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Freedom and Indigenous Constitutionalism

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.


  • 2017 Donald Smiley Prize awarded by the Canadian Political Science Association joint winner

"This remarkable work is at once challenging and accessible, philosophical and practical, and wide-ranging while firmly rooted in Anishinaabe tradition. Borrows takes a realistic, creative, and intellectually rigorous approach to some of the most difficult and pressing issues in Indigenous law, constitutional law, and political philosophy, as well as all readers who wish to better understand the relationship between indigenous peoples and Canada."— Katherine Starks, Saskatchewan Law Review

Additional Information
384 pages | 5.98" x 8.99"