Known as the founder of the world’s first dual Indigenous and common law degree, University of Victoria professor John Borrows was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada.
Created in 1967 and presented by the governor general, the Order honours people “whose service shapes our society, whose innovations ignite our imaginations, and whose compassion unites our communities.” Borrows was one of 13 officers, one companion, and 47 members added on Dec. 30.
Borrows called the appointment “heartening,” explaining that when he started his career nearly 30 years ago there was barely any knowledge or interest in Indigenous law.
Borrows has written and worked extensively on issues such as Indigenous people’s own laws, treaty rights, land claims and the opportunities and challenges of economic development. He also made significant contributions to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
“Personally, I feel like it’s my mother and community’s teachings that brought me to where I am, and so I’m just the latest voice to raise what has been talked about in past generations,” Borrows said. “I feel like I’m passing along an echo or something and I’m grateful to be part of that train of transmission.”
This year was a particularly important one for Indigenous scholars as the Black and Indigenous lives matter movement and impacts of COVID-19 on marginalized communities took centre stage.
Borrows says he is of two minds when he reflects on it. While there has certainly been trauma and tragedy, he notes there has also been a rise in self-determination.
“There’s been a greater ability to deal with this through our own laws, our own clans, our own ways of trying to take care of one another.”
Since launching in 2018, more than 200 Indigenous students have graduated from the University of Victoria’s law school.