Johanne Poirier receives 2022 Durnford Teaching Prize

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Published: 27May2022

The Faculty of Law is pleased to announce that Professor Johanne Poirier has received the 2022 John W. Durnford Award for Teaching Excellence. Named in honour of the late professor and former dean John W. Durnford (BCL'52), and conferred by students, this award each year recognizes a law professor’s exceptional pedagogy. Professor Poirier received the award during the Law Convocation ceremony on 26 May 2022 for the second time, having won it in 2019.  

The students’ nomination letters praised Professor Poirier’s care for her students, and her “infectious” passion for her subject. “She has given me, a non-Canadian, a profound passion for and understanding of Canadian history and of Canadian federalism,” one student wrote. They also celebrated her efforts to create community and facilitate exchanges, and her engaging teaching methods. “From the very beginning of the year, she learned small things about each of us, and used this knowledge to build a personalized and cooperative learning structure. She ensured we not only understood, but also connected with the subject,” another student highlighted.   

Professor Poirier (BCL’91, LLB’91) joined the Faculty of Law in 2015 as the inaugural holder of the Peter MacKell Chair in Federalism. She teaches constitutional law and comparative federalism. Before joining McGill, she was a faculty member from 2004 to 2015 at the Université libre de Bruxelles. In 2017, to mark the sesquicentennial of the Canadian confederation, she co-taught a seminar in which students were invited to “modernize” the Constitution of Canada. The class culminated in a simulated constitutional assembly held in the Parliament of Canada. Professor Poirier organizes the Baxter Family Competition on Federalism, an international essay competition and symposium aimed at advancing research and fostering informed debate on federalism by young jurists. Since 2020, she has contributed to studying the repercussions of Covid-19 on federalism around the world, notably by maintaining an online compendium of resources on this topic comprising approximately one thousand scholarly articles, blog entries, podcasts, videos, research projects, and other resources. 

“Professor Poirier exemplifies the Faculty of Law’s deep-rooted commitment to innovation and excellence in teaching law,” said Dean Robert Leckey. “In particular, her French section of Constitutional Law – back in Chancellor Day Hall – gives first-year students a challenging, stimulating introduction to the complex pluralism of the our constitutional order.”   

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