Saywell’s The Lawmakers a winning work

The latest book by York Professor Emeritus John T. Saywell (left) has won the John W. Dafoe Foundation Book Prize for best book about Canada and is a finalist for this year’s Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing from the Writers’ Trust of Canada.

The Lawmakers: Judicial Power and the Shaping of Canadian Federalism, published in 2002 by University of Toronto Press and the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, won the Dafoe foundaton’s prize in the category of distinguished writing by Canadians that contributes to the understanding of Canada and its place in the world. It is one of five finalists for the Writer’s Trust award for enlarging our understanding of contemporary Canadian political and social issues.

Saywell’s book examines the critical role of the courts – the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and the Supreme Court of Canada – in shaping Canadian federalism. He argues that the courts always have and still do “make law” – law that can be largely subjective and often bears little relationship to the text or purposes of the Constitution.

The $10,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize will be presented on May 28 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Each finalist receives $1,000.

Saywell joined York as a history and social sciences professor in 1963,  is founding dean of York’s Faculty of Arts and is a member of the York University Founders’ Society. He has written several books, including Canada: Pathways to the Present.

The Dafoe Foundation was established by friends and admirers of John Wesley Dafoe, editor of the Winnipeg Free Press from 1901 until his death in 1944. One of Canada’s most distinguished journalists and editors, he had a special interest in Canada’s place in the world.

The Shaughnessy Cohen prize was established in honour of the outspoken and popular MP from Windsor, Ont., who died in 1998.

The Writers’ Trust of Canada is a national charitable organization supporting writers through various programs and awards.