The Founding of the Centre for Criminology

60 Years at the Centre of Criminology


Professor John Llewellyn Jones Edwards (1918-1994), Founding Director, Centre of Criminology (1963-1976)

2023 marks the 60th anniversary of the Centre of Criminology, but the concept goes back much further than that, and central to it all, the founding director, John Ll. J. Edwards.

In 1958, Edwards was a faculty member in the Department of Law at Dalhousie University in Halifax and teaching an elective third-year course in Criminology. For his class, he took a multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach by including guest speakers from the John Howard Society of Nova Scotia, the officer in the charge of the RCMP crime laboratory, a prison warden, a crown prosecutor and a parole officer, as well as visits to both the Halifax county jail, a girls’ reformatory and Dorchester Penitentiary.  

This course, which he believed had value beyond the faculty of law, led him to propose the establishment of an Institute of Criminology at Dalhousie for which he authored the lengthy sixteen-page Memorandum Proposing the Establishment of a National or Regional Institute of Criminology at Dalhousie University in the summer of 1959. The Federal Government was initially receptive to the idea, largely due to the published report of the Fauteaux Commission three years earlier, which encouraged universities to provide education for corrections and parole officers, as well as on criminology more generally. But unfortunately, funding could not be obtained and the plan was shelved indefinitely.


Notes of a meeting regarding a proposed institute of Criminology at Dalhousie University, 17 March 1960


Excerpt from "Canadian Teaching and Research in Criminology" by John Ll. Edwards, 1960

But Edwards was not deterred. In 1960, in an unintentional act of foreshadowing, Edwards published his vision for an institute of criminology in the University of Toronto Law Journal, and he continued to develop his class on Criminology at Dalhousie according to those principles. In April 1962, Edwards was invited to Toronto by the Attorney General, Kelso Roberts, where he presented on front of ministers, magistrates and representatives from several universities, including the University of Toronto, on the need for an Institute of Criminology.


Proposal to Establish a Master's Degree Programme in Criminology in the University of Toronto, 16 May 1970

Fortunately for UofT, the University was chosen as the ideal location for Ontario's inaugural Criminology Institute, which would adopt the name "Centre of Criminology." Edwards was selected as the founding director, and they found their first home at the Flavelle Building before moving to a historic house at 607-609 Spadina Avenue in 1965.  The Centre, which at first offered only a certificate in Criminology, largely aimed at lawyers, police and parole officers, and those working in corrections, soon expanded to offer a Master's program in 1971 and a PhD program in 1989. The undergraduate program was established in 1981 at Woodsworth College, which as of today boasts a specialist program and over 700 students.


The Centre for Criminology study space. On the eighth floor of Robarts, where the Centre of Criminology was located from 1974-2007. [197-]

The Centre would spend nearly thirty-five years on the eighth floor of Robarts, before moving to its current home in the Canadiana Gallery in 2007. In 2011, the Centre was renamed the Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies to reflect their changing and diversifying research scope and focus.

Sixty years on, and under the leadership of eleven directors since its founding, the Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies has become a mainstay in the Canadian and international Criminology communities. Their faculty, and students continue their long tradition of cutting edge and innovative research, and continue to contribute to the development of policy and scholarly work through a variety of disciplinary perspectives and theoretical approaches.

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In 1987 over the course of five days, Valerie Schatzker sat down with Edwards to record an oral history about the founding of the "Centre of Criminology". These tapes are now held at the University of Toronto Archives and have been digitized. Listen to a clip below and visit their site to hear more. 

The Founding of the Centre for Criminology