QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:

The most influential B.C. author in Canadian history could be Thomas Berger who, as commissioner of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, wrote an extensive report, Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland (1977), which has sold more copies than any other federal government publication. Berger's stalwart role in curbing development of the north for environmental and sociological reasons continues to have a profound impact on the people and ecology of Canada. In addition, Berger, as a lawyer, has fundamentally enhanced the concept and viability of self-government for aboriginal Canadians since the 1960s.

Thomas Berger's memoir One Man's Justice: A Life in the Law (2002) spans 40 years of precedent-making cases since 1957 and includes the landmark case of (Frank) Calder v. British Columbia in 1971, during which Berger asserted that aboriginal rights must have a distinct place in Canadian law. In 1973, the Supreme Court of Canada concurred. Berger's success in the Calder case laid the foundation upon which most modern treaty-making cases have been argued.

In his book Fragile Freedoms: Human Rights and Dissent in Canada (1981), Berger recounts his abiding concerns for civil rights, and in A Long and Terrible Shadow (1991) he surveys European and aboriginal relations in the Americas since 1492. In 1991, Berger was appointed Deputy Chairman of the first independent review commissioned by the World Bank to examine the implementation of resettlement and environmental measures in the Sardar Sarovar dam and irrigation projects in India. He co-authored a 360-page report critical of the World Bank's support for a project that would displace nearly 100,000 people. In 1997, he was part of an international human rights team that went to Chile to assess the social and environmental impact of a major dam project on the Biobio River.

Born in Victoria in 1933 of Swedish descent, Thomas R. Berger was called to the bar in 1957. He was later elected to serve the constituency of Vancouver-Burrard, both federally and provincially, and was narrowly defeated by Dave Barrett in his bid to become leader of the provincial New Democratic Party in the early 1970s.

Berger served as a B.C. Supreme Court judge from 1971 to 1983, during which time he conducted the aforementioned pipeline enquiry. Accorded more than a dozen honorary degrees, Berger has served as chair of SFU's J.S. Woodsworth campaign, which set out in 1984 to raise one million dollars for the J.S. Woodsworth Endowment Fund in the Humanities.

Berger received the Order of Canada in 1990 and the Freedom of the City of Vancouver in 1992.

After twelve years as a judge in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Berger returned to the practice of law and represented the province in a lawsuit against tobacco companies. Berger is the subject of a biography by Carolyn Swayze called Hard Choices: A Life of Tom Berger (1987), and he remains active in the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. Other Berger titles are Village Journey (1985) and Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland (1988, rev. ed.). Other authors who have worked extensively in northern B.C. include linguist Sharon Hargus and anthropologists Diamond Jenness, Robin Ridington and Hugh Brody.


FULL ENTRY:

Possibly the greatest and most influential British Columbian ever, Tom Berger is best known as the commissioner of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Enquiry. Tom Berger's dual professional life in law and politics has fundamentally enhanced the concept and viability of self-government for Aboriginal Canadians since the 1960s. Berger's memoir One Man's Justice: A Life in the Law (2003) spans 40 years of precedent-making cases since 1957 and includes the landmark case of (Frank) Calder v. British Columbia in 1971, during which Berger asserted that Aboriginal rights must have a distinct place in Canadian law. In 1973, the Supreme Court of Canada concurred. Berger's success in the Calder case laid the foundation upon which most modern treaty-making cases have been argued.

As the commissioner of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Enquiry, Tom Berger wrote an extensive report, Northern Frontier Northern Homeland (1977), which sold more copies than any other federal government publication. In his book Fragile Freedoms: Human Rights and Dissent in Canada (1981), Berger recounts his abiding concerns for civil rights and in A Long and Terrible Shadow (1991) he surveys European versus aboriginal relations in the Americas since 1492. Berger's abiding interest in the moral and legal rights of indigenous peoples has spread his influence beyond Canada. In 1991 he was appointed Deputy Chairman of the first independent review commissioned by the World Bank to examine the implementation of resettlement and environmental measures in the Sardar Sarovar dam and irrigation projects in India. He co-authored a 360-page report critical of the World Bank's support for a project that would displace nearly 100,000 people, Sardar Sarovar: Report of the Independent Review (1992). In 1997, he was part of an international human rights team that went to Chile to assess the social and environmental impact of a major dam project on the Biobio River.

Born in Victoria on March 23, 1933 of Swedish descent, Tom Berger was called to the bar in 1957. He was later elected to serve the constituency of Vancouver-Burrard, both federally and provincially, and was narrowly defeated by Dave Barrett in his bid to become leader of the provincial New Democratic Party in the early 1970s. Berger served as a B.C. Supreme Court judge from 1971 to 1983, during which time he conducted the aforementioned pipeline enquiry. Accorded more than a dozen honorary degrees, Berger has served as chair of SFU's J.S. Woodsworth campaign, which set out in 1984 to raise $1 million for the J.S. Woodsworth Endowment Fund in the Humanities, and he received the Order of Canada in 1990. He was accorded Freeman of the City status in Vancouver in 1992. After 12 years as a judge in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Tom Berger returned to the practice of law and has represented the province in a lawsuit against tobacco companies. "I always made my way back into law practice," he once wrote. Berger is the subject of a biography by Carol Swayze called Hard Choices: A Life of Tom Berger (1987) and he remains active in the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. Other Berger titles are Village Journey (1985) and Northern Frontier Northern Homeland Revisited (1988).

BOOKS:

Berger, Tom. Northern Frontier Northern Homeland (Queen's Printer, 1977).
Berger, Tom. Fragile Freedoms (Clarke, Irwin & Co., 1981).
Berger, Tom. Village Journey (Hill and Wang, Farrar Strauss, 1985).
Berger, Tom. Northern Frontier Northern Homeland Revisited (Douglas & McIntyre, 1988).
Berger, Tom. A Long and Terrible Shadow: White Values, Native Rights in the Americas, 1492-1992 (Douglas & McIntyre, 1991).
Berger, Tom. Sardar Sarovar: Report of the Independent Review (Ottawa: Resource Futures International, 1992).
Berger, Tom. One Man's Justice: A Life in the Law (Douglas & McIntyre, 2003).

ABOUT BERGER

Swayze, Carolyn. Hard Choices: A Life of Tom Berger (Douglas & McIntyre, 1987).

[BCBW 2010]