Aaron Mills wins top Canadian research award

Aaron Mills wins top Canadian research award
Aaron Mills with Lise Milne and Ted Hewitt, president of SSHRC

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University of Victoria Law PhD student Aaron Mills received the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Talent award—one of its five “Impact Awards”—at a ceremony in Ottawa today. Mills’ work is at the forefront of the movement to restore and revitalize Indigenous systems of law, one of the central recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

“We can’t have an honest conversation about reconciliation without taking Indigenous constitutional orders seriously. What is it we think we’re reconciling?” says Mills, who is a Bear Clan Anishinaabe from Couchiching First Nation, Treaty 3 Territory, and from North Bay, Ontario, Robinson-Huron Treaty territory. “This nomination is recognition of the amazing supervision, guidance and support I’ve received from so many at UVic, Couchiching and other communities, and I’m greatly encouraged to have my efforts at articulating Anishinaabe constitutionalism considered important.”

Mills’ research is moving Indigenous law from the margins to the centre of Canadian political and legal consciousness. His article “Wapshkaa Ma’iingan – Aki, Anishinaabek, kaye tahsh Crown,” published in the Indigenous Law Journal, applies Anishinaabe law to natural resources conflicts in Canada and demonstrates how these laws can create a more peaceful and respectful path to development.

The SSHRC Talent award is given to a single student each year across all disciplines of the humanities and social sciences in Canada whose research “brings forward ideas that help us understand and improve the world around us.” Mills receives $50,000 to support his graduate research.

The strength and impact of Mills’ work, teaching and research has made him highly sought-after. He is currently a Trudeau Foundation scholar at UVic and completed his master’s at Yale on a Fulbright Scholarship. He has received numerous academic awards, including a National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation Scholarship, the Casino Rama’s Award for Excellence, the Gladys Watson Memorial Scholarship, and the Foundation for the Advancement of Aboriginal Youth Scholarship.

“Aaron Mills is one of the most creative, innovative and thoughtful students I have taught in my 25 years as a law professor,” says John Borrows, Mills’ doctoral supervisor in UVic’s Faculty of Law. “It’s rare to encounter someone as well prepared to make an immediate impact through his scholarship and leadership skills.”

“Recognizing the accomplishments of the best researchers in Canada is essential to building a vibrant and long-term culture of discovery and innovation in our country. Now and in the future, what will keep our country competitive is our ability to help people understand, shape and adapt—which is wholly within the realm of social sciences and humanities. Congratulations to the five researchers we are celebrating today,” says Ted Hewitt, SSHRC president.