VIDEO: The Nature of Justice with Dr. John Borrows

On a chilly night in early December, 2020, the RAVEN community gathered to listen, entranced, to a luminous storyteller who shared beautiful gems of wisdom. Anishinabe/Ojibwe scholar, lawyer and legal advisor to RAVEN, Dr. John Borrows, spoke about rights, relationship and reciprocity  from the place where Indigenous vision meets engaged allyship.

“One of the reasons that I love the Anishinaabemowin language is that it is made up of over seventy percent verbs. “Law” is one of those words that is an action word – a verb. The Anishinaabe idea of law is that it’s something that we do: it’s not something that is done to us. This idea is really exciting to me – because we all ‘law’ together, in different ways. If we think about law in that light, we can all step up to turn what might be dead letters on a page into something that breathes, and that we all do together.”

Dr. John Borrows

Monthly donors to RAVEN joined in the live webinar and were invited to bring their questions for Dr. Borrows, a scholar who is pioneering new ways of learning about and practicing law in this country.

Watch the video here:

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Dr. John Borrows is one of Canada’s most prolific and celebrated legal scholars – a world-renowned law professor at several universities including the University of Victoria. Dr. Borrows specializes in Indigenous legal rights and comparative constitutional law. He has written and spoken extensively on Indigenous legal rights and traditions, storytelling, treaties and land claims, and constitutional and environmental law. His 23 publications include Law’s Indigenous Ethics, Recovering Canada: The Resurgence of Indigenous Law, Canada’s Indigenous Constitution, and Drawing Out Law: A Spirit’s Guide. 

John has received many honors and awards for his work with and for Indigenous peoples in many countries. He is a recipient an Aboriginal Achievement Award in Law and Justice, a Fellow of the Trudeau Foundation, and a Fellow of the Academy of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada (RSC), Canada’s highest academic honor, and a 2012 recipient of the Indigenous Peoples Counsel from the Indigenous Bar Association, for honor and integrity in service to Indigenous communities.

As the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law, John is focusing his research on how “environmental” laws of indigenous peoples (the laws which flow from how they use natural processes to guide them in regulating their communities and resolving their disputes) can be applied more broadly.   And he is the co-founder of the first joint degree program in Canadian Common Law (JD) and Indigenous Legal Orders (JID) which welcomed its first cohort of students in September 2018 at the University of Victoria. It is the first program of its kind in the world, combining intensive study of Canadian Common Law with intensive engagement with Indigenous laws.

Well steeped in both traditions of law, John is uniquely positioned to reflect on the essential nature of law itself.

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