The Conflict of Laws – What are the Sources? (Tip of the Week)

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By Ken Fox

Conflict of laws, also known as private international law, is a topic concerning the rules governing what happens when two or more legal systems clash in a private dispute. Pitel & Rafferty’s text on Conflict of Laws identifies three key questions: (1) whether a court has jurisdiction, (2) what law the court will apply, and (3) whether a judgment from another jurisdiction will be enforced. Unlike public international law, conflict of laws is not the same everywhere, but is particular to each jurisdiction.

As such, some people have asked about developing a Saskatchewan-specific resource for conflict of laws. While most of the issues discussed the textbooks are internationally-based, there are some areas, such as estates law and family property law, where inter-provincial jurisdictional issues become critical. So a Saskatchewan-based resource might be a good idea – we’ll look into it!

Nationally, the most often-cited text is Castel & Walker’s Canadian Conflict of Laws. The current (6th) edition is a two-volume looseleaf published by LexisNexis, which is available at our libraries in Regina and Saskatoon. For a more concise text, try the aforementioned Pitel and Rafferty, a volume in Irwin’s Essentials of Canadian Law series, which are available to Saskatchewan lawyers online through the Members Section of our website. Also available through the Members Section, and our shelves, is the Canadian Encyclopedic Digest volume on Conflict of Laws, which is cross-referenced to related case law in the Canadian Abridgment.

Internationally, the library maintains the current edition of the classic Dicey Morris and Collins book on The Conflict of Laws, published by Sweet & Maxwell in London. At a glance, I wasn’t sure how relevant this text is to Canadian legal disputes (unless they involve the British jurisdiction specifically), but it has been cited by Canadian courts over 400 times in CanLii, including in recent decisions by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada, so apparently it still carries some authority.

If you have any questions about the above, or have any recommendations about sources we should acquire or develop, please add your comments below, or otherwise contact us.

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