Bidding Us Au Revoir

Three professors retire from full-time teaching

Sarah Kent - 22 July 2021

Prof. Catherine Bell made a lifelong commitment to Indigenous rights

During a career dedicated to Indigenous rights and access to justice, Professor Catherine Bell

helped develop Indigenous legal education programs across Canada, most recently in Nunavut.

“When I first started, there were very, very few First Nations and Métis lawyers, let alone Inuit. Now there are hundreds of Indigenous lawyers,” says Bell, who joined the U of A in 1989. “It just fills my heart. It is what I worked for. I worked to be replaced.”

Bell was attending law school at the University of Saskatchewan when Indigenous rights were recognized by the Constitution in 1982. That milestone, in combination with her taking one of the few Aboriginal law courses then offered in Canada, struck a chord with Bell. “It made me realize that this is an incredible human rights issue in Canada that very few people knew anything about.”

In her 2L year, she was hired as a research assistant with the Native Law Centre, now the Indigenous Law Centre. Working on a project about Indigenous rights to heritage sparked a lifelong commitment to the topic.

“When I first started teaching law, the work that I did was not valued as much by the profession or in the academy as it is now,” says Bell. “People would suggest that I was working in boutique law or that I was naive.”

Bell developed curriculum and taught in the then Program of Legal Studies for Native People and for Indigneous leadership through the Banff Centre.

She was a founding faculty member with the Akitsiraq Law Program in Nunavut, which met an urgent need to foster the next generation of Inuit lawyers. The program allowed students to complete a full law degree from the University of Victoria while residing in their home territory. She returned to Nunavut in 2018 as part of the Nunavut Law Program, delivered in partnership between the University of Saskatchewan and Nunavut Arctic College.

Equipping students with the tools to make positive change in the community is a passion for Bell, who developed innovative experiential learning opportunities for law students as well as teaching courses on Indigenous rights.

At the U of A, she worked in partnership with Randy Sloan (of Alberta Justice and Solicitor General) and criminal lawyer Nicole Stewart to launch the Indigenous Justice Externship on Gladue Sentencing Principles in 2017, the first of its kind in Canada. Students learn about the unique experiences and histories of Indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system and support Gladue report writers as they prepare sentencing reports for Indigenous offenders.

Collaboratively, she developed the low-income clinical law program at the U of A, which links the study of law with hands-on learning in case work and advocacy. As part of their training, students work in clinical settings with Legal Aid Alberta or the Edmonton Community Legal Centre.

These educational initiatives are critical, says Bell. “We can’t achieve justice unless we understand the issues people are facing, and unless we try and build systems and responses that are based on the values of the people the legal system is intended to serve.”

Bell’s research has been equally influential. She is internationally renowned for her work on Indigenous cultural heritage, and in the area of Métis legal rights, she is a leading expert whose work has been argued and adopted by Canadian courts. Her work on Alberta’s Métis settlements is recognized as foundational.

“Professor Bell has been the start and the heart of our Indigenous law program and we look forward to seeing her legacy continue to grow,” says Dean Barbara Billngsley.

In retirement, Bell plans to serve as a board member for the Indigenous Heritage Circle, an Indigenous-led organization devoted to advancing Indigenous heritage priorities. “I will always be committed to issues related to access to justice and Indigenous rights.”

Professor Philip Bryden’s diverse career included teaching, deanships, governing

Denis Ram - 22 July 2021

Professor Philip Bryden, QC, is retiring after a 35-year career, which included service as a dean of two law schools, as a provincial deputy minister, a legal academic and a law professor.

Bryden started his legal studies as a Rhode Scholar at Oxford from 1976 to 1979 and practised with a New York law firm from 1979 to 1981. He was a special assistant to the Canadian secretary of state in 1981 and clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada for Madam Justice Bertha Wilson from 1983 to 1984. He completed his LLM at Harvard Law in 1985 and then joined the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Law, where he worked as a professor for 19 years.

In 1991, he became UBC’s associate dean of law. From 2004 to 2009, he served as dean of the University of New Brunswick Faculty of Law and from 2009 to 2014 he was dean of the University of Alberta Faculty of Law. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2016.

“It was unusual at the time for deans to move, not as much anymore,” says Bryden. “The University of Alberta had a number of internal deans for years and were interested in something different.”

Bryden is especially proud of his achievements at the university during a rocky provincial economy, one that saw budget cuts the very first day he went to a meeting with other deans.

“I thought I was moving to the richest province, but my first day (the university) announced big budget cuts. It was a challenge the entire time,” says Bryden.

From 2015 to 2019, Bryden was seconded from the Faculty of Law to be deputy minister of Justice and Solicitor General and deputy attorney general for Alberta, returning for phased-in retirement as the Trans-Canada Chair in Administrative and Regulatory Law.

During his time with the Alberta government, Bryden helped pass historic legislation regarding marijuana, elections and election financing, human rights, and family property.

He says his government career was “unplanned and due to a confluence of circumstances.” Originally approached about a secondment serving under Premier Jim Prentice, he was pleasantly surprised shortly afterwards to be asked to serve the newly elected government under Alberta premier Rachel Notley.

Bryden’s favorite project as deputy minister was conducting a full review of Alberta Legal Aid, leading negotiations and working alongside many stakeholders to shape the current system from its previously underfunded model.

After his secondment, Bryden realized his relatively unique position. “I have knowledge and access to people that were very central within the government.”

So he created a new course for law students: Developing Legislation. The course focused on case studies from his time within government and explored different legislative initiatives and how they were negotiated, written and passed. Students received a unique look at how Alberta’s provincial government works, which Bryden believes is an important asset for those studying the law. The course also let students work in teams to emulate the real working conditions of government staffers.

Still keen to impart knowledge, Bryden will be jointly teaching a course on Contemporary Canadian Federalism during the winter term of 2022, with sessional instructor Peter Gall.

“Professor Bryden has been a valued leader of our Faculty whose many contributions will endure long past his retirement,” says Dean Barbara Billingsley. “As a new dean, I am especially grateful to have benefited from his example, and from his expertise, support and advice.”

Professor Tamara Buckwold joined academia unexpectedly

Denis Ram - 22 July 2021

Despite it being unplanned, Professor Tamara Buckwold’s 33-year career as a teacher and scholar of primarily commercial law has been impactful for students and her profession.

“It was more by coincidence than design,” she says. “It never occurred to me that I'd have an academic career.”

Buckwold became a sessional lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law in order to remain involved in the legal world while she took what she anticipated would be a temporary break from private practice to care for two small children. But she quickly realized her calling was in teaching.

While teaching as a sessional lecturer, she earned her master’s degree in law and became an associate professor in Saskatchewan before moving to the University of Alberta and being promoted to full professor.

Reflecting on her own law school experience, Buckwold says she wanted her teaching style to focus on how all the little pieces of the law that students are taught fit into a bigger picture. She aimed to ensure that students understood not just discrete rules but also the overarching conceptual structure of the subject area and how those concepts interplay with policy in the real world.

“I wanted to stimulate student interest and try to engage students by teaching both concepts and practical legal problems,” she says.

“I start with, ‘Here is the big picture,’ then, ‘Now let's look at the process of solving a problem,’ ” says Buckwold. “Then throughout the course, I go back and remind them of how what we’re studying fits into the big picture.”

“Our Faculty is fortunate to have benefited for many years from Professor Buckwold’s excellent teaching, scholarship, professionalism and collegiality,” says Dean Barbara Billingsley. “She contributed greatly to the strength of our Faculty, especially in helping our students to see the practical value and utility of legal doctrine.”

For her work as a professor and as a legal academic, primarily in the area of commercial law, she won the Law Society of Alberta and Canadian Bar Association Alberta Distinguished Service Award in 2019; the University of Alberta Law Students’ Association Most Involved Professor Award in 2018; and the Tevie H. Miller Teaching Excellence Award in 2016.

Throughout her career, Buckwold has been actively involved in law reform, working with the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, the Alberta Law Reform Institute, the Law Reform Commission of Saskatchewan and the Canadian Conference on Personal Property Security Law. She was an executive member and chair of the Legal Education Society of Alberta (LESA); and acted as director for both the Estey Centre for Law and Economics in International Trade (2001-2005) and the Saskatchewan Legal Education Society Inc. (2001-2004).

She has published numerous articles, studies and papers, and co-authored Debt Recovery in Alberta. “The opportunity to co-author a book with Professor Emeritus Dick Dunlop taught me how to reconcile different points of view on difficult issues,” says Buckwold. “It made me a better writer, a more careful researcher and a clearer thinker.”

Despite those milestones, Buckwold says her most gratifying career moments were when students demonstrated the leap from confusion over a complex legal issue to achieving understanding.

“The results are fantastic. Sometimes it’s just a student in your office who’s thinking, probing, questioning that may be the most gratifying,” said Buckwold.