Master’s student awarded prestigious funding for research on federalism

Kimberly Wasylenchuk receives SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholarship

Sarah Kent - 19 April 2021

Kimberly Wasylenchuk, a Master of Laws student at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law, has been awarded the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

The SSHRC scholarship is accompanied by a Walter H. Johns Graduate Fellowship from the U of A, which is a top-up award recognizing CGS recipients.

“It is so surreal,” said Wasylenchuk. “Being selected for an award like SSHRC really validates all the hard work that goes into my education.”

Wasylenchuk’s research focuses on the topical and timely issue of federalism (political authority that is divided between national and provincial governments). It is a line of inquiry that was sparked by being born in Alberta and observing Alberta-centric issues all her life.

“The focus of my research is on a comparative study of selected federalist legal systems throughout the world,” said Wasylenchuk, whose research is supervised by Vice Dean Eric Adams, an expert in constitutional law.

“My goal is to understand whether organizing a state as a federation, as opposed to unitary organization with a strong central government, reinforces the legitimacy of the central governing power in the federation.”

“My research attempts to draw conclusions as to whether legitimacy of the central power’s ability to govern exists in a federalist state by way of delegated power.

Comparative Study

Wasylenchuk’s comparative study will look at federalism in Canada alongside countries that use the same system, such as Germany, while also considering unitary states such as the United Kingdom in her analysis.

Legality and legitimacy are political theory concepts that Wasylenchuk first encountered while attending law school at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. The application of these concepts to constitutional law was fascinating and something she wanted to explore further in graduate school, Wasylenchuk said.

Learning the law in different jurisdictions has undeniably informed the direction of her research, said Wasylenchuk, who was called to the bar in both Alberta and British Columbia after returning from law school in the United Kingdom.

In no small feat, she is continuing to work full time as a practising lawyer with McLennan Ross LLP in Edmonton while also undertaking her master’s. Juggling a high workload has not posed a challenge, said Wasylenchuk, who feels energized by her studies.

After graduating with a degree in history from the University of Alberta, she found herself working as a judicial clerk at the Edmonton Law Courts, where she fell in love with the law library.

“I would find the big, heavy constitutional law textbooks and take them home with me,” she said. “I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer, so being at the courthouse and having access to the law library was awesome.”

With an insatiable passion for research and constitutional law, doctoral studies could be on the horizon in the future for Wasylenchuk, but for now she’s focusing on undertaking the literature review for her thesis. She not only looks forward to writing her thesis but also defending it before a committee of experts.

“As a litigator, I am no stranger to defending my position before the court. Defending my thesis will be similar albeit in an academic context. I look forward to it!”