Pitman Potter, Professor Emeritus at the Allard School of Law, has been appointed to the Order of Canada – one of our country’s highest honours.
Potter was among 99 new Order of Canada appointees announced today. He is recognized for his precedent-setting scholarship in the field of Chinese legal studies and for his dedication and service to his community.
“I am of course delighted, but also humbled to be invited into the company of prominent Canadians that comprise the Order of Canada,” says Potter. “Such recognition is tremendously gratifying, but at the end of the day my work has been its own reward. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to devote my academic career to the study of China – particularly China law and policy – and have been particularly privileged to collaborate with a wonderful community of colleagues at UBC, across Canada and internationally.”
Potter is an internationally acclaimed expert noted for his innovative and impactful research on human rights, foreign trade and dispute settlement in Taiwan and China. He has led large-scale research projects in countries throughout Asia, including India, China and Japan, and his work has informed the development of law and policy here in Canada and internationally.
He has been awarded multiple large research grants, including two multi-million-dollar SSHRC Major Collaborative Research Initiative grants for his Asia Pacific Dispute Resolution Program. Prior to retiring from UBC in 2020, Potter served in numerous leadership roles at the Allard School of Law, including as Director of Chinese Legal Studies, Director of Asian Legal Studies, Director of the Graduate Program and Associate Dean. He also served as Director of UBC’s Institute of Asian Research from 1999–2008, where he held the HSBC Chair in Asian Research from 1999–2016.
A prolific writer and researcher, Potter has published more than fifteen books and over 100 articles and book chapters, and has continued to publish since his retirement. His latest book, Exporting Virtue? China’s International Human Rights Activism in the Age of Xi Jinping (2021), examines the challenges that China’s human rights doctrine poses to international norms and institutions and makes recommendations for effective policy responses.
I am particularly gratified that my appointment to the Order of Canada signals a validation of academic achievement and service to the needy. I am deeply moved by this appointment and profoundly grateful.
Potter is currently at work on a new project examining China’s responses to three ongoing international crises: COVID-19, climate change and involuntary migration. “This work explains China’s reaction to the complexity of global governance through promotion of new legal and policy standards for governance, the economy, and society that suit China’s policy perspectives and goals,” Potter explains. The book will include recommendations for constructive engagement with China and a call for principled responses to human rights abuses and other challenges.
Looking back at the many noteworthy events in his career, Potter says that chairing the Dalai Lama’s visit to UBC in 2004 stands out as particularly meaningful. During his visit, the Dalai Lama received an honorary Doctorate of Laws from UBC and delivered the keynote address at an academic conference on Tibet. The event also included a Spiritual Roundtable that included Nobel Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Dr. Shirin Ebadi. “The combination of scholarly and spiritual discourse reflected my own path of inquiry through intellect and faith, while also blunting potential criticism from China,” says Potter. The event supported the development of Tibetan Studies programming at UBC’s Institute of Asian Research.
In addition to Potter’s academic achievements and contributions to Canadian and international law and policy, he is also an ordained Deacon (ret.) in the Anglican Church, active in local ministries of service to the homeless and needy on the streets of Vancouver. He says this work has been particularly rewarding: “I have been fortunate to work with so many wonderful people on the streets and in our communities in this transformative ministry.”
Potter’s appointment to the Order of Canada comes in addition to the numerous awards he has received throughout his career, including the UBC Distinguished University Scholar Award, UBC’s Killam Research Award and the UBC Law Faculty Alumni Association Award for Research. In 2015, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
Potter concludes, “I am particularly gratified that my appointment to the Order of Canada signals a validation of academic achievement and service to the needy. I am deeply moved by this appointment and profoundly grateful."