Taking it easy, it seems, is not in the lexicon of David R. Percy, QC.
On July 1, during his 50th year as a faculty member at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law, Percy began another demanding commitment in a career that has been packed with them, by becoming the Faculty’s interim dean. He will hold the position until the next full-time dean, who is expected to be selected by the end of 2019, is able to take up the post.
Percy previously served as dean of the Faculty of Law from 2002 to 2009.
“I’m excited to be able to represent the Faculty to the profession, the university community and the public. We have a distinguished history, an excellent group of professors and vibrant students who are so stimulating to teach,” said Percy. “It was a fulfilling adventure the first time and I expect no less in the coming year.”
Currently, Percy is the Borden Ladner Gervais Chair of Energy Law and Policy, a first-of-its-kind position in Canada which he has held since it was created in 2010.
His first deanship covered a period when the Faculty both planned and executed numerous ambitious projects — the Law Centre was renovated, a joint degree program was established with the University of Colorado, and Law Campaign 2008 raised more than $20 million during the Faculty’s centenary year, creating funding for new teaching positions and scholarships.
But long before that, Percy’s career was characterized by a zest for shouldering sizeable tasks.
Water Law Pioneer
Hailing from South Shields, Tyneside, in the United Kingdom, a former coal-mining and shipbuilding town with a local reputation as a seaside resort, located on the northeast coast at the mouth of River Tyne, he earned his law degree at Oxford. He followed that with an LLM from the University of Virginia (where alumni include Robert and Edward Kennedy, and Robert Mueller), and where he was taught Comparative Law by Antonin Scalia, a future judge of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Shortly after arriving at UAlberta Law, at the suggestion of then-Dean Gerard La Forest (subsequently a judge of the Supreme Court of Canada) Percy started teaching Water Law, at the time an almost entirely unexplored field in Western Canada. Among his achievements in the area, he spent seven years on a committee that drafted Alberta’s Water Act, which came into force in 1999. It created a framework for balancing conservation and management of water with industry and government’s need to achieve economic growth.
In 2002, Percy drafted a similar framework for Namibia, when he helped develop its Aquaculture Act to encourage that country’s fish farming industry. Since 2000, he has worked on Water Law and aquaculture in six African countries, under the banner of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
He was an expert witness in a hearing on Maori water rights before the Waitangi Tribunal in New Zealand, which Percy recalls as “one of the most exciting experiences of my professional life.” He has also worked on projects concerning the British Columbia Water Sustainability Act, and Water Law in Ontario and Quebec.
His interest in Water Law soon broadened to include the larger field of Natural Resources Law and, in particular, Oil and Gas Law. In those fields, he was an expert witness before what was then the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, in the coalbed methane hearings, and has been actively involved in teaching and research activities for the Canadian Energy Law Foundation for 30 years.
Additionally, Percy is an authority on contracts and construction law. He is co-editor of Contracts: Cases and Commentaries, a widely used text in law schools nationally, now in its 10th edition, and wrote The Framework of Water Rights Legislation in Canada, as well as books on wetlands and groundwater.
For his accomplished record in research, teaching and service, in 2013 Percy was awarded the University Cup, the highest honour that UAlberta can bestow on an academic — becoming the Faculty of Law’s first recipient.
He has received numerous awards for his eminence as a law professor, including the W.P.M. Kennedy Award for outstanding merit as a law teacher in Canada, the university’s Rutherford Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching, and the Faculty’s Tevie H. Miller Teaching Excellence Award.