Peter A Allard School of Law

Mary Liston

Associate Professor
BA Hons (English Language and Literature, Western), MA (Social and Political Thought, York), LLB (Toronto), PhD (Political Science and Law, Toronto)



Mary Liston is an Associate Professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia. She teaches public law including administrative and constitutional law, legal theory, and law and literature. Her research focuses on public law broadly and administrative law in particular. It also lies at the intersection of constitutional law, legal theory, and democratic theory. She has participated in two leading casebooks as a co-author of Public Law: Cases, Commentary and Analysis and as a contributor to Administrative Law in Context. Her work has been cited by the Supreme Court of Canada in several precedential public law cases.

Professor Liston’s early scholarship focused on the evolution of the concept of the rule of law and how it functions as a foundational legal principle in Canadian public law. This evolution tracked both theoretical and institutional change, culminating in a reconceptualization of this principle in the Canadian state. Her work grapples with the normative and institutional challenges that political power poses for the rule of law and democratic governance. She seeks to understand the complexity that good government demands as well as the current weaknesses in our system of responsible government. And, her work addresses—where possible—the legal means to improve accountability, public participation, and structures of justification for state action. Profiles of her work in administrative law can be found at Allard Law’s Research Portal.

Professor Liston has developed sub-areas of expertise in the emerging field of Aboriginal administrative law as well as modes of interpreting legal texts. She has also brought her perspective to bear on public law in other jurisdictions. By developing a comparative approach, she has placed Canadian public law in dialogue with Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. Her comparative learning also extends to a deep commitment to better understand Indigenous legal orders in Canada. Finally, she has been working on a project examining on the role of apologies in Canadian public law.


  • Administrative Law
  • Public Law and the Charter
  • Jurisprudence
  • Law and Literature
  • Reconciliation in Settler Societies: Legal and Political Responses


Professor Liston supervises graduate students working in administrative law, comparative public law, and Aboriginal law. She welcomes interested students to apply in these and other areas of her research interests. If you are interested in researching in one of these areas, please send an email with a brief research proposal. She has also supervised many Directed Research projects in public law.

Graduate Supervision 

Andrew Pilliar PhD Increasing Legal Market Innovation to Improve Access to Civil Justice  in Canada
Alan Freckelton  LLM The Concept of Deference in Substantive Review of Administrative Decisions in Four Common Law Countries
Sarah Parker  LLM Discretionary Administrative Decisions and the Charter: Doré and Determining the “Proportionate” Balance
Andrew Pilliar  LLM Exploring a Law Firm Business Model to Improve Access to Justice and Decrease Lawyer Dissatisfaction


Directed Research Supervision

Aniz Alani   Constitutional Conventions in Canada: Origins, Purpose, and Scope

Charlotte Baigent

The Politics of Proportionality: Administrative Decisions and the Charter in Canadian Appellate Courts (2016-2018) 

Ms. Baigent published a revised version of this paper: “Undoing Doré: Judicial Resistance in Canadian Appellate Courts” (2020) 33:1 Canadian Journal of Administrative Law & Practice, 63-100

Kate Bond  Little House on the Land Claim: Aboriginal Title, Children’s Settler Narratives, and Colonial Amnesia
Grace Brunger   For This We Are Sorry: An Analysis of the Canadian Government’s Apology for Residential Schools
Shea Coulson   Collective Response and The Ethics of Sustainable Decision Making: Regulation, Consultation, and Sustainable Development 
Caitlin Ohama-Darcus   Standing Rights of Administrative Tribunals on Judicial Review
Sara Jackson  Law and Morality: How Moral Lessons from Children’s Literature Influence and Develop Legal Systems
Brett Nash   Two Courts, Two Approaches: An Analysis of the Influence of Libertarian Values in Decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada and the United States Supreme Court Concerning Gun Control
Joshua Ben Nichols  Theories of Aboriginal Sovereignty and the Rule of Law
Ian Wiebe Openness and Transparency in the National Security Context: Canada’s Open Access Regime and Routes to Reform




  • Philip Bryden, Peter Carver, Adam Dodek, Craig Forcese, Richard Haigh, Mary Liston and Constance MacIntosh (eds), Public Law, 4th ed (Toronto: Emond-Montgomery, 2020).
    • Chapter 1 Introduction: Public Law in Canada, Chapter 10 Statutory Interpretation, and Chapter 5 subsection on The Democracy Principle and Constitutional Amendments Requiring a Super-Majority.
  • “Administering the Canadian Rule of Law,” in Colleen Flood and Lorne Sossin (eds), Administrative Law in Context, 3rd ed (Toronto: Emond Montgomery, 2018) 139-182.

Articles, Book Chapters and Other Writing

You can find Professor Liston’s publications on SSRN, the Allard Law Research Commons, and the Law Library’s Faculty Research Publications Database.

Mary liston

Organization Affiliations

  • Centre for Feminist Legal Studies
  • Indigenous Legal Studies

Research Interests

  • Aboriginal and Indigenous law
  • Administrative law and regulatory governance
  • Comparative law
  • Jurisprudence, legal theory, and critical studies
  • Public and constitutional law

“How is our multijural legal system animated by a deep form of legal pluralism? What must Canadian courts do to work with this deep diversity—particularly the need to recognize distinctive Indigenous jurisdictions in public law?”

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