Reem A Bahdi, Associate Dean


Access to Justice

What does the ideal of ‘access to justice’ mean? What are the implications of a commitment to that ideal regarding the law in contemporary Canada? These are the questions that animate access to justice both in terms of this course and as an institutional theme of this Faculty. 

In this course, we explore various issues using the ideal of access to justice as our principal reference point and guide. We also discuss the relationship between the ideal of access to justice and other ideals of central importance in law, particularly the rule of law and equality. We critically analyze the substance and process of law in the modern Canadian administrative state, paying special attention to the extent to which the legal profession has both promoted and hindered access to justice in various legal contexts. Our ultimate objective is to provide a foundation for understanding and applying the ideal of access to justice. 


The law of torts focuses on whether the losses suffered by one individual, the plaintiff, should be shifted to the shoulders of another, the defendant. Courts have developed principles and doctrines over the centuries to help with this decision-making process. We explore the basics of Canadian tort law in this class. The vast majority of the course will focus on common law doctrine and principles.

Torture and National Security in Transnational Context

This seminar course examines access to justice strategies for those who have been wronged by the state in the context of national security investigations. Torture will be adopted as the case study through which course themes, strategies and evaluation will be developed.

The course adopts a theoretical, multi-disciplinary and transnational approach to issues arising out of torture and national security while also requiring students to engage with practical questions and strategies concerning the feasibility of litigation as an instrument of justice. Students will be required to not only understand where, why and how torture is facilitated in the name of national security but will also be required to adopt a critical perspective on the institutional and normative practices of individuals, agencies and institutions implicated in torture.

The course also adopts and builds upon the structure and basic themes of the mandatory first year Access to Justice course. In particular, it adopts the basic framework of the first year course by examining Access to Justice through a substantive, procedural and symbolic analysis. The substantive element requires an inquiry into the doctrines and norms governing the conduct of Canadian officials when they become implicated in torture through national security work. The procedural elements requires an examination of the benefits and limits of pursuing justice through tort law, criminal prosecution, administrative complaints mechanisms, international bodies and public inquiries, particularly in the national security context where disclosure is limited through various means, including limits prescribed by the Canada Evidence Act. Finally, the course requires students to engage the symbolic element of access to justice by inquiring into the larger social significance of the known incidents of Canadian officials being implicated in torture.