Justice George Patrick Smith Named Law School’s Interim Dean


Lakehead University’s Acting Provost & Vice-President (Academic), Dr. David Barnett, is pleased to announce that The Honourable Mr. Justice George Patrick Smith has been named as the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law’s Interim Dean.


A resident of Thunder Bay, Justice Patrick Smith is recognized for his judicial expertise and understanding of Canadian Indigenous and Aboriginal issues. He has longstanding connections and respect among local, provincial and national Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal legal communities. In addition, he is the author of important publications on Aboriginal and Indigenous Law in Canada for the judiciary and has decades of involvement in legal and judicial education on a variety of subjects.

“The success of our students is our priority,” said Dr. Barnett. “The appointment of Justice Patrick Smith, whose judicial career includes significant experience in civil and criminal jury trials, family matters and many cases involving First Nations, allows us to continue our University’s commitment to the ongoing evolution and success of our Faculty of Law and its three core pillars.”

Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law is a regional law school with a focus on Northern Ontario. It embraces three mandates in its curriculum: Indigenous Law and access to justice, Natural Resources and Environmental Law, and Sole/Small Town Practice.

“I was very honoured to be invited to step into this role on an interim basis,” explained Justice Patrick Smith, who was appointed to Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice in 2001. “My immediate focus will be to work with the Faculty’s students, faculty and staff as we close the academic year and celebrate the graduates at our Convocation ceremonies.”


Justice Patrick Smith’s appointment as Interim Dean was approved by The Honourable Heather Forster Smith, the Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Justice. The Chief Justice has granted Justice Patrick Smith a special leave from his judicial duties at the Superior Court of Justice to complete this interim assignment. Justice Patrick Smith will take on the role temporarily while the Faculty of Law seeks out a new permanent Dean.

Chief Justice Heather Smith has indicated her strong support for Justice Patrick Smith to step into the role of Interim Dean in order to ensure that the Faculty has leadership and continuity of programs and services at this critical time.

Justice Patrick Smith will officially begin his new role as Interim Dean of the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law as of June 1, 2018 in Thunder Bay. He succeeds Angelique EagleWoman, who took leave from her role as Dean on April 30, 2018. The search process for the Faculty’s next Dean, which will include extensive internal and external consultation, will begin shortly.

The Honourable Mr. Justice George Patrick Smith

Justice Patrick Smith was called to the Ontario Bar in 1976 and practised law in the Northwest Region for 25 years. He was appointed to Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice in 2001 (Northwest Region) and in 2009 Justice Patrick Smith was appointed by the Federal Minister of Justice as one of the founding members of the Specific Claims Tribunal; a Tribunal set up to address longstanding Aboriginal Specific Claims.

When his term on the Tribunal ended in 2012 he was transferred to the Superior Court in Ottawa. He returned to the Northwest Region as a Supernumerary Judge in January 2017.


Justice Patrick Smith is the author of a judicial handbook for Canadian judges on Aboriginal and Indigenous law and was appointed a Deputy Judge of the Territory of Nunavut in 2010. He is also responsible for designing a model agreement, now used across Canada and internationally, for developing partnerships between First Nations communities, governments and natural resource/mining companies.

As a member of the province’s Chief Justice’s Education Committee since 2012, Justice Patrick Smith is regularly called upon to chair and present programs on Indigenous legal issues for judicial education seminars.

During his term appointment with the Specific Claims Tribunal of Canada (2009-2014), Justice Patrick Smith drafted the rules of practice and procedure for the Tribunal. In doing so, he met with and obtained consensus from representatives of various First Nations groups, including the Assembly of First Nations, the Department of Justice, the Canadian Bar Association, the Aboriginal Bar Association, and lawyers representing First Nations from across the country.

Justice Patrick Smith’s connection to Lakehead University dates over 30 years, having been an instructor in family law for the Political Studies Department from 1986-1998.

Source: Lakehead University Release