Paul was born in Saskatchewan and raised in Kamloops. After graduating from the University of British Columbia, he obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago as a Woodrow Wilson National Fellow. He then spent a year in the United States Congress as the first Canadian to hold a Congressional Fellowship. Paul has taught at the University of British Columbia since 1966, specializing in local government, British Columbia government and politics, and the politics of aboriginal peoples. He has been adviser to First Nations and municipalities in Alberta, the Yukon, and British Columbia, to the British Columbia, Yukon, and federal governments, to the British Columbia Claims Task Force, the British Columbia Treaty Commission, the Council for Yukon First Nations, and to aboriginal land councils in Australia. Paul is author of Aboriginal Peoples and Politics: The Indian Land Question in British Columbia (UBC Press, 1990).