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John Borrows

Robina Chair in Law, Public Policy and Society

Photo of Professor John Borrows

N224 Mondale Hall
229–19th Ave. South
Minneapolis, MN 55455



Osgoode Hall Law School, Ph.D.
University of Toronto, B.A., M.A., LL.M., J.D.

Professor John Borrows joined the faculty in fall 2009 as a professor in the areas of Indigenous Law, Comparative Law, and Human Rights. He is the first to hold the Robina Chair in Law, Public Policy and Society, one of the new chairs established to launch the Law School's Law, Public Policy, and Society program.

Professor Borrows is a leading scholar and teacher in indigenous, constitutional, and environmental law. He has written and spoken prodigiously on such issues as aboriginal legal rights and traditions, treaties and land claims, and religion and the law. A member of Ontario's Chippewas of Nawash First Nation and Anishinaabe, he has worked with and for Indigenous peoples in many countries. Canadian Supreme Court Justices have cited his articles and legal texts when ruling on aboriginal cases. His publications include, Recovering Canada; The Resurgence of Indigenous Law (Donald Smiley Award for the best book in Canadian Political Science, 2002), Canada's Indigenous Constitution (Canadian Law and Society Best Book Award 2011), and Drawing Out Law: A Spirit's Guide, all from the University of Toronto Press.

Professor Borrows joined the Law School from the University of Victoria Faculty of Law, where he was a professor and Law Foundation Chair in Aboriginal Justice since 2001. From 1998-2001, he taught law at the University of Toronto and helped initiate the June Callwood Program in Aboriginal Law. Previously, he was the first academic director of the First Nations Legal Studies Program the University of British Columbia (1992-98). From 1994-96, he taught at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University and was the founder and director of the Lands, Resources, and Indigenous Governance Program. He also has been a visiting professor at Princeton University, Brigham Young University, Dalhousie Law School, the University of Waikato Law School in New Zealand, the University of New South Wales in Australia, and Arizona State University, where he was acting executive director of the Indian Legal Program.

Professor Borrows is a recipient of the Aboriginal Achievement Award in Law and Justice, a Fellow of the Trudeau Foundation, a Fellow of the Academy of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada (FRSC)—Canada's highest academic honor—and a 2012 recipient of the Indigenous Peoples Counsel (I.P.C.) from the Indigenous Bar Association, for honor and integrity in service to Indigenous communities.

Professor Borrows completed a Ph.D. in 1994 at Osgoode Hall Law School and a J.D. in 1990 at the University of Toronto. He also received an M.A. from the Department of Geography and Planning in 1996, an LL.M. in 1991, and a B.A. in political science and history in 1987 from the University of Toronto.


Works in Progress

Physical Philosophy: Indigenous Rights in Motion (in progress)


Aboriginal Legal Issues: Cases, Materials & Commentary (Butterworths, 1st ed., 1998; LexisNexis Butterworths, 2d ed., 2003; LexisNexis Canada, 3d ed., 2007; 4th ed, 2012) (with Leonard I. Rotman)

Canada's Indigenous Constitution (University of Toronto Press, 2010)

Drawing Out Law: A Spirit's Guide (University of Toronto Press, 2010)

Canadian Constitutional Law (Emond Montgomery, 3rd ed., 2003) (with Joel Bakan, Sugit Choudrhy & Constitutional Law Group)

Recovering Canada: The Resurgence of Indigenous Law (University of Toronto Press, 2002)

Book Chapters

Maajitaadaa: Nanaboozhoo and the Flood, Part 2, in Centering Anishinaabeg Studies: Understanding the World through Stories (Jill Doerfler, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair & Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark, eds., Michigan State University Press & University of Manitoba Press, 2013) (preface)

Physical Philosophy: Mobility and the Future of Indigenous Rights, in Indigenous Peoples and the Law: Comparative and Critical Perspectives (Shin Imai, Kent McNeil & Ben Richardson, eds., Hart Publishing, 2009)

Living Law on a Living Earth: Aboriginal Religion, Law and the Constitution, in Law and Religious Pluralism in Canada (Richard Moon, ed., UBC Press, 2008)

Let Obligations Be Done, in Let Right Be Done: Aboriginal Title, the Calder Case, and the Future of Indigenous Rights (Hamar Foster, Jeremy Webber & Heather Raven, eds., UBC Press, 2007)

Challenge, Change and Development in Aboriginal Communities, in Legal Aspects of Aboriginal Business Development (Joseph Magnet & Dwight Dorey, eds., LexisNexis Butterworths, 2005) (with Sarah Morales)

Throwing the Eagle from the Nest, in Justice as Healing: Indigenous Ways (Wanda McCaslin, ed., Living Justice Press, 2005)

A Separate Peace: Strengthening Shared Justice, in Intercultural Dispute Resolution in Aboriginal Contexts (Catherine Bell & David J. Kahane, eds., UBC Press, 2004)

Measuring a Work in Progress: Canada, Constitutionalism, Citizenship and Aboriginal Peoples, in Box of Treasures or Empty Box?: Twenty Years of Section 35 (Ardith Walkem & Halie Bruce, eds., Theytus Books, 2003)

"Because it Does Not Make Sense": Sovereignty's Power in the Case of Delgamuukw v. The Queen 1997, in Law, History, Colonialism: The Reach of Empire (Diane Kirkby & Catharine Coleborne, eds., Manchester University Press, 2001)

The Supreme Court, Citizenship and the Canadian Community: Judgments of Justice G.V. La Forest, in Gerard V. La Forest at the Supreme Court of Canada 1985-1997 (Rebecca Johnson, ed., Supreme Court of Canada Historical Society, 2000)

"Landed" Citizenship: Narratives of Aboriginal Political Participation, in Citizenship, Diversity, and Pluralism: Canadian and Comparative Perspectives (Alan Cairns, ed., McGill-Queen's University Press, 1999), reprinted in Citizenship in Diverse Societies (Will Kymlicka & W. J. Norman, eds., Oxford University Press, 2000)

Contemporary Traditional Equality: The Effect of the Charter on First Nations Politics, in Charting the Consequences: The Impact of Charter Rights on Canadian Law and Politics (David Schneiderman & Kate Sutherland, eds., University of Toronto Press, 1997)

Wampum at Niagara: The Royal Proclamation, Canadian Legal History, and Self-Government, in Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in Canada: Essays on Law, Equity, and Respect for Difference (Michael Asch, ed., UBC Press, 1997)

Journal Articles

A Proposal: Indigenous Legal Tradition and Legal Education, McGill Law Journal (forthcoming)

Aboriginal and Treaty Rights and Violence Against Women, 50 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 699 (2013)

Ground Rules: Indigenous Treaties in Canada and New Zealand, 22 New Zealand Universities Law Review 188 (2006)

Creating an Indigenous Legal Community, 50 McGill Law Journal 153 (2005) (5th Annual John Tait Memorial Lecture)

Indigenous Legal Traditions in Canada, 19 Washington University Journal of Law & Policy 167 (2005)

Practical Recolonisation?, 28 University of New South Wales Law Journal 614 (2005)

Tracking Trajectories: Aboriginal Governance as an Aboriginal Right, 38 UBC Law Review 285 (2005)

Indian Agency and Taking What's Not Yours, 22 Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice 253 (2003-2004)

Stewardship and the First Nations Governance Act, 29 Queen's Law Journal 103 (2003)

The House of Justice: A Single Trial Court, 48 Criminal Law Quarterly 126 (2003) (with Gerald T.G. Seniuk)

Fourword/Foreword: Issues, Individuals, Institutions, Ideologies, 1 Indigenous Law Journal vii (2002)

Domesticating Doctrines: Aboriginal Peoples after the Royal Commission, 46 McGill Law Journal 615 (2001)

Indian Agency: Forming First Nations Law in Canada, 24 PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 9 (2001)

Listening for a Change: The Courts and Oral Tradition, 39 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 1 (2001)

Uncertain Citizens: The Supreme Court and Aboriginal Peoples, 80 Canadian Bar Review 15 (2001)

Sovereignty's Alchemy: An Analysis of Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, 37 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 537 (1999)

Reliving the Present: Title, Treaties and the Trickster in British Columbia, 120 B.C. Studies 99 (1998)

Frozen Rights in Canada: Constitutional Interpretation and the Trickster, 22 American Indian Law Review 37 (1997)

Living Between Water and Rocks: First Nations, Environmental Planning and Democracy, 47 University of Toronto Law Journal 417 (1997)

The Sui Generis Nature of Aboriginal Rights: Does it Make a Difference?, 36 Alberta Law Review 9 (1997) (with Len Rotman)

The Trickster: Integral to a Distinctive Culture, 8 Constitutional Forum 29-38 (Winter 1997)

Fish and Chips: Aboriginal Commercial Fishing and Gambling Rights in the Supreme Court of Canada, 50 Criminal Reports 230-44 (1996)

Incremental Planning and the Ontario Municipal Board, 10 Canadian Journal of Administrative Law and Practice (1996)

With or Without You: First Nations Law (in Canada), 41 McGill Law Journal 629-65 (1996)

Constitutional Law from a First Nation Perspective: Self-Government and the Royal Proclamation, 28 University of British Columbia Law Review 1-48 (1994)

Contemporary Traditional Equality: The Effect of the Charter on First Nations Politics, 43 University of New Brunswick Law Journal 19-48 (1994)

A Genealogy of Law: Inherent Sovereignty and First Nations Self-Government, 30 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 291-354 (1992)

Negotiating Treaties and Land Claims: The Impact of Diversity within First Nations Property Interests, 12 Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice 179-234 (1992)

Entries in Reference Works

Aboriginal Political Advocacy and the Canadian Constitution, in Indians in Contemporary Society (Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 2) (Garrick Bailey, ed., Smithsonian Institution, 2008)

Other Publications

Crown and Aboriginal Occupations of Land: A History & Comparison (Oct. 15, 2005) (research paper commissioned by the Ipperwash Inquiry (Ontario, Canada))

Western Economic Diversification (2005) (report for the government of Canada on study of aboriginal economic development in five Canadian cities)

Aboriginal Cultural Audit (2004) (report for Canadian Department of Justice with analysis, recommendations, and summary of interviews after visits with 115 managers and aboriginal employees in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Iqaluit, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Vancouver, Yellowknife, and Halifax)

Treaty Justice Report for Office of Treaty Commissioner of Saskatchewan (2004) (roundtable discussions conducted and mediated over two years with elders, governmental ministers, First Nations chiefs, judges, academics)


Constitutional Law
Federal Indian Law
Native American Law Literature
Tribal Courts Seminar