interpretation and application of international law. Karen Eltis notes that there is a growing trend among judiciaries across the globe to discuss international crime and their efforts to combat it. Eltis believes that comparative constitutionalism is a promising way to explore strategies to combat international and transnational crime more thoroughly. Stéphane Beaulac raises questions regarding the way in which international law has been customarily seen as part of common law and whether this approach is the most effective way to deal with international law at the national level. He suggests that a more nuanced approach is needed to address the divergent ways in which international law is interpreted and implemented nationally. Finally, Hugh Kindred explores the ways in which states implement international treaty law at the national level. Specifically, he looks at the way judiciaries deal with ratified human rights treaties. He discovers that Canada’s judiciary does a better job of dealing with these issues than do the courts in Great Britain.

The book does a very good job of identifying similarities and differences in British and Canadian legal behaviors. Canada and Great Britain are similar in the value they place on multilateral approaches to international relations and international law. Both are strong [*876] supporters and active members of numerous international organizations. International citizenship is a cornerstone of their foreign policies. However, there are also significant differences in their international legal behavior. Canada pays more attention to its own strategic interests in light of global governance and multilateralism, whereas Great Britain focuses on the importance of the rule of law as the center piece of the international system. While many point to Canada’s exemplary behavior in the realm of international law, Canada’s international stature has declined in recent years due to the erosion of sovereignty and problems associated with implementing international law at the national level. Nonetheless, members of the international community could learn many valuable lessons from Canada’s experience.

BRITISH AND CANADIAN PERSPECTIVES ON INTERNATIONAL LAW provides a fascinating study of international law from a comparative perspective. Christopher P. M. Waters should be commended for putting together this collection of essays. The essays are extremely well written and present very compelling arguments. The text is instructional and could easily be used at the undergraduate or graduate levels. Although Canada and Great Britain are the focus of the book, the information gleaned from this text could certainly provide the basis for a more comprehensive study among a greater number of cases. This is one of the most informative books I have read on international law in quite some time. It is a must read for anyone interested in international law.

© Copyright 2007 by the author, Denise DeGarmo.