Fonds RBSC-ARC-1031 - Thomas Berger fonds

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Thomas Berger fonds

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16.94 m of textual records
3 CD-ROMs (textual records)

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Biographical history

Thomas Rodney Berger, a Canadian lawyer, politician, judge, and author, was born March 23, 1933, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, the son of Maurice Theodore Berger and Nettie Elsie Perle McDonald. As a child he lived in many places across Canada, attending elementary schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan and high school in North Vancouver, British Columbia. He studied at the University of British Columbia and received the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1955 and Bachelor of Laws a year later. In 1955 Berger married Beverly Ann Crosby, with whom he had two children, Erin and David. After being called to the bar of British Columbia in 1957 he practiced law in Vancouver, rising to national prominence in the 1960s as a defender of the rights of native people in British Columbia. The 1960s also saw Berger active in party politics both nationally and provincially: he represented Vancouver-Burrard as a Member of Parliament from 1962 to 1963 and as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia from 1966 to 1969, when he was briefly leader of the New Democratic Party of B.C. and campaigned unsuccessfully to be premier of the province. In 1971 he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, serving on the bench until 1983 when he resigned to resume his law practice. Berger headed a number of commissions of inquiry in the 1970s and 1980s related to family law, the rights of native people, and the environment. From 1973 to 1975 he chaired a Royal Commission on Family and Children’s Law in British Columbia. From 1974 to 1977 he was commissioner of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry established to determine the social, environmental, and economic impact of a proposed Arctic Gas pipeline. The Inquiry gained Berger considerable celebrity, and its report, Northern Frontier: Northern Homeland, was a Government of Canada best-selling publication. From 1979 to 1980 he was commissioner of the Indian and Inuit Health Consultation, and from 1983 to 1985 he headed the Alaska Native Review Commission for the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, examining the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act; the commission’s report, Village Journey, was published in 1985. Berger’s study of human rights and dissent in Canada, Fragile Freedoms, concerned in part with constitutional issues, was published in 1981. That same year he intervened with some effect in debates concerning the framing of the new Canadian constitution, successfully advocating the inclusion of aboriginal and treaty rights – although drawing critical attention from Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and the Canadian Judicial Council. Perhaps enjoying a wider latitude of expression after 1983, Berger continued as a notable speaker for audiences in Canada and the United States on questions of law, human rights, and especially the aboriginal peoples of northern Canada and the Arctic. He became involved in 1983 in efforts to gain redress for Japanese Canadians who suffered mistreatment during the war of 1939-1945. From the late 1970s Berger was also active teaching law at the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia, where he led efforts toward founding a First Nations House of Learning; he was also an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University, and assisted the establishment of its J. S. Woodsworth chair in the Humanities. In 1980 the United Nations Environmental Programme approached Berger about a commission planned (but never realized) to consider whales and whaling. For the World Bank he served from 1991 to 1992 as Deputy Chairman of an independent review of the Sardar Sarovar dam and irrigation projects in India. In 1992, quincentenary of Columbus’ voyage, his book on “white values and native rights in the Americas” appeared, entitled A Long and Terrible Shadow. Berger received the Order of Canada in 1990, and was recognized with honorary degrees from several universities for his contributions championing aboriginal peoples of Canada.

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Scope and content

The fonds consists of thirteen series of records pertaining to the activities of Thomas Berger, including two series of files arranged with reference to file classification schemes, related to party politics and to the Sardar Sarovar Projects Independent Review, as well as eleven series of subject files generally arranged alphabetically, related to the Royal Commission on Family and Children’s Law, the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, the Advisory Commission on Indian and Inuit Health Consultation, a proposed United Nations Environmental Programme inquiry on whales and whaling, Japanese Canadians’ redress, the Alaska Native Review Commission, the Canadian Judicial Council and its investigation concerning Berger, the University of British Columbia President’s Ad Hoc Committee on British Columbia Native Indian People and Communities, the Simon Fraser University J. S. Woodsworth Chair committee, speeches given by Berger (arranged by event in subseries of two to seven year periodic groups), and subject files related to aboriginal peoples, the Arctic and the north in general.
There are also files related to his resignation from the Supreme Court of Canada in 1981. The files were used by Berger when he wrote his autobiography <em>One Man’s Justice: A Life in the Law</em>.

The arrangement by the records’ creator of series and file order within series has been respected. Several series contain files housed in multiple folders, indicated by notes where applicable.

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In 2019, an additional 1.47 m of textual records were processed in boxes 117-126. These materials have been nested within the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry subject files series due to the fact that the records appeared to consist of research conducted by Berger in the process of creating the MVPI reports.
The newly processed material also contained records related to the judicial case Chief Paulette v. the Queen. This material has been arranged and described as a separate series.

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Related records pertaining to the writing of a biography of Thomas Berger by Carolyn Swayze are also held by the University of British Columbia Library Special Collections.

The following monographs have been removed from the fonds to be catalogued separately in Rare Books and Special Collections:
• Science Council of Canada Report No. 26 – Northward Looking: A Strategy and a Science Policy for Northern Development
• Proceedings: Workshop on the Philosophy of Environmental Impact Assessments in Canada
• Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry – Proceedings at Community Hearings, Volume 7
• Northern Perspectives, Volume 1, No. 8: Canadian Arctic Resources Committee
• Northern Perspectives, Volume 3, No. 4
• Statement of Policy: Proposed Petroleum and Natural Gas Act and New Canada Oil and Gas Land Regulations
• Mackenzie Valley – Northern Yukon Pipelines, Socio-Economic and Environmental Aspects
• University of British Columbia Law Review, Vol. 6, No.1 – June 1971
• Mackenzie Delta Research Project – Arctic Suburb: A Look at the North’s Newcomers
• Mackenzie Delta Research Project – The Evolution and Economy of the Delta Community
• Expanded Guidelines for Northern Pipelines as tabled in the house of commons June 28, 1972 by the honorable Jean Chretien
• North of 60: Problems of Eskimo Relocation for Industrial Employment
• Science Council of Canada Background Study No. 42 – The Strathcona Sound Mining Project: A Case Study of Decision-Making
• Environmental Impact Assessment of the Portion of the Mackenzie Gas Pipeline from Alaska to Alberta – Volume II: Towards an Environmental Code
• Science Council of Canada Report No. 26 – Northward Looking: A Strategy and a Science Policy for Northern Development
• Canada’s Petroleum Leasing Policy – Papers presented to the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee by Andrew Thompson and Michael Crommelin
• Whiteout: The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Proposal
• Science and the North: A Seminar on Guidelines for Scientific Activities in Northern Canada 1972
• Mackenzie Valley Development: Some Implications for Planners
• Old Crow, Y.T. and the Proposed Northern Gas Pipeline
• Regional Impact of a Northern Gas Pipeline – Volume 5
• Monitoring Socio-Economic Change: The Design and Testing of a Method to Monitor and Assess the Social and Economic Effects of Pipeline Development on Communities on the Route

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Accessions were donated by Thomas Berger on November 2, 2007 and in January 2012.

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Revised by Ashlynn Prasad in July 2019.

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