N.B.: The detail displayed about each honorary degree recipient varies, as
the database was compiled from a variety of sources. However, more information may
be available at the University Archives.
Convocation date: May 29, 2002
Discipline / contribution: public policy ; Canadian constitution
Citation / biographical information:
Alan C. Cairns studied at the University of Toronto and Oxford University, from which he obtained a D.Phil. in 1963. He was a member of the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia from 1960 until his retirement in 1995. Since his retirement, Dr. Cairns has had visiting appointments and chairs at the University of Toronto, Queen’s University, the University of Saskatchewan, York University, the University of Waterloo and the University of British Columbia. While at the University of Saskatchewan, Professor Cairns was the incumbent of the Law Foundation of Saskatchewan Chair in the College of Law and he taught in the Department of Political Studies. His list of academic contributions since his retirement is a four-page document.Degree received: Doctor of Laws
Dr. Cairns is a well-known expert on constitutional and political issues. A fellow political scientist at York University described Professor Cairns as “the leading student of Canadian politics” as a way of capturing the contribution, which he has made to academic analysis and public debate on questions concerning constitutional developments in Canada. As a writer and commentator, Professor Cairns has brought a meticulous scholarly sensibility, a keen awareness of constitutional priorities, and a passion about the constitutional future of the country to bear on issues of pressing and significant concern to the citizens of Canada. He has published countless articles and books over his career and is still active in his research and writing.
In recognition of his achievements, he has been made an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He was awarded the first Governor General’s International Award for Canadian Studies, and was the recipient of the prestigious Canada Council Killam Scholarship 1989-1991. The career of Professor Cairns demonstrates that the scholarly role — that patient, disinterested, orderly process of attempting to understand and explain historical events and societal phenomena— is not subordinate or inferior to direct involvement in the political or administrative process. The task of reflecting on the significance of public events is important to any democratic society which is to function properly, and there can be few better examples of mastery of this craft than Professor Cairns.
Degree presented by: Michael Atkinson, Provost and Vice-President Academic
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