Monday, August 29, 2022

History-adjacent: Dorothy Eber 1925-2022 and Douglas Lambert 1930-2022

I have not been keeping up with historical obits here lately. Too many? Mostly scholars and scholarly work with which I have not been familiar? Summer doldrums? Bit of all three, maybe.

But I want to note the recent death of Dorothy Eber and the elegant obit by Judy Stoffman in the Globe. Eber was a Montreal-based journalist, but her historical contribution was oral histories of Inuit informants. She started with Inuit artists, and moved on to Inuit historical testimony in general. Perhaps most important, by the late stages of here career her Inuit translators, whom she credited lavishly, seemed to be launching an Inuit oral history program all of their own. I had the pleasure of profiling her for Canada's History in 2008, and you can read it here (scroll down a bit in the link).

Another history-adjacent death: that of Douglas Lambert. He was not a historian. He was a lawyer and then a judge: Mr Justice Douglas Lambert of the British Columbia Court of Appeal, 1978-2005. But his recent death notice makes a point of mentioning his particular contribution to judisprudential and national history:

He was perhaps best known for his significant contribution to the evolution of the law on Aboriginal Title and Rights. His ground-breaking judgments on Indigenous law, 23 in all, span a quarter of a century, and include Haida Nation v BC, which protected Haida Gwai forests and enshrined the province's duty to consult and accommodate Indigenous nations.

Lambert's decisions (and dissents too) on indigenous matters at the BC Court helped crack that province's once rock-solid denial of aboriginal rights, and his interpretation of title and treaty law had a profound influence at the Supreme Court of Canada as well. I'm not sure how well it is understood how far ahead of the political community the judicial community has come to be on these matters. It's fair to say Lambert was also ahead of most Canadian historians in grasping the fundamental change that would have to come to Canada's understanding of treaty rights and obligations, aboriginal title, and self-government.  

I did not know Lambert at all, but I got to know of him while researching The British Columbia Court of Appeal in the late 2000s. 

(Among some historical deaths I did not get to: that of Gordon Darroch, pioneer of quantitative history (I remember when that was a thing), recently remembered by York University.)  

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