Freedom and Indigenous Constitutionalism

Freedom and Indigenous Constitutionalism

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By John Borrows
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2016
World Rights
384 Pages
ISBN 9781442629233
Published Apr 2016
Online discount: 25%
 $34.95    $26.21
ISBN 9781442630932
Published Apr 2016
Online discount: 25%
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ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442630956
Published May 2016
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Indigenous traditions can be uplifting, positive, and liberating forces when they are connected to living systems of thought and practice. Problems arise when they are treated as timeless models of unchanging truth that require unwavering deference and unquestioning obedience. Freedom and Indigenous Constitutionalism celebrates the emancipatory potential of Indigenous traditions, considers their value as the basis for good laws and good lives, and critiques the failure of Canadian constitutional traditions to recognize their significance.

Demonstrating how Canada’s constitutional structures marginalize Indigenous peoples’ ability to exercise power in the real world, John Borrows uses Ojibwe law, stories, and principles to suggest alternative ways in which Indigenous peoples can work to enhance freedom. Among the stimulating issues he approaches are the democratic potential of civil disobedience, the hazards of applying originalism rather than living tree jurisprudence in the interpretation of Aboriginal and treaty rights, American legislative actions that could also animate Indigenous self-determination in Canada, and the opportunity for Indigenous governmental action to address violence against women.

John Borrows is the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law in the Faculty of Law at the University of Victoria and is the winner of both the Canadian Political Science Association’s Donald Smiley Prize (for Recovering Canada) and the Canadian Law and Society Association Book Prize (for Canada’s Indigenous Constitution).


1. Physical Philosophy: Mobility and Indigenous Peoples

2. Civil (Dis)Obedience, Freedom and Democracy

3. Indigenous Politics and Canadian Constitutionalism

4. (Ab)Originalism and Aboriginal Rights

5. Legislation and Indigenous Self-Determination in Canada and the United States

6. Aboriginal and Treaty Rights and Violence Against Women

7. Conclusion

"Freedom and Indigenous Constitutionalism is yet another fine book by John Borrows. His understanding of the distinctive nature of Aboriginal ethics and knowledge is a tremendously important contribution to Canadian political thought."

Peter H. Russell, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Toronto

"In Freedom and Indigenous Constitutionalism, John Borrows does a masterful job of bringing together significant contributions to the field, putting them in a new light and reimagining their content in view of the broader theme of freedom."

Larry Chartrand, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

Donald Smiley Prize awarded by the Canadian Political Science Association (Canada) - Joint winner in 2017