Private International Law moves to the forefront at McGill


Published: 13Jan2010

A renowned Canadian legal academic has given $50,000 to McGill's Faculty of Law to support research and teaching in private international law.

Jean Gabriel Castel, OC, a professor emeritus of York University's Osgoode Hall, and a former faculty member at McGill's Faculty of Law, has established The Jean Gabriel Castel Fund in Private International Law to be used to promote excellence in the field of private international law, by supporting activities such as conferences, seminars, and research at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

"McGill has long had a reputation as a world leader in the teaching of private international law," said Professor Daniel Jutras, the Interim Dean of Law. "We are extremely grateful that Jean Gabriel Castel, one of Canada's most distinguished scholars in private international law, has recognized our relevance and reputation through his generosity."

McGill's program is unique in Canada because its students study in both French and English, and earn both civil and common law degrees simultaneously. Jutras says this distinction provides students with an advantage: the field of private international law explores legal conflicts that arise when the laws of more than one jurisdiction can be applied to a given situation.

"Globalization means the reach of law is rarely confined to a single jurisdiction, which makes our brand of legal education more pertinent than ever," said Jutras. "This fund will mark the exceptional contribution Professor Castel has made in private international law, and the link between his extraordinary five-decade career and his early years as a professor at McGill's Faculty of Law."

Castel was born in France, and received several military decorations for his service with the French Resistance during World War II. He earned two law degrees in Paris after the war, then moved to the States to earn law degrees from the University of Michigan and Harvard.

Castel began teaching at McGill's Faculty of Law in 1954. In 1958, through the good offices of Professor Castel, the Nahum Gelber Law Library acquired a unique collection of French ancien régime juridical works now known as the Wainwright Collection. This unique collection is now a defining element of the Faculty and has been in constant use by legal historians, particularly by those focusing on the codification of the civil law.

In 1959, Castel accepted a position at Osgoode Hall where he taught until his retirement in 1999. He maintained close ties to a number of McGill faculty members and former students throughout his long and prestigious career. Castel served as editor of the Canadian Bar Review for 27 years, transforming the review into a bilingual and bi-jural publication to accurately reflect Canada's national character. He also served as president of the Private International Law Committee of the Office of Revision of the Civil Code of Quebec for 15 years.

Castel is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Member of the Order of Ontario, a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, an Officer de l'Ordre national du Mérite, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is also the author of Canadian Conflict of Laws, a three-volume treatise known as the leading Canadian text on private international law.

The Faculty of Law is grateful for this contribution to Campaign McGill: History in the Making - the university's most ambitious fundraising drive ever. Thanks to donors like Castel, including the contributions of more than 70,000 donors around the world, Campaign McGill has surpassed the $500-million mark.

The Castel family, surrounded by Interim Dean Jutras (on right) and Emeritus Professor Paul-André Crépeau (on right)

The Law Faculty honoured Jean Gabriel Castel at a special reception on Thursday, February 4, 2010 at Old Chancellor Day Hall.

Pictured (l to r): Interim Dean Daniel Jutras, Matthew Castel, Mrs. Castel, Emeritus Professor Jean Gabriel Castel, and long time friend, Emeritus Professor Paul-André Crépeau (Photo: Lysanne Larose)

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