Global Reach, Local Grasp: Constructing Extraterritorial Jurisdiction in the Age of Globalization

Steve Coughlan, Robert J. Currie, Hugh M. Kindred


The reach of national law is often greater than its grasp. Canada, like other countries, has effective legal power over its territory and all within it. However, one consequence of the current process of globalization, for good or ill, is that Canadian interests are no longer contained exclusively within Canadian borders. Canada thus finds it increasingly necessary to consider asserting its legal jurisdiction beyond its frontiers. Such extraterritorial assertion of Canadian authority may well run into strong opposition from other countries, who might view Canada as attempting to intervene in their own national territory and domestic affairs. Likewise, other states, under the same pressures of globalization as Canada, may try to exercise their legislative powers, government decrees and court orders in the territory of Canada, where they are likely to be rebuffed with equal indignation. Yet the rapidly growing volume and variety of transnational interactions between people, activities and events, which constitute the engine of globalization, ensure that the extraterritorial application of national legal powers cannot be avoided. Consequently, the scope, means and effectiveness of extraterritorial action must be examined and evaluated.

This paper was co-authored with Teresa Scassa, Professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law (

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