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Meet the Dean of Queen’s Law

Mark Walters shares his thoughts and plans for the Faculty of Law and its community members as he begins his term as dean.

Mark Walters, Law’89 graduate and former faculty member, has returned to Queen's to lead the Faculty of Law’s next phase of development. His depth and breadth of experience in research, teaching, and academic leadership will enable Queen’s Law to continue its momentum as one of Canada’s leading law schools. (University Communications / Photo by Greg Black)

Mark Walters (Law'89) is recognized as one of Canada’s leading scholars in public and constitutional law, legal history and legal theory. His work on the rights of Indigenous peoples, focused on treaty relations between the Crown and Canada’s Indigenous nations, has been cited by the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as by courts in Australia and New Zealand. 

As he begins his term as dean of the Faculty of Law, a return to his alma mater, his expertise will certainly help Queen’s in its continuing effort to be a leader in innovative legal education and scholarship.

“Legal education and practice are poised for enormous change,” says Tom Harris, Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “Dr. Walters has a depth and breadth of experience in research, teaching and academic leadership that will enable Queen’s Law to continue its momentum as one of Canada’s leading law schools.”

For the past three years, Dr. Walters has held the distinguished F.R. Scott Chair in Public and Constitutional Law at McGill’s Faculty of Law. For the 17 years before that, he was a faculty member at Queen’s Law, where he led the 2008 launch of the school’s doctoral program and co-chaired the committee that developed its 2014-19 strategic plan. Previously, he taught at Oxford University after practising law in Toronto in the area of Aboriginal title and treaty rights. Over his academic career, he has held a number of research and visiting fellowships and received national awards. 

What’s also interesting about his close connection with Queen’s Law is that he literally wrote the scholarly paper chronicling the school’s first five decades in celebration of its 50th anniversary in 2007.

As he begins his five-year term, Dean Walters shares his thoughts and his plans for the school and its community members.       

How do you feel about being appointed Dean of Queen’s Law?

I’m thrilled to return to Queen’s to lead the law school in the next phase of its remarkable development. It will be a privilege to work with faculty, staff and students who are committed to excellence and innovation in legal education and research and passionate about law’s promise in building a more just society.

What attracted you to the position? 

Queen’s Law is in an enviable position. I’ve always been impressed by the people who make the school a true community. What also impresses me is that this community has set an ambitious path forward: to be a leader in innovative legal education and scholarship with a global reach. The law school has solid foundations and proud traditions, and it has expanded its faculty complement significantly and launched important new initiatives. Leading the school at this important moment is an exciting opportunity.

What did you do to prepare for your new role?  

I begin today, but my work started on March 28, when my appointment was announced. I was in close touch with (former dean) Bill Flanagan, and we planned a smooth transition. Over the past few months I met with as many people in the Queen’s Law community as possible. I attended the Queen’s Law alumni event in Toronto on May 23; the international law conference and celebration of Bill’s deanship at “the Castle,” the Bader International Study Centre in England, on May 30-31; and the Kingston alumni reception on June 19. I also met the members of the advisory board of the Queen’s Centre for Law in the Contemporary Workplace in June. 

As Dean, what will you do first?

The first thing I’ll do is to meet the new faculty members. Since I left three years ago, Queen’s Law has engaged in a remarkable expansion, and almost one-third of the faculty are new. I’m astounded by the quality of legal scholars who have joined Queen’s Law, both before and after my departure. I’ll enjoy getting to know the new faculty and learning about their research, and I can’t wait to reconnect with my wonderful former colleagues.

What are your top priorities? 

My priorities, I’m sure, are the priorities of all members of the Queen’s Law community. When I picture Queen’s Law, I see a legal-academic community with a passionate commitment to serving society through innovative legal education and groundbreaking research. It’s a school that advances critical understanding about law and the value of legality among the leaders of tomorrow – in the private and public sectors and at the local, national, and international levels. It’s a school that embraces the ideals of inclusion and diversity and, in particular, the goal of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. These are lofty sentiments, I know. 

At a practical level, my priority is to work with faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends of Queen’s Law to develop a strategic plan for the next five years that gives these abstract aspirations concrete shape. One important part of this plan will be to address the hard reality that the school must have more financial resources to pursue its dreams. The priority, then, is to develop a plan for success through broad consultation – and then to implement it.

Find out more about Queen’s Law.

This article is an abridged version of the original article first published on the Faculty of Law website.