Groundbreaking jurist Buller

Humanities, Law

- Jody Paterson

Buller. Credit: UVic Photo Services

Canadians selected for induction into the Order of Canada have made “extraordinary contributions” to the nation. Pioneering jurist Marion Buller is one of 85 new appointments announced today by Governor General Mary Simon.

“I’m deeply honoured to be recognized for the body of work that I’ve done so far,” says Buller. “However, I do want to highlight that the Order of Canada is for what I’ve done so far—because I’m not done yet.”

Buller, a UVic law and anthropology graduate, is being recognized for her long and distinguished career as a groundbreaking judge. In 1994, she was appointed to the BC Provincial Court just seven years after graduating from law school, becoming BC’s first female First Nations judge.

In 2006, she founded the province’s first Indigenous Court, now known as First Nations/Indigenous Court. The court uses the principles of restorative justice and traditional Indigenous ways to achieve sentencing that balances rehabilitation, accountability and healing for Indigenous People.

Ten years later, Buller retired as a judge and was appointed chief commissioner of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls. That work resulted in a highly influential two-volume report in 2019 that continues to change practice and policy in Canada and around the world.

‘Integration of Indigeneity’

Buller takes significant pride in her accomplishments but looks forward to a number of new challenges. She continues to practise law and, as UVic’s newest Chancellor—she started the position in January 2022—she is excited to apply her expertise and depth of knowledge to help UVic continue the “integration of Indigeneity.”

“I’d like to see UVic moving in a more general sense toward the principles of the BC government Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act,” says Buller. “We’re doing land acknowledgements, yes, but we have to move past that in integrating Indigeneity. If you read the University Act, the legal basis for every BC university, it’s still pretty colonial.”

Buller is Cree and a member of the Mistawasis Nêhiyawak, a Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan, and she notes that recognizing the many faces of colonialism is a major challenge for anyone who has grown up with colonialism all around them.

“The first step is to be able to see colonialism. I don’t always see it myself, to be honest,” she says. “We’re all learning, and that is so important because there’s flexibility there for all of us to think about how we can do this together.”

Buller may be new to the chancellor role, having been installed to her three-year term in May, but she’s no stranger to UVic, which has been part of her life since she graduated from the university first with her Bachelor of Arts in anthropology in 1975, then her law degree in 1987.

“Here at UVic, there’s an open-mindedness, a real desire to be innovative on this issue. I can see that UVic wants to change,” she says.

Shifting mindsets

A critically important aspect of decolonization is shifting the mindset that it’s a zero-sum game, says Buller.

“We need to get past the view that your win is my loss,” she says. “Decolonization is like a potluck dinner: The more people you invite to a potluck, the more variety of food there is—and everybody eats well.”

The Order of Canada was created in 1967 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to honour people whose service shapes our society, whose innovations ignite our imaginations, and whose compassion unites our communities. Since then, more than 7,600 trailblazers from all sectors of society have been invested into the Order of Canada, whose motto is: Desiderantes meliorem patrium, or “They desire a better country.”

Read about the 2022 UVic Order of Canada appointments.



In this story

Keywords: award, research, writing, reconciliation, education, arts, community, international, sustainability, Indigenous, administrative, philosophy, law

People: Jamie Cassels, Marion Buller, Jan Zwicky

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