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Alan Cairns

Professor Emeritus (University of British Columbia) | Adjunct Professor

Alan Cairns.Alan Cairns studied political science at the University of Toronto, graduating in 1953 with a gold medal, where he also earned his MA. He took his Doctor of Philosophy (D.Phil) at Oxford University, writing a thesis on British reactions to Central African society 1840-1890, later published as Prelude to Imperialism (1965).

He taught at the University of British Columbia (UBC) from 1960 to 1995, focussing his research interests on Canadian politics, particularly federalism, electoral and party systems, judicial review, and the constitutional issues that emerged with the threat to Canada’s survival posed by Quebec nationalism. His major articles are reprinted in three volumes: Constitution, Government and Society in Canada (1988), Disruptions (1991), and Reconfigurations (1995), all edited by Douglas Williams. During his tenure at UBC he took three years off to teach at Memorial University, Harvard University, and the University of Edinburgh.

Cairns also studied Aboriginal issues in depth, first as a member of the Hawthorn Commission in the mid 1960s which recommended a “citizens plus” status for Indian peoples. This was used by First Nation leaders to criticize the assimilation policies of the federal government 1969 White Paper. He returned to this issue in his prize-winning 2000 book Citizens Plus, runner-up for the Donner award in 2001, discussing how First Nations, Inuit and Metis could harmoniously coexist with the majority non-Aboriginal population, which was itself becoming increasingly multicultural.
 
In addition to the Hawthorn Commission, Cairns was one of three research directors of the (Macdonald) Royal Commission set up to report on the economic union and Canada’s development prospects, (reported in 1985). The research directors were collectively responsible for the publication of 71 volumes of research.
 
He was also a member of the British Columbia Advisory Committee on the Constitution, leading up to the 1982 Constitution Act. In that year he was awarded the Molson Prize of the Canada Council and he subsequently received a Killam award for 1989-1991.
 
He is a member of the Royal Society of Canada, an Officer of the Order of Canada and is the recipient of Honorary Degrees from the University of British Columbia, University of Saskatchewan, University of Toronto and Carleton University.
 
Affiliation: 
University of Waterloo

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