The father of agricultural law in Canada, Dr. Don Buckingham has devoted his more than 30-year professional career to building a strong legal structure to support Canada’s agri-food system, while inspiring the next generation of agricultural lawyers in Canada.
A farm boy from Saskatchewan, Don has made his mark on Canadian agriculture as a professor, researcher, advocate, author and mentor. With a unique ability to identify issues before they became mainstream, Don was on the leading edge in the 1990s when he began researching and building collaborative teams to look at sustainability, agriculture’s role in climate change, genetic innovations in crops—and how laws and regulations would play a role in solutions.
Throughout his career, Don was driven to understand how agri-food policy and law could advance, and not impede, the economic, environmental and social contributions of the agriculture industry to Canada. He devoted his career to developing legal standards and regulations for agriculture that have helped Canada’s increasingly complex agri-food sector continue to prosper and maintain its world class reputation.
Don breathed new life into the study and practice of agricultural law with positions at Western University, University of Saskatchewan and the University of Ottawa, mentoring many students and young lawyers. He was the first to develop a series of innovative courses in food and agricultural law in Canada—inspiring teachers and students in the rapidly growing field.
His innovative and creative approach was called on by government as a legal consultant to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee. Don was the lead lawyer for the development of Growing Forward I—the federal, provincial and territorial agricultural partnership agreement.
As chair of the Canada Agricultural Review Tribunal for eight years, Don resolved more than 200 cases involving regulations in agriculture and food—helping bridge the gap between legal and practical reality with sound reasoning and decision making. He continued to impact agricultural policy as president and CEO of the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute from 2017-2020.
Don’s teaching, research and writing delivered real and demonstrable change in the legal and agricultural worlds—and the connectivity between the two. His leadership in the legal representation of agriculture in Canada continues to contribute to the success of the agri-food sector. He appreciates and understands agriculture from the big picture to the impact on an individual farmer.
With his gentle and persuasive manner, Dr. Don Buckingham’s life work in agricultural law has helped shape our understanding of the relevance and importance of a sound regulatory system to underpin a vibrant and successful agri-food sector in Canada.