The Founding of the Centre for Criminology

60 Years at the Centre of Criminology


Founding Director, Centre of Criminology (1963-1976)

Meet Professor John LI. J. Edwards, a Welsh-born criminologist, whose passion for teaching and studying crime in Canadian society inspired the vision for the founding of The Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies and the Centre Library.

Before arriving in Toronto, Professor Edwards was in the process of drafting up a memorandum on the creation of a criminology teaching school, one that could be studied outside the context of Canadian law schools, and yet, incorporate all forms of interdisciplinary backgrounds (Doob & Greenspan, 1985, 1). This would be the first of its kind in Canada, and Professor Edwards was eager to start one at his current institution, Dalhousie University (Doob & Greenspan, 1985, 1). The memorandum, written in 1959 was met with concerns that Dalhousie University would not be able to afford to create a new program (Doob & Greenspan, 1985, 2). While it may have seemed like all hope was lost, a different institution further out west saw the potential for a criminology institute. In 1960, the University of Toronto Law Journal published a copy of Professor Edwards’ memorandum, gaining the attention of Attorney General Mr. Kelso Roberts who convened a meeting on March 21, 1962 combining representatives from various Ontario universities, deans from the faculties of law, social work and medicine, as well as other legal representatives who would decide where an appropriate institution might be placed (Doob & Greenspan, 1985, 2).


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

Fortunately for UofT, the University was chosen as the ideal location for the Canada's inaugural research and graduate teaching Criminology Institute which would adopt the name "Centre of Criminology". Professor John Ll. J Edwards, a natural fit, was selected as the founding director. Sixty years later and under the leadership of eleven directors since its founding, the more recently named,"Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies" is now home to both an undergraduate and graduate program with over 700 students and houses an impressive criminology library collection, the first of its kind in Canada. From a humble beginning of 30 master's students, the program's growth is astonishing.

These achievements would not have been possible without the work of the founding director, Professor John LI. J. Edwards who at the inception of the Centre for Criminology, engaged in lengthy appeal processes for the necessary funding that would kickstart the institute. It would not go without saying that the Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies’ success can also be credited to sixty-years worth of dedicated faculty, and students who made Professor Edwards’ vision possible.

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