Boundaries of Humanity Shamas Nanji Justice Bertha Wilson Supreme Court Canada

Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji of Edmonton

Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Recently we invited Ismaili writers to submit a synopsis of their books for listing on this website. We asked each author to introduce their book to Simerg readers by responding to a series of questions. We begin the first in this special bi-weekly series with Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity by Shamas Nanji of Edmonton, Canada.


Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book? 

Shamas Nanji: Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity points to Bertha Wilson breaking out of narrower monolithic interpretations of Canadian law. The Charter is new territory. The presence of a working-class, immigrant woman on the Supreme Court is indicative of new orientations that will question traditional readings of pre-Charter law.

Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?

Nanji: You will learn about the Canadian past from outside the boxes of patriarchy and whiteness. Bertha Wilson elevates the importance of plural democratic contexts compared to historical precedents in her decisions as a judge in the Ontario Court of Appeal and in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

Nanji: A Scotswoman emigrated to Canada with her husband and went to law school despite the Dean telling her to go home and take up crochet. She went on to become one of the hardest working judges on the Supreme Court with landmark cases like Angelique Lavalle, Henry Morgenthaler, and Horseman, in addition to Pushpa Bhaduaria at the Ontario Court of Appeal.

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Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity" by Edmonton based Shamas Nanji
Cover of “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Edmonton based Shamas Nanji, 161 pp,

Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Nanji: The book is available in paperback at Audreys Books in Edmonton (the book is listed HERE).

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Nanji: It’s self published.

Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Nanji: Apart from the printing and binding, I have done everything.

Simerg: Which was your first book and how many have you written?

Nanji: My first book is Canadian Rubaiya (2003). Since then I have published nine more. This includes Meditations on Abraham (2008) Sijistani’s design for Enlightenment (with Boustan Hirji, 2013), The Visionary Quest of Nasir Khusraw (2014), and Lalla’s Courage reaches for an Infinite Consciousness (2015).

Simerg: How long did it take you to write the book — from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Nanji: About two years.

Simerg: Tell us a little bit more about Bertha Wilson and the book.

Nanji: Bertha Wilson was a Justice on the Supreme Court of Canada 1982–1990. At the swearing-in ceremony, she observed As the fifty-eighth person to come on this court, I am also a woman. 

She prioritized her universal humanity before her specific gender. It set the tone for future judgments in the Court and in her speeches at several universities where she fostered Charter literacy.

After a foreword in prose, the book uses poetry to illustrate her life and to explore her accomplishments as an unabashed and enthusiastic supporter of the Charter. There are maps and extensive notes for further reading.

Date posted: February 10, 2021.
Last updated: February 10, 2021 (CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this article, Justice Bertha Wilson was left out from the title of the book in both the heading of this post as well as in the body of the text. The book title said Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity instead of Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity. A correction has been applied; the editor apologizes for the oversight).


We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as Nanji’s work above (or see article) and submit the details to Malik at All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

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