Legal Scholar John Borrows to Deliver Stapleford Lecture

Posted: March 19, 2012 1:00 a.m.

Professor John Borrows, University of Minnesota Law School.
Professor John Borrows, University of Minnesota Law School. Photo: John Borrows

John Borrows, an internationally recognized scholar in the field of Indigenous legal traditions and Aboriginal rights, will present the 2012 Stapleford Lecture “One Law For All: Understanding Canada’s Indigenous Constitution” presented by the Faculty of Arts on March 21.

“Canada’s law is Indigenous”, says Borrows. “And when Canada incorporates the values, customs, and ideals of all its peoples our freedom is enhanced and our law is strengthened.”

In his most recent book, Canada’s Indigenous Constitution (University of Toronto Press, 2010), Borrows argues that while Canada’s law is based heavily on the common and civil legal traditions of Europe it is also deeply rooted in Indigenous law. Yet, he argues, Canada’s legal system needs to move much further toward truly representing and reflecting the traditions of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples. “This continent’s original inhabitants have never been convinced that the rule of law in Canada lies at the heart of their experiences with others in this land. In this respect, Canada’s legal system is incomplete,” says Borrows.

Borrows is a professor and Robina Chair in Law, Public Policy and Society at the University of Minnesota Law School. He teaches in the areas of constitutional, Indigenous, and environmental law. A prolific and highly regarded legal scholar, Borrows has received many honours for his work in these areas including the Aboriginal Achievement Award in Law and Justice. He is also a Fellow of the Trudeau Foundation, and a Fellow of the Academy of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada - Canada's highest academic honor.

Borrows is Anishinabe/Ojibway and a member of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation in Ontario. In his book he recalls his early years as a law student, experiencing first-hand the ways that standard legal education served to diminish the contributions of Indigenous law to Canada’s legal system. Now, his ongoing aim is to facilitate the full incorporation of Indigenous legal traditions and values into the letter of Canadian law, and to see that Indigenous law is systematically included in legal education across the country.

“We can choose to recognize, affirm, and apply Indigenous legal traditions alongside our common and civil law or we can choose to deny their historic reality and contemporary force,” says Borrows. “The consequences of this choice will mark our country as progressive and open to legal guidance from the best of our traditions, or as oppressively fundamentalist and frozen in our orientation to the law.”

The 2012 Stapleford Lecture will take place Wednesday 21 March at 7:30 pm at the Research and Innovation Centre, RIC 119. For more information: