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Peter H. Russell was born in Toronto on November 16, 1932. He received his early education at University of Toronto Schools (1946-1951) and studied philosophy and history at the University of Toronto from 1951 to 1955. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree, he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and attended Oxford University from 1955-1957. He continued his studies in philosophy, politics and economics graduating with a BA in 1957.
Following graduation and his return to Toronto, he was employed as an assistant at Gilbert E. Jackson & Associates. He moved to Montreal that same year to take a position with Aluminum Company of Canada. In July, 1958 he resigned his position in the Personnel Department to join the University of Toronto as a lecturer in the Department of Political Economy.
Prof. Russell progressed through the ranks as a faculty member, advancing to Assistant Professor in 1962, Associate professor in 1965 and full professor in 1968. At the same time as he was appointed full professor, he was also appointed acting Principal for Innis College for one year. In 1971 he was confirmed as principal for a five year term. During his career at the University of Toronto, Prof. Russell participated in other university committees, including, among others, Chair of the Academic Appeals Board (1981-1983) and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Political Science (1987-1993).
While undertaking these administrative responsibilities, Prof. Russell continued to research, teach and publish. In the mid 1960’s he was a Research Fellow, Dept. of Government at Harvard University and was visiting professor from 1969-1971 at Makerere University, Uganda. This latter involvement led to an effort to develop a project between Makerere University and University of Toronto in the early 1990s. He was also visiting fellow at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University (1976-1977), Australian National University (1986 and 1994), and European University Institute, Fiesole, Italy (1993). His involvement in numerous professional associations such as the Canadian Bar Association, Canadian Political Science Association, Royal Society of Canada, to name just a few, included sitting on boards and committees, planning conferences, producing studies and reports. His publications include 13 books, dozens of articles in scholarly journals, and chapters in books. As an expert in judicial, constitutional and aboriginal politics , he has been in demand by both government and special interest groups as a consultant, advisor and researcher. In particular, he has worked for the Dene Nation Southern Support Group, the Royal Commission on certain activities of the RCMP, the Government of Canada’s Task Force to review comprehensive native land claims, the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee of Ontario, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Ipperwash inquiry (Ontario), to name just a few. He was also Canada’s ‘Envoy’ to the Deh Cho Dene in the NWT.
In addition to his academic and professional duties, Prof Russell has also been active in local community groups such as the Wychwood Park Rate Payers Association (President 1974-1976), the Legal Aid Committee of Ontario (1976-1988) and University Settlement House (1976-1985), Chairman of the Churchill Society for Parliamentary Democracy and founding president of RALUT (Retired Academics and Librarians of the University of Toronto and CURAC (College and University Retiree Associations of Canada).
For this work and his academic achievements, Prof. Russell has received numerous awards and recognition such as Officer, Order of Canada (1986), Fellow, Royal Society of Canada (1988), Honorary Doctor of Laws, from University of Calgary (1990) and University of Toronto (2001) and Honorary Doctor of Science, University of Guelph.
Prof. Russell was appointed University Professor in 1994 and retired in 1996. He continues to write and lecture from his home in Toronto.