Janis Sarra

Wall Associate


Former Director; Professor


Peter A. Allard School of Law



Geographic Location

Janis Sarra

Dr. Janis Sarra was appointed UBC Presidential Distinguished Professor effective May 1, 2014 for a three year term. The UBC Presidential Distinguished Professor recognizes faculty who have made outstanding contributions as scholars and academic leaders. Prior to this appointment, Dr. Sarra served as Director of the Institute.

Dr. Sarra is Professor of Law, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia and founding Director of the National Centre for Business Law. She served as Associate Dean of the Faculty until 2007, with oversight of development, strategic planning, alumni relations and communications. Dr. Sarra’s research and teaching interests are in the areas of corporate finance, banking law, corporate governance, securities law, contracts, commercial insolvency law and law and economics. In 2004, she was awarded the title of Distinguished University Scholar for her scholarship in corporate and securities law. She has published ten books and more than one hundred refereed articles in corporate finance, corporate governance and management, securities law and commercial insolvency law.  

Dr. Sarra also served as Senator of the University of British Columbia from 2003 to 2008. She was previously Director of the Canadian Insolvency Foundation and Director of the Canadian Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals Association. For more than 12 years, Dr. Sarra served as a commercial arbitrator and labour mediator/arbitrator. Dr. Sarra previously served as Vice-Chair of the Ontario Pay Equity Hearings Tribunal, as well as Vice-Chair of the Canadian Social Assistance Review Board. She holds five degrees from the University of Toronto in Political Science, Economics and Law. She previously taught at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and the Ryerson University School of Business. Former posts include also Board Member, Ontario Labour Relations Board, Senior Research Associate Ontario Legislative Assembly and Executive Assistant, Metropolitan Toronto Municipal Council, and Research Associate, Health Advocacy Unit.

Dr. Sarra’s contributions to public policy development include: World Bank Insolvency and Creditors Rights Task Force, Working Group on Insolvency of Non-Bank Financial Institutions, 2009, Washington, DC; Experts Committee, United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group on Corporate Groups and Cross-Border Insolvency Law,  2008-2011, Vienna and New York; Expert Witness, Senate Committee on Banking Trade and Commerce, Review of Insolvency Legislation, February, 2008, Ottawa; Member, Ontario Attorney General’s Interministerial Task Force on Administrative Tribunals

Primary Recipient Awards

Janis Sarra – International Research Roundtables – 2021

Past efforts to address climate change have been sluggish, but global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrate capacity to quickly transform social, environmental, and financial structures around the world. We have witnessed the benefits of government cooperation, business adaptation, and individual action. As the pandemic slows and basic human needs are met, attention will shift to economic recovery. If recovery fails to align with Canada and the world’s commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, we likely will face devastating socioeconomic impacts from climate change. Yet there is opportunity to bring climate into the dialogue and ensure that investments support rather than erode our ability to address climate change. This virtual international research roundtable (e-IRR) will develop ideas for governance, decarbonization, and protection of ecosystems going forward. It includes original works of performative and visual art to inspire innovative thinking. We will develop policy recommendations to send to governments and business organizations.

Janis Sarra – Exploratory Workshops – 2011

This workshop was held Jan 19-20, 2012.

This Exploratory Workshop will advance UBC’s mission of ‘education for global citizenship’. Fairness informs the development of shared public policy in an increasingly globalized world. It engages legal frameworks, notions of social interaction and community, and our collective understanding of transparent and accessible processes. Fairness extends beyond process and outcomes; it engages our basic norms of how to interact with one another.  We cannot expect to become global citizens without understanding how fairness informs social, political and legal choices.  We need to know how fairness is culturally, linguistically, socially and economically formed, including what is recognized and what is discounted.  In this, there are both historical and contemporary insights to draw on.

This exploratory workshop is aimed at advancing our collective notions of fairness by encouraging participating scholars to look beyond the lens of their own discipline to find new and innovative ways that a deeper understanding of fairness might inform their scholarship. Some linkages are immediately clear, others need the benefit of an intensive discussion that the Exploratory Workshop would provide the opportunity for.

Janis Sarra – Distinguished Scholars in Residence – 2010

Dr. Sarra’s project at the Institute was an interdisciplinary, multi-stage initiative that explores the basic values of fairness. She believes that an exchange of understandings of ethics and values such as fairness, with colleagues in the arts, may serve to deepen our understanding of the concept of fairness and explore its meaning through a different lens. In December she held a jazz concert and discussion, “Jazz as the Medium: Informing Notions of Fairness.” In the spring of 2011 she directed a “Dance Atelier” on “Articulations of Fairness Through Dance, Dialogue, Space” and chaired a public forum she organized, titled “Creating New Landscapes in Notions of Fairness.”

Janis Sarra – Early Career Scholars – 2001

Co-Principal Investigator Awards

Catherine Malecki – French Scholars Lecture Series – 2019
Peter Arcese – International Research Roundtables – 2018

Promise and Peril: Design and Application of Conservation Finance Models to Biodiversity Conservation, Human Well-being and Sustainability
This roundtable will explore current initiatives and strategies needed to successfully scale-up conservation finance. A comprehensive understanding of barriers and benefits to private sector conservation finance requires engaging researchers from multiple disciplines, jurisdictions and perspectives.  Despite much evidence that private investment has the potential to transform biodiversity conservation and support sustainable livelihoods, many aspects of this emerging field remain poorly understood. This roundtable will engage thought-leaders in ecology, finance, policy, law, and social sciences to identify knowledge gaps, overcome existing hurdles and potential pitfalls. For example, it remains unclear how the outcomes of conservation projects should be articulated; i.e., at what point is re-claimed land ‘restored’? A lack of a common framework for monitoring and evaluating such projects points out a critical need to ensure accountability and transparency. It is also unclear at what scale projects must be implemented to deliver sustainable environmental, social and financial outcomes. Likewise, how can accountability frameworks assure investors that projects avoid negative outcomes or externalities sometimes associated with protectionist approaches to land conservation, such as by creating parks that dispossess Indigenous people of land or natural capital. Strategies to minimize costs and overcome hurdles linked to transaction size, market volatility, and risk mitigation are also needed to scale up conservation investment.

Carmel Mevorach – International Visiting Research Scholars – 2017
Alain Supiot – Distinguished Visiting Professor – 2016

Professor Supiot will be giving two lectures during his stay at the Peter Wall Institute:

Law’s subordination to Numbers: From the Gosplan to the Total Market

Date: May 12, 2016
Time: 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Location: TBD

One of the many features, which capitalism and communism have in common is the idea that social harmony may be the outcome of a calculation. Where they differ is that “classical” or “old-style” economic liberalism, unlike the Soviet planned economy, considered law and the State to be the condition, and not the means, for achieving social harmony through calculation. Liberalism recognised that the rule of law was necessary for economic harmony, whereas communism used the law as a tool for implementing a harmony based on quantitative computations. The holy union of capitalism and communism, which Europe and China celebrated towards the end of the 20th century, accelerated a process of subordinating the Law to Numbers. Classical liberals were aware that the unrestricted pursuit of individual interests would never lead to general prosperity unless the law set limits on individual greed. But neoliberals take the legal fictions, which ground the market, to be facts of nature. They mistake a construct for a given, and extend the paradigm of the market to all areas of human life, including the law, which is considered to be just another product competing on a market of norms.

What does the ILO Constitution mean by “genuinely human work in humane conditions [“un régime de travail réellement humain”] ?

Date: May 19, 2016
Time: 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Location: TBD

The First World War was the first full-scale experience of that Ernst Jünger called a “total mobilization”, a process in which “every life is converted into energy”. The forms of social organization introduced during the Great War continued to make themeselves felt on the return to peacetime. The concept of “total mobilization” influenced Carl Schmitt’s concept of the Total State and Hannah Arendt’s concept of totalitarianism. Its heuristic value remains powerful, because it exists today in the new form of the Total Market, in which every existence is converted into a quantifiable resource  and the inhabitants of every nation of the world are precipitated into an unceasing, and pitiless, economic war. But the First World War had an impact on the regime of work in another, more frequently cited and acclaimed, way: through the Treaty of Versailles, it brought about the creation of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). According to the Preamble of the ILO’s Constitution “the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour [un régime de travail réellement humain] is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the conditions in their own countries. So how were these two legacies of the Great War articulated together? Is the pursuit of “humane conditions of labour” compatible with “the scientific organisation of work” and the total mobilisation of human capital for a global competitive market?