Under IASL Director Dr. Nicolas Matte, the Centre for Research in Air & Space Law was established with the official approval of the Ministère de l’éducation du Québec on 1 September 1976. The McGill University Centre for Research in Air and Space Law is the principal research and educational outreach arm of McGill’s Institute of Air and Space Law, established in 1951. The Institute of Air Space Law provides the core degree-granting educational program, while the Center for Research on Air and Space Law produces research, publishes books and other literature, and offers educational products around the world.
Since its inception, the Centre has published a number of monographic studies, proceedings of symposia, reports and books, and held a number of workshops, seminars and conferences in Montreal and various other international venues. The Centre is headed by the Director, day-to-day management is the conducted by the Centre's Executive Director, and its activities are overseen by a Board of Directors.
The objectives of the Centre for Research in Air and Space Law are to:
- Conduct interdisciplinary research in the area of air and space law and policy;
- Organise conferences, workshops and other outreach activities addressing topics of historical and contemporary relevance in its field of research;
- Maintain close collaboration with various international organisations in the aerospace industry, including the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA);
- Increase cooperation with educational institutions, governmental and non-governmental organisations involved in aerospace activities and their regulation;
- Encourage, facilitate and promote graduate student research in the field of air and space law;
- Publish and disseminate books, monographs and other documents pertinent to the field of air and space law and policy.
- Perform research contracts on behalf of governmental and non-governmental entities.
Over the past 30 years, a team of researchers, selected primarily from among the Institute’s graduates and students, and aided and supervised by McGill professors, has undertaken multidisciplinary research on technical, economic, policy and legal implications of a variety of aviation and aerospace issues. In recent years, Centre researchers have undertaken studies addressing the following topics:
- International aviation policy
- Peaceful and military uses of outer space
- Assessing outer space security
- Outer space resources
- Governance of commercialised air navigation services
- International air carrier liability
In more recent times, the Centre is internationally recognised as being the lead in two vital projects that will contribute to the governance, sustainability and stability of outer space. These ground-breaking and innovative projects are the International Study on Global Space Governance and the project to draft the McGill Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Uses of Outer Space (MILAMOS).
Such research was made possible due by significant grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Secure World Foundation, the Arsenault Family Foundation, the Donner Foundation and various branches of the Government of Canada. Research also has been performed in collaboration with the John Molson School of Business, Concordia University.
In addition, the Centre maintains a database containing the texts of key international instruments related to air law and space law that is open for researchers and the public to use.
One of the main activities of the Centre is to function as a forum for the exchange of ideas and scholarship. This is done through the many publications the Centre produces.
Since 1976, the Centre for Research in Air and Space Law has published the Annals of Air and Space Law, a specialised journal devoted to promoting scholarship in the field of air and space law. Published every year as a hard-cover book, the Annals of Air & Space Law are among the premier periodicals in the field. In addition, the Centre began a Monograph Series with the intent of publishing collected and peer-reviewed works and expert opinions from conferences held around the world. To reflect rapid developments in this fast-changing area of law, the Occasional Papers is a platform for disseminating quality research papers by subject-matter experts and scholars on matters of immediate interest to the field.
The Centre also has published several other books and reports in recent years, including:
- Public International Air Law (2008).
- International Air Carrier Liability: The Montreal Convention of 1999 (2005).
- International Aviation Policy for Canada (2005).
- Policy and Law Relating to Outer Space Resources: Examples of The Moon, Mars, and Other Celestial Bodies (2007).
- Asian Cooperation in Space Activities: A Common Approach to Legal Matters (2007).
- Air Navigation: Flying Through Congested Skies (2007).
- Space Security Index (2004-2007).
Workshops, seminars and conference
In recent years, the Center and Institute have sponsored numerous multidisciplinary educational workshops, seminars and conferences on a variety of subjects in Montreal, and at other venues. Foreign venues for Centre seminars, workshops and conferences have included Belgium, Colombia, China, and the United Arab Emirates, with additional outreach educational activities planned for Singapore and Dubai. These interdisciplinary events have focused on law, economics, technology, business, government, and public policy.