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
- Member of the editorial board, Publius: The Journal of Federalism, 2021-
- Member, Constitutionalism and Societal Pluralism: Diversity Governance Compared Group, International Association of Constitutional Law, 2020-
- Member, Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire sur la diversité et la démocratie (CRIDAQ), 2019-
- Member, Groupe de recherche sur les sociétés plurinationales (GRSP), 2015-
- Member of the scientific committee, World Autonomy Project, 2016-
- Researcher, Research Group on Constitutional Studies, McGill University, 2015-
- Cofounder, “Cooperative Federalism and Multi-Level Governance” research project as part of the G-3 (consortium between the Université de Montréal, the University of Geneva and the Université libre de Bruxelles), 2014-2016
- Researcher, Droit, changements et gouvernance Group, Centre de recherche en droit public, Université de Montréal, 2015-2019
- Associate member, Centre de recherche sur l’État et la Constitution (CREC), Université catholique de Louvain, 2009-2014
- Associate member, Centre interdisciplinaire de recherches en droit constitutionnel et administratif (CIRC), Facultés universitaires Saint-Louis, 2010-2014
- Member of the board of directors, Forum of Federations, Ottawa, Canada, 2007-2016
- Steering committee member, Re-Bel Initiative: Rethinking Belgian Institutions in a European Context, 2010-2015
- Member, Standing Group on Federalism & Regionalism, European Consortium for Political Research, 2010-2014
- Member of the board of directors, Association québécoise de droit constitutionnel, 2006-2010
- Collaborator, with the Institute for Research on Public Policy , Montréal, Canada, 2005-2008
- Associate researcher, Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada, 1998-2002
- Member, Association québécoise de droit comparé, 2002-
- Member, Barreau du Québec, 1994-
- The Sunday Magazine (hosted by Piya Chattopadhyay), CBC Radio, 7 March 2021: Has COVID-19 exposed cracks in the Canadian federation?, with Jennifer Wallner
- The Canadian Press (by Jacob Serebrin),, 23 January 2021: Non-essential travel ban would violate Constitution but courts might allow it: expert
- Johanne Poirier, Daniel Turp & Thérèse Mailloux, Le Soleil, 4 February 2020: Aucun obstacle constitutionnel à la zone de parité
- Johanne Poirier, Le Devoir, 20 March 2017: 150e anniversaire du Canada: Le moment de faire le point
- Le Devoir (by Pierre Vallée), 14 November 2015: Une chaire sur le fédéralisme voit le jour
- Focus Law | droit, Fall-Winter 2015: Regards neufs sur la Constitution