Defying Borders: The Promise and Peril of Party Autonomy in Private International Law


Chancellor Day Hall Maxwell Cohen Moot Court (NCDH 100), 3644 rue Peel, Montreal, QC, H3A 1W9, CA

The Faculty of Law invites you to the Inaugural Lecture of Professor Geneviève Saumier as holder of the Peter M. Laing Chair.


Party autonomy in private international has been associated with the power granted to parties to choose the law applicable to international contracts and the forum for dispute resolution. This license has been justified largely on the basis that it provides the legal certainty essential to cross-border transactions, allows for the designation of a neutral law or forum, and is consistent with general principles of freedom of contract in domestic law. In recent years, party autonomy has increasingly been spreading to personal matters, for example in relation to same-sex marriage or surrogacy, where individuals choose jurisdictions and laws that give them access to a particular status (spouse or parent) that would not be accessible to them in their home jurisdictions. While party autonomy in commercial matters is under fire as allowing parties to strategically select laws and forums that shield them from otherwise applicable regulatory regimes, party autonomy in personal matters is celebrated as a means to avoid restrictive State policies that infringe on fundamental rights and self-determination.  Regardless of whether one views party autonomy as promise or peril, its effect is to invite persons, natural and legal, to defy the territorial limitations of State law in the pursuit of their own interests, be they economic or personal. The extent to which this needs to be balanced with other interests, and whether this can or should occur within private international law, is the subject of this lecture.

About the speaker

A recognized expert in private international law, Professor Saumier’s research focuses on consumer law, the resolution of international disputes and cross-border class actions. Her papers on private international law and on consumer arbitration have been cited many times by the Supreme Court of Canada. Beyond these subjects, Professor Saumier also teaches law of civil liability, mediation and civil procedure.

A cocktail reception will follow. Kindly RSVP before October 16, 2017 to [at] (subject: RSVP%20Laing%20Chair%20Inaugural%20Lecture.) .

A request has been made for 1.5 hours of continuing legal education for jurists.