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An Exceptional Law

Section 98 and the Emergency State, 1919-1936

An Exceptional Law showcases how the emergency law used to repress labour activism during the First World War became normalized with the creation of Section 98 of the Criminal Code, following the Winnipeg General Strike.

Author Information

MolinaroDennis G.:

Dennis G. Molinaro holds a PhD from the University of Toronto and his research focuses on the historical use of emergency powers and their effect on society. He is currently completing a second book on Canada's role in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance and it's covert Cold War wiretapping programs. He teaches at Trent University.


Tom Mitchell:

"Dennis Molinaro has rooted his account of Section 98 [of Canada’s Criminal Code] in the story of the liberal state’s penchant to betray liberty…His book is also an intervention in the current debate about emergency legislation in Canada."

Michael Marschal:

‘A meticulously researched and well-written historical piece…. For those interested in political rights and the extent the public allows governments to determine what is and is not acceptable in the political sphere, An Exceptional Law is an excellent read.’

R. Blake Brown, Saint Mary's University:

"Molinaro has produced what will become the standard analysis of one of the most infamous pieces of legislation in Canadian history."

Steve Hewitt, University of Birmingham:

"Until now, the notorious law [Section 98 of the Criminal code], which allowed for, among other things, guilt by association, has lacked a proper study. Fortunately, a valuable examination of the legislation, the background to its creation, its impact, and its continuation at least in part even after the law’s repeal has been provided in this fascinating and well-researched account."

Craig Forcese:

"An Exceptional Law: Section 98 & The Emergency State 1919-1936 is a very readable, incredibly well-researched study of Canada’s wartime-derived, but peacetime-continued sedition laws of early 20th century. But the book is of much more than historical interest. As they said in Battlestar Galactica: All this has happened before and will happen again. My copy is marked-up where I noted parallels to current immigration and anti-terror laws. … I highly recommend this book."

Jim Mochoruk, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor, University of North Dakota:

"An Exceptional Law is an important addition to the scholarly literature on several subfields of Canadian history. Dennis G. Molinaro’s scholarship is excellent."

Ian McKay, Director of the Wilson Institute for Canadian History, McMaster University:

"This superb examination of Canada’s storm-tossed years between the wars proposes a fresh interpretation of the harshly repressive and sometimes lethal legislation designed to discipline immigrants, punish radicals, and shape public opinion. Twenty-first-century readers will encounter in its pages a haunting premonition of the insecurity state that, ever since 9/11, has made dissent difficult – yet all the more necessary. This book is an indispensable addition to our understanding of freedom and repression in twentieth-century Canada."

Audience: College/higher education;Professional and scholarly;