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Home News Author, lawyer, trapper Harold R. Johnson passes away

Author, lawyer, trapper Harold R. Johnson passes away

Author, lawyer, trapper Harold R. Johnson passes away
Harold R. Johnson -- photo by Calvin Fehr.

Indigenous lawyer, writer, activist and trapper Harold R. Johnson has passed away, his family announced on Wednesday.

Johnson had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. The family is asking for space to grieve at this time.

“Storyteller, trapper, father, brother, husband, uncle Harold R. Johnson took his final breath today, and will continue the rest of his journey on to the other side,” reads a note from the family posted to the author’s Facebook page. “He was surrounded by his loved ones.”

At this time, there will be no funeral service. Arrangements for a celebration of life will be announced in the coming months.

Johnson, the son of a Cree mother and Swedish father, was born in Northern Saskatchewan in 1957. A member of the Montreal Lake Cree Nation, he worked a variety of jobs, including a stint in the Royal Canadian Navy, before studying law. He eventually graduated from Harvard Law School, and later became a private lawyer before taking a role as a crown prosecutor.

Those experiences formed the basis of Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing my People (and Yours), his most famous work of non-fiction. The book became a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction.

Johnson was known for writing both fiction and non-fiction. He published 11 books before his death, with a 12th title, The Power of Story, set to be released in Fall 2022.

Despite spending years as a Crown Prosecutor, Johnson became an outspoken critic of the Canadian justice system later in life. His 2019 book Peace and Good Order: the Case for Indigenous Justice in Canada, stemmed from his criticism of the Colten Boushie murder trial in 2018.