About Johanne Poirier

Image by Lysanne Larose.
Professor Johanne Poirier is the inaugural holder of the Peter MacKell Chair in Federalism at McGill’s Faculty of Law. She joined the Faculty in 2015 as a Full Professor. In 2019, she received the John W. Durnford Teaching Excellence Award.

Her research studies the foundations, potential, risks and concrete incarnations of the “federal phenomenon” understood broadly.


Previously, Professor Poirier was a faculty member of the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), where, between 2004 and 2015, she taught various courses on comparative law, federalism and European regionalism both at the Faculty of Law and the Institute of European Studies. From 2008 to 2012, she also co-directed the ULB’s Center for Public Law.

At McGill’s Faculty of Law, she teaches Constitutional Law and Comparative Federalism. In 2017, she co-taught a seminar in constitutional drafting and reform, “Modernizing” the Canadian Constitution. In addition, since 2016, she organizes the Baxter Family Competition on Federalism, a biyearly writing competition for students and young practitioners.

Johanne Poirier has been an invited professor at the faculties of law of the universities of Ottawa, Montreal, and Butare (Rwanda), as well as at the Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales of Madrid and the Winter School on Federalism of Eurac Research and the University of Innsbruck . She has participated in a number of expert missions on constitutional design in Spain, Belgium, Tunisia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, and Nepal. She was a board member of the Forum of Federations from 2007 to 2016.

Prior to her academic career, she served as a law clerk for the Hon. Charles Gonthier of the Supreme Court of Canada. She also worked as a lawyer specialized in constitutional and administrative litigation for the Department of Justice of Canada and as legal counsel on matters of constitutional law for the governments of Canada and Québec.

Areas of interest

Most of Professor Poirier’s publications explore various aspects of federalism, the protection of minorities (notably linguistic ones), and, more broadly, public law. It is in the field of intergovernmental relations and cooperative federalism that her contributions are the most significant and original. Her multidisciplinary methodological approaches combine legal technicality, institutionalism, socio-political contextualization, and legal theory (including normative pluralism) through a comparative lens, even in the study of Canadian constitutional law. She currently works on a major research project on intergovernmental relations and cooperative federalism.

Professor Poirier is particularly interested in supervising graduate students wishing to explore various aspects of federalism, the institutional mechanisms for the accommodation of diversity, and comparative constitutional law, more generally.


  • PhD in Law (D.Phil), Cambridge, 2004, and doctorate equivalency, Université libre de Bruxelles, 2004
  • License in Comparative Law (LLM), 1992
  • BCL/LLB, McGill, 1991
  • BA Hon. (history & philosophy), Queen’s, 1986


  • Full professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University, 2015-
  • Peter MacKell Chair in Federalism, Faculty of Law, McGill University, 2015-
  • Associate professor, Faculty of Law, Université libre de Bruxelles, 2008-2015
  • Co-director, Center for Public Law, Faculty of Law, Université libre de Bruxelles, 2008-2012
  • Assistant professor, Faculty of Law, Université libre de Bruxelles, 2004-2008
  • Constitutional lawyer, Department of Justice of Canada, Montreal, 1993-1997
  • Clerk for the Honorable Justice Charles Gonthier, Supreme Court of Canada, 1993
  • Clerk (part-time) for the Honorable Justice Jean-Louis Baudouin, Quebec Court of Appeal, 1991

Professional Associations and Research Groups

Media appearances


See also her Research and her Publications.

Sajeda Hedaraly, Johanne Poirier, Maryna Polataiko, Jesse Hartery
Image by Lysanne Larose.
Professor Poirier with her 2015-2016 assistants: Sajeda Hedaraly, Maryna Polataiko & Jesse Hartery. Absent from photo: Patrick Baud & Lana Rackovic.
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