Kent Roach

Current affiliation:
Université de Toronto

A specialist in constitutional law and human rights advocate, Professor Roach has made his mark through work on security certificates in the wake of the war on terrorism and redress for the abuses of the residential schooling system.

Kent Roach is an academic lawyer who works in a variety of areas involving both criminal justice and constitutional laws. He has done significant and far-reaching work on counter-terrorism law both in Canada and many other parts of the world. His work explores the role of judicial review in a democracy, constitutional remedies provided by courts and other institutions, the effect of criminal justice systems on Aboriginal people in Canada, as well as miscarriages of justice and other failures of the criminal justice system.

Q & A

How would you define yourself?

I am an engaged academic who combines research into many of the pressing issues of the day with service both in providing pro bono legal services and working on many commissions of inquiry.

What is the public purpose of your work? How does it impact the lives of Canadians?

My work is designed to test our commitment to justice for some of the most disadvantaged members of our society – the wrongfully convicted, those harmed by security activities, those affected by residential schools and those whose Charter rights have been violated. My work focuses on the provision of effective and meaningful remedies for those treated unjustly and systemic reforms to prevent injustices in the future.

Briefly explain one of the most interesting discoveries you have made so far.

I have critically examined the roles of courts, legislatures, and the executive in protecting human rights and providing remedies for their violations, including most recently in the context of the post-9/11 emphasis on preventing terrorism, as well as in responding to the intergenerational harms of residential schools. I have acted as counsel for Aboriginal and civil liberties groups in a number of landmark cases concerning discrimination against Aboriginal people and the availability of constitutional remedies.

How will the Trudeau Fellowship help you pursue your work?

The Trudeau fellowship will make it possible for me to focus and expand my work on constitutional remedies and wrongful convictions beyond Canada to include a number of other countries struggling with the prevention and remedying of various injustices and to identify common themes, challenges, and best practices.

Kent Roach is a professor of law at the University of Toronto, where he holds the Prichard-Wilson Chair of Law and Public Policy. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto and of Yale and is a former law clerk to the late Justice Bertha Wilson of the Supreme Court of Canada. He has been the editor of the Criminal Law Quarterly since 1998, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada since 2002 and a Member of the Order of Canada since 2015.

Professor Roach is the author of 12 books, including Constitutional Remedies in Canada  (winner of the 1997 Owen Prize); Due Process and Victims’ Rights (shortlisted for the 1999 Donner Prize); The Supreme Court on Trial: Judicial Activism or Democratic Dialogue? (shortlisted for the 2001 Donner Prize); (with Robert Sharpe) Brian Dickson: A Judge’s Journey (winner of the 2003 Defoe Prize);  September 11: Consequences for Canada (named by the Literary Review of Canada as one of the most significant books of 2003); and The 9/11 Effect: Comparative Counter-Terrorism (co-winner of the 2012 Mundell Medal). His texts on criminal law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are used widely. Professor Roach has edited many collections of essays, including Global Anti-Terrorism Law and Policy and The Security of Freedom. He has also published over 175 articles and chapters in journals and books throughout the world.  

Professor Roach has frequently acted as pro-bono counsel for interveners in Supreme Court of Canada cases involving Charter remedies, national security, and Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system. He has worked with the Ipperwash, Arar, Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and he served as research director for the Goudge Inquiry into Forensic Pathology and the Inquiry into the Air India bombing. Internationally, he provided advice on Indonesia’s 2002 terrorism law and Tunisia’s new constitution. His current research includes comparative examinations of constitutional remedies, counter-terrorism, and wrongful convictions.