B.Mus. (Calgary) 1985, M.B.A. (Alberta) 1990, LL.B. (Alberta) 1991, LL.M. (Michigan) 1995, S.J.D. (Michigan) 2000.
Professor Johnson clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada for Madame Justice L'Heureux-Dubé in 1993-93, and was a member of the Faculty of Law of the University of New Brunswick from 1995 to 2001, when she joined the University of Victoria Faculty of Law. Her book, Taxing Choices: Taxing Choices: The Intersection of Class, Gender, Parenthood, and the Law (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2002) received the Harold Adams Innis Prize. She was promoted to Full Professor in 2009.
She teaches Criminal Law, Business Associations, Legal Process and Law and Film. Current research projects include a study of judicial decision making (and particularly practices of dissent); an exploration of the economic imaginary in legal and popular culture; a study of cinema as a site of intercultural legal encounter; and an interrogation of the operation of sexuality as a flashpoint in debates around religion and diversity.
Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
PO Box 1700, STN CSC
Victoria, BC, V8W 2Y2
Email: Rebecca Johnson
Rebecca Johnson has taught courses in the areas of constitutional law, criminal law, legal theory, legal method, and law and film. A law and society scholar, she frequently finds herself drawn the ways in which law intersects with other socio-political-cultural discourses. Her recently completed book Taxing Choices concerned the intersection of privilege and disadvantage in the context of child care tax deductions.
"L’honorable Charles D. Gonthier : une analyse jurisprudentielle quantitative comparée" [en collaboration avec Marie-Claire Belleau et Annie Packwood] (2012) 56 S.C.L.R. (2d) 51-78 [also published as a book chapeter in Michel Morin et al. ed., Responsibility, Fraternity and Sustainability in Law: In Memory of the Honourable Charles Doherty Gonthier / Responsabilité, fraternité et développement durable en droit: en mémoire de l’honorable Charles Doherty Gonthier (Markham, ON: LexisNexis Canada, 2012) 51-78].
"Justice and the Colonial Collision: Reflections on Stories of Intercultural Encounter in Law, Literature, Sculpture and Film" (2012) 9 No Foundations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Law and Justice 68-96.
“Introduction to Special Issue on Insite”, (2011) 19:3 Constitutional Forum, 85-86.
“Pedagogies of Mapping” (2011) 19:3 Constitutional Forum, 139-144.
Johnson, Rebecca, "Gender, rasa, klasa i seksualna orientacja. Teoretyczne ujęcia intersekcjonalności ("Gender, Race, Class, and Sexual Orientation: Theorizing the Intersections)", online: (2009 ) Feminist Think Tank Online Library. [translation to Polish of early journal article]
"Rapport minoritaire : La dissidence fait judge" [co-authored with Marie-Claire Belleau & Valérie Bouchard] (2009) 21:1 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 1
"Living Deadwood: Imagination, Affect, and the Persistence of the Past" (2009) 62:4 Suffolk University Law Review 809
"Mothers, Babies and Jail" (2008) 8 University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class 47
Elizabeth Adjin-Tettey, Gillian Calder, Angela Cameron, Maneesha Deckha, Rebecca Johnson, Hester Lessard, Maureen Maloney, Margot Young,"Postcard From the Edge (of Empire)", (2008) 17:1 Social and Legal Studies 5-38
"La diversité identitaire et les opinions dissidentes de la Cour suprême du Canada : conséquences sur la sécurité juridique?" " [co-authored with Marie-Claire Belleau] (2008) 110 La Revue du Notariat 319
"Judging Gender: Difference and Dissent at the Supreme Court of Canada" [co-authored with Marie-Claire Belleau] in (2008) 15:1-2 International Journal of the Legal Profession 57-71.
"Voicing an Opinion: Authorship, Collaboration and the Judgments of Justice Bertha Wilson" [coauthored with Marie-Claire Belleau & Christina Vinters] in (2008) 20 Supreme Court Law Review 53-81.
“Appendix: The Written Opinions of Justice Bertha Wilson” [coauthored with Marie-Claire Belleau, Christina Vinters & Andrew Tomilson] in (2008) 20 Supreme Court Law Review 409-446.
"Strange Encounters: Exploring Law and Film in the Affective Register" [co-authored with Ruth Buchanan] in (2008) 39 Studies In Law, Politics, and Society [Special Issue: "Law and Film: Essays on the State of the Field."] (forthcoming)
Marie-Claire Belleau, Rebecca Johnson and Valérie Bouchard, "Visages de la Colère Judiciaire: Répondre à l'Appel/ Faces of Judicial Anger: Answering the Call"in (2007) 1:2 European Journal of Legal Studies online at: http://www.ejls.eu/
Elizabeth Adjin-Tettey, Gillian Calder, Angela Cameron, Maneesha Deckha, Hester Lessard, Maureen Maloney, Margot Young, "Postcard From the Edge (of Empire)", (2008) 17:1 Social and Legal Studies 5-38.
"Les femmes juges feront-elles véritablement une différence? Réflexions sur leur présence depuis vingt ans à la Cour suprême du Canada" (2005) 17:1 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 37-49 [co-authored with Marie-Claire Belleau]
"Blurred Boundaries: A Double-Voiced Dialogue on Regulatory Regimes and Embodied Space" (2005) 9 Law, Text, Culture, 157-177.
"Law and the Leaky Woman: The Saloon, the Liquor Licence, and Narratives of Containment" (2005) 19:2 Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 181-199.
"Reflections on Intersections: Some Post-Game Comments" (2003) 51:5 Canadian Tax Journal 1967-1976.
"Getting The Insider 's Story Out: What Popular Film Can Tell Us About Legal Method's Dirty Secrets" [co-authored with Ruth Buchanan] (2001) 20 Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice 87-110.
"Confronting the Bogeyman: Latimer , and other fearful tales of murderous fathers and monstrous children" (2001) 64 Saskatchewan Law Review 635-643.
"Engaging Students in the Learning Process" in (January 1999) 27 Teaching Voices 9-11.
"Birth Control and the Underage Patient: Major Issues in a Minor Key" (1998) 14:3 Solicitor's Journal 13-15.
"Power & Wounds: Diversity and the Transformative Potential of Legal Practice" (1996) 45 UNB Law Journal 265-277.
Johnson, Rebecca, "Television, Pleasure and the Empire of Force: Interrogating Law and Affect in Deadwood" in Peter Robson & Jessica Silbey eds., Law and Justice on the Small Screen (London: Hart, 2012) 33-61.
Belleau, Marie-Claire, Annie Packwood & Rebecca Johnson, "L’honorable Charles D. Gonthier : une analyse jurisprudentielle quantitative comparée" in Michel Morin et al. eds., Responsibility, Fraternity and Sustainability in Law: In Memory of the Honourable Charles Doherty Gonthier / Responsabilité, fraternité et développement durable en droit: en mémoire de l’honorable Charles Doherty Gonthier (Markham, ON: LexisNexis Canada, 2012) 51-78.
Lessard, Hester, Rebecca Johnson & Jeremy Webber, "Introduction" in Hester Lessard, Rebecca Johnson & Jeremy Webber eds., Storied Communities: Narratives of Contact and Arrival in Constituting Political Community (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011) 5-25.
Belleau, Marie-Claire, Anik Lamontagne & Rebecca Johnson, "Les décisions de la juge McLachlin à la Cour suprême du Canada : une analyse statistique comparative " in David Wright & Adam Dodek eds., Public Law at the McLachlin Court: the First Decade (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2011) 39-54
"I Agree/Disagree For The Following Reasons”: Convergence, Divergence, and Justice Wilson’s “Modest Degree of Creativity" [coauthored with Marie-Claire Belleau & Christina Vinters] in Kim Ruth Brooks ed., Looking Forward: The Contributions of Bertha Wilson (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2009) 373. [reprint from journal article]
"Voicing an Opinion: Authorship, Collaboration and the Judgments of Justice Bertha Wilson" [coauthored with Marie-Claire Belleau & Christina Vinters] in Jamie Cameron ed., Reflections on the Legacy of Bertha Wilson (Markham, ON: Lexis/Nexis, 2008) 53-81. [reprint from journal article]
"Appendix: The Written Opinions of Justice Bertha Wilson” [coauthored with Marie-Claire Belleau, Andrew Tomilson & Christina Vinters] in Jamie Cameron ed., Reflections on the Legacy of Bertha Wilson: Lexis/Nexis, 2008), 409-446. [reprint from journal article]
“I Beg to Differ: Interdisciplinary Questions about Law, Language and Dissent” [co-authored with Marie-Claire Belleau], in Logan Atkinson & Diana Majury eds., Law, Mystery & the Humanities: Collected Essays (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008) 145-166.
"Faces of Judicial Anger: Answering the Call" [co-authored with Marie-Claire Belleau] in Myriam Jézéquel and Nicholas Kasirer, eds. Les sept péchés capitaux et le droit privé (Montreal: Éd. Thémis, 2007) 13-56.
"I Beg to Differ: The Language of Dissent", in Logan Atkinson & Diana Majury eds., Traversing Disciplinary Differences: Essays in Law and in the Humanities (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, forthcoming 2007). [co-authored with Marie-Claire Belleau]
"Gender, Race, Class and Sexual Orientation: Theorizing the Intersections" in Gayle MacDonald , Rachel Osborne and Charles Smith, eds., Feminism, Law, Inclusion: Theories of Intersectionality (Toronto: Sumach Press, 2005).
"La dissidence judiciaire : réflexions préliminaires sur les émotions, la raison et les passions du droit / Judicial Dissent: Early Reflections on Emotion, Reason and Passion in Law" [coauthored with Marie-Claire Belleau ] in Marie-Claire Belleau and Francçois Lacasse, eds., Claire L'Heureux-Dubé à la Cour suprême du Canada, 1987-2002 (Québec: Wilson & Lafleur, 2004) 699-719.
"Bars, Breasts, Babies: Madame Justice L'Heureux-Dubé and the Boundaries of Belonging" Elizabeth Sheehy, ed., Adding Feminism to Law: The Contributions of Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dubé (Irwin Law, 2004) 139-157.
"The Unforgiven Sources of International Law: Nation-building, Violence and Gender in the West(ern)" [coauthored with Ruth Buchanan] in Doris Buss and Ambreena Maji, eds, International Law: Modern Feminist Approaches (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2005) 239-283.
"The Persuasive Cartographer: Sexual Assault and Legal Discourse in R v. Ewanchuk" in Gayle MacDonald, ed., Social Context and Social Location in the Sociology of Law (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2002) 247-272.
"Justice La Forest, Sexual Orientation and Citizenship" in Rebecca Johnson, John P. McEvoy, Thomas Kuttner, and H. Wade MacLachlan, eds., Gérard V. La Forest at the Supreme Court of Canada, 1985-1997 (The Supreme Court of Canada Historical Society, 2000) 289-312.
"Treading on Dicey Ground: Citizenship and the Politics of the Rule of Law" [co-authored with Thomas Kuttner] in Carl Stychin and Didi Herman, eds. Sexuality in the Legal Arena (Athlone Press, 2000) 181-193.
"If Choice is the Answer, What is the Question?: Spelunking in Symes v. Canada" in Dorothy E. Chunn and Dany Lacombe, eds. Law as A Gendering Practice (Oxford University Press, 2000) 199-227.
"Leaving Normal: Constructing the Family at the Movies and in Law" in Lori Beaman, ed., New Perspectives on Deviance: The Construction of Deviance in Everyday Life (Prentice Hall, 2000) 163-179.
Storied Communities: Narratives of Contact and Arrival in Constituting Political Community, Hester Lessard, Rebecca Johnson, and Jeremy Webber, eds. (Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 2011)
Special Issue, Insights on Insite/Some Pedagogical Insights: Papers on PHS Community Services Society v. Canada (AG), (2011) 19:3 Constitutional Forum [pp. 85-144], Rebecca Johnson, guest editor. [see also http://insite.law.uvic.ca]
Special Issue on Law, Film and Feminism, (2009) 21:1 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, Gillian Calder and Rebecca Johnson, eds. [see also http://lawandfilm.law.uvic.ca]
Taxing Choices: The Intersection of Class, Gender, Parenthood, and the Law (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2002)
Chapter 1 of Taxing Choices
Video Interview (2006, 23 minutes) by Kinwa Bluesky, PhD Candidate, UBC Faculty of Law [on PhD work, formulating research questions, shifts in research, and practices of writing]
Reviews of Taxing Choices
- Pat Armstrong, "An Embedded Review"
- Katherine Dedyna, "Making Cents of Child Care"
- Claire Hill, "Taxing Choices", (2003) 18:2 Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 150-153
- Nancy Staudt, "Tax Talk"
- Lorna Turnbull "Taxing Choices: A Conversation About Motherwork on Tax Policy"
- Claire Young, "Tax Policy, Theoretical Explorations and Social Realities"
Gérard V. La Forest at the Supreme Court of Canada, 1985-1997, Rebecca Johnson, John P. McEvoy, Thomas Kuttner, and H. Wade MacLachlan, eds. (The Supreme Court of Canada Historical Society, 2000).
Power & Wound: A Study of the Intersection of Privilege and Disadvantage in Symes v. Canada (Dissertation, published through UMI, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 2000).
Book Review of Alison Young, The Scene of Violence: Cinema, Crime, Affect, (2011) 7 Law, Culture and the Humanities 329-331.
Book review of Brenda Cossman, Sexual Citizens: The Legal and Cultural Regulation of Sex and Belonging, (2010) 60 University of Toronto Law Journal 1045-1053.
"Judging Magic: Can You See the Sleight of Hand?" [review of Orit Kamir, Framed: Women in Law and Film] (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006) in 105:6 Michigan Law Review
"Review of Elizabeth Comack and Gillian Balfour, The Power to Criminalize: Violence, Inequality and Law." (May-June 2005) Canadian Journal of Sociology Online
"Book Review of Lorna Turnbull, Double Jeopardy: Motherwork and the Law" (2002) 19(2) Canadian Journal of Family Law 445-453.
"Book Review of Ellen Anderson, Judging Bertha Wilson: Law as Large as Life" (2002) 81 Canadian Bar Review 483-486.
"Book Review of Constance Backhouse, Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950" (2001) 25(2) Atlantis 109-110.
"Book review of Elaine Brown, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story; and Alexandra Dobrowolsky, The Politics of Pragmatism: Women, Representation, and Constitutionalism in Canada" (2000) 12 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 527-532.
"Hoop Shots and Social Transformation: A View from the Bleachers" (book review of Susan Boyd, ed., Challenging the Public/Private Divide: Feminism, Law, and Public Policy and Patricia S. Mann, Micro-Politics: Agency in a Post-Feminist Era) (1998) 10 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 264-279.
"Book Review of Jonathan Hart and Richard Bauman, eds. Explorations in Difference: Law, Culture and Politics" (1997) 76 Canadian Bar Review 278-282.
I am currently working on three research projects, each exploring a different dimension of my interest in struggles over meaning in the socio-legal-cultural arena. The first project concerns religion and diversity. The second project focuses on judges and the negotiation of persistent difference in the context of group-based decision-making. The third project focuses on ‘the economy’, and social and legal disagreements about duties owed by directors (and corporations) to various stakeholders.
1. “Religion, Sexuality, & Longing in “Angels in America”
This project arises from my association as a team member on Professor Lori Beaman’s SSHRC funded Multi-Centre Collaborative Research Initiative (MCRI), “The Religion and Diversity Project”. http://www.religionanddiversity.ca/. My research is being conducted under the 3rd node in this project, one exploring the ways sexual orientation acts as a flashpoint in discussions about religion and diversity. My first piece of work in this project is situated in the context of law-and-film scholarship. I will explore the weaving together of sexuality and religion in the HBO version of Kushner’s play “Angels in America”. The film, with its eclectic collection of (primarily gay male and straight woman) Jewish and Mormon protagonists, weaves a complicated tapestry in which we can see the playing out of desire – desire that is sexual, religious, and, indeed, political. But here I want to slip from the language of desire to the language of ‘longing’. In this project, I will reflect on what the film can help us see about sexual and religious diversity, by focusing on the role and the place of ‘longing’ -- of longing for something just out of reach ( a lost lover, health, a relation with god, political power, family, friends, justice).
2. “Mediating Judicial Conflict: Identities, Topics and Time”
This project is being done in conjunction with Professor Marie-Claire Belleau (Université Laval), with the support of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Standard Research Grant, 2010-2013. The overall objective of this project is to study practices of group-based decision-making in contexts where groups are fractured, and cannot agree on the result to be achieved. Where decisions must be made even in the face of disagreement, how are persistent differences nonetheless to be articulated, marked, and acknowledged? The locus of study for this project is the Supreme Court of Canada, where disagreement between judges is institutionally captured, rendered and performed in the form of written judicial opinions. Though majority judicial opinions clearly determine the outcome in particular cases, dissenting voices are not simply visible, but constitute part of the fabric of the law itself.
Canadian court watchers conclude that a judge's gender does not predict how a judge will vote, yet note some complicated correlations between 'outsider status' (gender, race, ethnicity) and heightened patterns of dissent. But identity may matter in ways more complicated than captured in a simple equation suggesting that men and women support different outcomes, particularly since judicial opinions are made up of both “a result” and “the reasons for the result.” There is a clear need for discussions of dissent that take seriously the words judges use, rather than treating words a little more than vehicles for ideological positions. Further, there is a need for more Canadian data on judicial dissent, data reflecting 'legal' ways of categorizing and understanding disagreement in law.
This project has two linked components, the first focused on 'results' (how judges vote), and the second on 'reasons' (the explanations judges give). The second objective is to study the language in which conflict is negotiated -- the reasons judges give for their divergent conclusions. Our project begins with the premise that judges (and the texts they author) not only participate in producing the social/legal world through their ability to ‘make real’, but also through their practices and performances of disagreement. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, we will explore these written practices of negotiated disagreement across topics and over time, paying close attention to the actual texts in which different judges articulate their reasons for disagreement. We will track manners and modes of dissent, attending to the mobilization of various tools of law and language (like precedent, statutory interpretation, policy, logic, emotion, and the persuasive resources of language) in different types of disputes. We will also situate our exploration of legal disagreement against current literature in psychology, communications and cognition, literature which attends to questions of identity and difference in both decision-making and reason-giving. We will link this study to an exploration of public engagement (both expert and non-expert) with the judicial opinions produced in high-visibility legal conflicts.
3. “In the Best Interests of the Corporation”: Corporate Social Responsibility, Fiduciary Duties, and Structures of Feeling in People’s v. Wise (2004) and BCE Inc v. 1976 Debenture Holders (2008)
This project is one at the intersection of three earlier research projects: one into judicial dissent; the second dealing with affect and structures of feeling in the context of law-and-film scholarship; the third exploring questions of global economic ordering and the persistence of informal relations of colonial domination. It is an occasion to further explore a thread which arose in the context of my 2007 BLG Summer Fellowship, “As a Matter of Fact: Accounting for Facts in Corporate Law”. In that project, I explored the relatively low rates of judicial dissent in the context of the Supreme Court’s business associations jurisprudence. It is a well-known phenomena that the majority of business associations cases resolve themselves either in trial courts, or in pre-trial negotiations; relatively few business cases make it to the Supreme Court. My early quantitative project on gender and dissent made it clear that even fewer of those cases involve dissenting opinions. When it comes to business, the court is frequently of one mind.
In this project, then, I take as my point of departure two of the court’s most recent unanimous business cases, People’s v. Wise (2007) and BCE Inc v. 1976 Debenture Holders (2008). In both these cases, the court issued unanimous commentary on corporate social responsibility, and the fiduciary duty of directors of corporation to act in accordance with best interests of corporation (captured legislatively in the context of s. 122(1)(a) of the Canadian Business Corporations Act). My goal is to undertake a kind of legal and cultural analysis of these two cases. This will involve a focused study of both the two cases themselves (their structure, their arguments, the language used), and the academic and popular commentary swirling around the cases. In short, I am interested in exploring both ‘what the court said’, and ‘what the commentators said about what the court said.’ In this, I am pursuing two related goals.
The first goal is to undertake a close analysis of language of these two cases, particularly with respect to the kinds of assumptions and presumptions made in the cases about economic ordering, and the relationships between directors and their various corporate stakeholders. The second is to identify and describe the language used by scholars, lawyers, and the public to describe both the cases, and their success/failure in answering questions about fiduciary duties, oppression, and ‘the best interests of the corporation. In both these readings, I will be drawing on theoretical frameworks elaborated by cultural studies theorists Raymond Williams and Edward Said about the “structures of feeling” that sustain and consolidate different practices of socio-legal (and economic) ordering.
"Of Bars, Breasts and Babies: Law, Culture, and The Politics of the Leaky Woman".
This project concerns the intersection of contemporary liquor licensing provisions with film theory. The project found its genesis in my experience of being denied entry to a pub when I was a nursing mother, on the basis that my infant was "under 19". In it, I am exploring 'the saloon' as a space of segregated citizenship. My research suggests that not only does the saloon remain a site of limited access for women, but also that the space of the saloon participates in further limiting the scope of female citizenship. Committed to the notion that the experience of space is a product not only of the materiality of law, but also of powerful images and symbols, I consider the insights one can garner about the gendering of space from the worlds of both law and film: contemporary liquor licensing regulations, and contemporary film, here, Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven
Here are four piece of work arising out of this research project: