About Us




The Canadian Council on International Law (CCIL) was established in 1972 in order to promote the co-operative study and analysis of international legal problems by scholars in universities and by professionals in government service and private practice.

Incorporated federally as a non-profit organization, the CCIL is an independent, non-partisan entity which relies financially on membership fees paid by its members, as well as donations or grants from individuals, corporations, foundations and governments. Contributions to the Council and membership fees are deductible from taxable income in Canada.


The origins of the CCIL can be traced back to concern expressed among Canadian professors of international law in the mid-1960's about the lack of resources then available to professors, students and practitioners of international law in Canada. It was decided that an independent organizational structure was needed to foster an effective community of international lawyers in Canada. While the primary thrust of the newly proposed CCIL’s activities was seen to be scholarly, a related aim was the facilitation of closer contact between the academic community and those officials and practitioners with a substantial professional interest in the field. A further objective was to deepen and broaden relations between Canadian international lawyers and interested individuals and organizations outside Canada.


Since its establishment in 1972, the CCIL has grown into an organisation with over 300 members from within Canada and around the world, representing a wide range of interests and professions. It provides numerous resources to this international legal community.


Origins and Objectives


On Saturday, April 18th, 1964, an informal meeting of professors of public international law was held in the Rowell Reading Room, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. This meeting was convened by Professors R. St. J. Macdonald (Toronto), D. M. Johnston (Western Ontario), and J.- G. Castel (Osgoode Hall), and its object was to consider problems of concern to full-time teachers of public international law in Canada, as well as ways and means of encouraging cooperation between them and their institutions. Invitations to attend the meeting were send to the seventeen professors regularly engaged in the teaching of the subject in Canada, and to Dr. Marcel Cadieux, legal adviser of the Department of External Affairs, who was also professor of international law in the Civil Law Section of the Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa.


This was the first meeting since the end of the Second World War, probably since the 1930s, at which teachers of international law in Canada had come together to discuss their problems at length. As such it was a step in the right direction. The meeting resulted in an exchange of information and served as an "eye opener", in the sense that it revealed how skimpy the resources were; it focussed attention on how much remained to be done, including the establishment of an organizational structure, in order to create an effective community of international lawyers in Canada. On a motion by Professors J.- G. Castel, W. A. Mackay, and Donat Pharand it was agreed that steps should be taken at forthcoming meetings of the Association of Canadian Law Teachers to have the teachers of international law and those interested in the subject recognized as a sub-committee of the parent body. In that same year of 1964, a second meeting of Canadian international lawyers took place, at Stanley House; this time, it included both teachers of international law and officers of the Department of External Affairs (For an account of this meeting, see The 1964 Stanley House Symposium, by Ivan Head).


Five years later, in June 1969, the Association of Canadian Law Teachers, meeting at the Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, accepted a proposal by Professors R. St. J. Macdonald, Gerald L. Morris and Douglas M Johnston of the University of Toronto to organize a major national conference on teaching and research in international law and international organizations in Canada.


Accordingly, the First National Conference of Teachers of International Law and International Organizations at Canadian Universities was held in the Loeb Building at Carleton University in Ottawa in February 1970. Dean Macdonald read a message of welcome from President A. D. Dunton and presided over the sessions, which were devoted to individuals statements on research in progress, research in the planning stages, identification of existing centers of specialization, gaps in existing teaching and research programs, library resources, graduate work in international law, and, importantly, the creation of a coordinated secretariat for future meetings and indeed for a new scholarly body. A reception was held in the New University Commons and in the evening the meeting was addressed by Mr. Marc Schreiber, Director of the Division of Human Rights at the United Nations in New York.


At the final session of the Carleton Conference chaired by Professor D. Colwyn Williams of the University of Saskatchewan, a decision was taken to establish a Steering Committee to develop plans for a second conference in 1971 and to consider the desirability of establishing a new national group designed to meet the special needs of international schools in Canada. The Steering Committee comprised of R. St. J. Macdonald, Gerald L. Morris and Douglas M. Johnston.


Three months later, on May 22, 1970, the Steering Committee convened a meeting of interested persons in Toronto and devoted a full day to discussion of its assigned tasks, keeping in mind the views expressed by participants at the Carleton conference. The meeting concluded that a persuasive case could be made for establishing a new scholarly group in Canada. It reached broad agreement on a number o basic points relating to the structure of the proposed new group, which would be called the Canadian Council of International Law. The meeting encouraged the Steering Committee to transmit the agreed proposals to those who had attended the Carleton conference and to other interested persons in Canada with extensive professional involvement in the field of international law. Those present at the meeting convened by the Steering Committee in the Blue Room (Dean's Office) at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, on May 22, 1970 were: Bozidar Bakotic (Yugoslav Society of International Law); Charles B. Bourne (U.B.C., Editor of the Canadian Yearbook of International Law); Douglas M. Johnston (Toronto); F. J. E. Jordan (Queen's); Joseph Langer (Windsor); R. St. J. Macdonald (Toronto); Gerald L. Morris (Toronto); J. George Neuspiel (Carleton); J. W. Samuels (Western Ontario); Ton Zuidwijk (graduate student from the Netherlands). It was at this meeting that the first draft of the Council's constitution was approved.


Following the meeting in Toronto, a memorandum dated May 26, 1970, outlining the thoughts of the Steering Committee on the proposed new Council, was submitted to the International Law Section of the Association of the Canadian Law Teachers (ACLT), which was scheduled to meet in Winnipeg on June 11, 1970. Those who attended the Winnipeg meeting were: L. C. Green, J. G. Neuspiel, Jarasolav Zourek, Charles B. Bourne, René Mankiewicz, Maxwell Cohen, Donat Pharand, J. Alan Beesley, R. St. J. Macdonald, Gerald L. Morris, John A. Yogis, Alice Desjardins, Bozidar Bakotic, Irwin Cotler, J. W. Samuels, Douglas. Johnston, and A. A. Bulbubia. Professor Zourek, a distinguished Czech jurist and former Chairman of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations, was serving as visiting professor at Queen's University in Kingston, and Professor Bakotic of the University of Zagreb was spending the year at the University of Toronto. 


The ACLT group, which included a majority of the members of the Canadian academic community having a special interest in international law, approved the establishment of a provisional Executive Board to take responsibility for drawing up a constitutional text for the proposed Council, based on comments made at the meetings in Ottawa and Toronto, and on the outline of proposals circulated on May 26, 1970. The provisional Executive Board was authorized to circulate a revised memorandum and to present a final version, in the light of responses to the revision, to a second conference planned for Ottawa in the near future. The provisional Executive Board was also authorized to proceed as rapidly as possible to seek the incorporation of the Council and to arrange for the commencement of its functions. The importance of the relationship between the proposed new Council and the community of government international lawyers was addressed by J. Alan Beesley, who had attended the Winnipeg meeting as spokesman for the Legal Bureau of the Department of External Affairs in Ottawa. On motion of Maxwell Cohen, the following members were appointed to the provisional Board: R. St. J. Macdonald (Toronto), André Dufour (Laval), Donat Pharand (Ottawa), and Colwyn Williams (Saskatchewan). After the meeting in Winnipeg in 1970, the provisional Executive Board continued its consideration of the proposal to establish a new organization to further the particular research and scholarly needs of teachers of international law at Canadian universities, officials in the Department of External Affairs, and practitioners of international law in the legal and commercial communities. While the primary thrust of the Council's activities was seen to be scholarly, a related aim was the facilitation of closer contact between the academic community and those officials and practitioners with a substantial professional interest in the field. A third major objective was to deepen and broaden relations between Canadian international lawyers and interested individuals and organizations outside Canada.


The provisional Executive Board took care to consult a wide range of individuals and written comments were received from: Maxwell Cohen (McGill University), J. M. Simpson (Office of the Judge Advocate General), J. P. Wolfe (Office of the Judge Advocate General), Edward McWhinney (McGill University), René Mankiewicz (McGill University), Donat Pharand (University of Ottawa), Emilio S. Binavince (University of Ottawa), F. J. E. Jordan (Queen's University), John P. Humphrey (McGill University), Allan M. Linden (York University), J. S. Stanford (Department of External Affairs), Louis-Philippe Pigeon (Supreme Court of Canada), J. Alan Beesley (Department of External Affairs), and Theodore B. Cinciuura (Saint Mary's University). What is important to note is that the Winnipeg meeting decided, after full discussion, that neither the ACLT or the Canadian Branch of the International Law Association was in a position to meet the special needs of the growing international law community in Canada. There was to be a new organization more or less along the lines suggested by R. St. J. Macdonald at the Toronto meeting of 1964. 


On Monday, June 5, 1972 the provisional Executive Board convened a highly successful dinner meeting at Le Cercle Universitaire in Ottawa. That meeting, chaired by R. St. J. Macdonald and addressed by Ivan L. Head, approved a formal motion by John P. Humphrey to establish the Canadian Council on International Law in accordance with the provisions of the draft constitution that had been circulated by mail. The meeting elected the following as members of the First Executive board: R. St. J. Macdonald (President), André Dufour (Vice-President), Donat Pharand (Secretary-Treasurer), J. Alan Beesley, Charles B. Bourne, Maxwell Cohen, Charles Dalfen, and Allan E. Gotlieb (Members at large). The Canadian Council on International Law thus dates formally from June 5, 1972. Its first annual meeting was held at the University of Ottawa, Civil Law Section, on October 13-14, 1972.


The Council was incorporated under Part II of the Canada Corporations Act as a not-for-profit organization and obtained its letters patent on June 12, 1974. In addition, the Council is registered as a charitable organization since January 1, 1975. The work related to the above was done gratuitously by Bill Graham, who was then practising law in Toronto and was the Council's honorary solicitor. 


The 1964 Stanley House Symposium, by Ivan Head


The teaching of international law in Canada has a long and distinguished record, dating back to the mid 19th Century. The earliest - as well as later - yers have been described in considerable detail by Professor R. St. J. Macdonald in his several articles in the Canadian Yearbook of International Law and, in summary form, by Dr. Norman MacKenzie in his forward to the first volume of the Yearbook.


In the century and a bit following the pioneering lectures offered at College Sainte Marie in Montréal in the 1850s by Maitre Maximilien Bibaud, any number of meetings and events can be cited as significant in the history of discipline in this country. Among these would certainly be the gatherings and discussions that preceded the epic launch in 1963 of the Canadian Yearbook. Another, less heralded, event that proved to be considerable stimulus to future activities took the form of a symposium held at La Baie des Chaleurs, Québec, in the summer of 1964. There, at Stanley House, former summer residence of Frederick Arthur Stanley, Governor General of Canada from 1888 to 1893 (and donor of the Stanley Cup, the oldest professional sports trophy in North America) a group of international law professors and External Affairs officers met to discuss the then pressing issue of "Friendly Relations".


By the summer, the 1962 Soviet proposal to formulate a "Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations" had aroused the deepest of suspicions on the part of the United States and a healthy skepticism among others. The proposal had assumed the character of a lightning rod during the dark days of the cold war and, over time, had become the main item before the Sixth Committee. As well, it had been placed prominently on the agenda of the International Law Commission as that body prepared for a meeting in Tokyo in late August. All this activity prompted Max Wershof, the highly respected Legal Adviser to the Secretary of State for External Affairs, to take the then unprecedented step of seeking the advice of a number of international law professors as he prepared the Canadian position. Little then did any of the participants realize that this vexing issue would not be settled until the fall of 1970 when a Resolution of the General Assembly finally approved a Declaration consisting of a brief preamble and seven short principles. Only the heroic Law of the Sea Conference, which produced a Convention consisting of 320 articles and 9 annexes, would take longer to complete (Nine years, 1973 to 1982).


External Affairs had long been accustomed to consulting international law professors from time to time, as MacKenzie had pointed out in this forward. In the post World War II period, for example, each of George Curtis and Maxwell Cohen were frequently called to Ottawa for advice, and each contributed major elements of what would become Canadian policy. Indeed, the previous summer, just such a consultation had taken place in Ottawa in the context of Resolution 1816, adopted by the Sixth Committee as its 17th Session and which envisaged the participation of Unesco in the establishment of exchange and training programmes as a means of promoting and disseminating international law. Consultations engaging larger numbers of academics, however, including younger members of the teaching profession, and extending over a period of several days, had not been attempted. Thus the novelty of the Stanley House symposium.


On this occasion, organized under the auspices of the Canadian National Commission for Unesco, six academics were present: Charles Bourne of the University of British Columbia, Ivan Head of the University of Alberta, Gérard LaForest of the University of New Brunswick, Ronald MacDonald of the University of Toronto, Andrew MacKay of Dalhousie University, and Donat Pharand of the University of Ottawa. From External Affairs, in addition to Max Wershof, Assistant Under-Secretary of State and Legal Adviser, the Symposium Leader, were Pierre Charpentier of the Legal Division and Peter Dobell, First Secretary at the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations The programme was organized in a fashion to permit the "Friendly Relations" theme to be examined methodically over the four day period at Stanley House. In advance of the gathering, the participants had been assigned topics on which they were expected to deliver brief papers and then lead discussion. These ranged from legal aspects of East-West détente, to Soviet concepts of state and law, to the renunciation of force in the settlement of territorial disputes, to wars of national liberation.


The discussions were stimulating, disciplined by the rigorous mind of Max Wershof and punctuated with illustrations of the day to day realities of international negotiations by Charpentier et Dobell. As is often the case in gatherings of this kind, however, the event quickly assumed a flavour of its own as the intimate and beautiful surroundings encouraged the participants to engage more broadly the role of law in the international community and to discuss the future role of the discipline in Canada. Over meals, and - on those occasions when the drizzly rain offered brief respite - on walks along the gravelly shoreline, in smaller groups or as a whole, ideas were offered and debated, plans formulated and abandoned, friendships formed and strengthened. Well before the group departed by train for Montréal in the late afternoon of the fourth day, a clear consensus had emerged that exercises of this sort must be continued and made more frequent, broadening to include larger numbers over time but always maintaining the vital link between teachers and practitioners.


Over the years, the six professors included in this memorable exercise maintained and enriched their relationships even as careers led to sometimes expected and often unexpected excursions. Deanships would come to four of them, a University presidency to one. Three would receive judicial appointments: one to the Supreme Court of Canada, one to the Federal Court of Canada, one to the European Court of Human Rights. One would become the senior foreign policy adviser to the Prime Minister of Canada. In the decades that followed, all six continued to make important contributions to the scholarship of their discipline, whether as active teachers or otherwise. Charles Bourne, the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Yearbook retained that responsibility for 32 years. Each of the others, for lengthy periods, served as members of the CYIL. Editorial Board, and each would play key roles in the birth and maturation of the still to be created Canadian Council on International Law, none more so than Ronnie MacDonald and Donat Pharand.


There would be many more seminars and symposia in years to come, sponsored by government or by academia, but this gathering in 1964 beside the grey and chilly waters of La Baie des Chaleurs is deserving of permanent recognition in the rich history of Canadian international lawyers.