Newer Entries »

Réflexion sur le cours d’été du NLC

Par Sophie Kassel

Le 28 juin dernier, le Native Law Centre (NLC) a conclu son cours d’été. Après un lunch pour célébrer la fin des examens, nous nous sommes dirigés vers l’auditorium pour que les enseignants, assistants de cours et étudiants puissent se dire au revoir. Pendant qu’on distribuait les certificats, les étudiants ont été invités à dire un mot sur leur expérience devant la classe. Assumant que la majorité des élèves serait trop timide pour y participer, je fus surprise que presque chaque élève se soit présenté. Chaque réflexion était unique , incluant des étudiants qui parlaient de leur appréciation inattendue pour la ville de Saskatoon et d’autres de leurs nouveaux amis dans le programme. Les thèmes de la fierté, la réussite et le sentiment de communauté ont été souvent abordés. En quittant le NLC pour poursuivre leurs études à travers le Canada, les élèves commencent leur première année en droit avec de l’expérience en lecture et analyse juridique. Le NLC souhaite assurer qu’ils soient le mieux préparés pour cette année charnière.

Le cours d’été qui enseigne le droit des biens joue un rôle vital dans le mouvement qui cherche à augmenter la quantité d’avocats et de juges autochtones. Des facteurs systémiques, tel qu’un accès inégal à l’éducation post-secondaire et les frais de scolarité rendent les professions juridiques non-représentatives de la société canadienne.[1]Les étudiants autochtones sont sous-représentés à travers les écoles de droit, menant à une faible représentation d’avocats et de juges autochtones dans la profession.[2]Quand le NLC a lancé son cours d’été en 1973, il n’y avait que cinq étudiants autochtones en droit et quatre avocats autochtones à travers tout le Canada.[3]Même si les universités essaient de répondre à cette sous-représentation en admettant plus d’élèves autochtones dans leur programmes de droit, les statistiques démontrent que le taux de réussite (la proportion d’élèves qui réussissent à obtenir leur diplôme en droit) est plus faible chez les élèves autochtones.[4]Il faut donc que les universités fassent un effort pour non seulement admettre plus d’élèves autochtones dans leurs écoles de droit, mais aussi assurer que ces élèves aient l’appui dont ils ont besoin pour avoir du succès dans leurs études.

Le programme du NLC aide à répondre à cette deuxième responsabilité.  Le cours d’été prépare les étudiants autochtones pour leur première année en droit à travers un cours intensif de huit semaines portant sur le droit des biens. À la fin du cours, les élèves ont acquis de l’expérience avec la lecture et l’écriture juridique, ce qui va leur permettre de commencer leur année scolaire avec certaines compétences requises pour avoir du succès dans leurs études. L’importance du programme s’étend au-delà de l’apprentissage des compétences d’analyses juridiques. Ce programme offre une solution à l’exclusion des voix autochtones des écoles de droit.[5]À travers ses professeurs et conférenciers autochtones, le NLC crée une communauté où les étudiants peuvent avoir un sentiment d’appartenance et d’appui. Lorsque la directrice Kathleen Makela a donné un discours lors de l’orientation du programme, elle a indiqué que chaque classe était planifiée dans des salles différentes de sorte que les élèves se sentent confortables de prendre leur place dans la faculté. Le programme d’été essaie d’encourager un sentiment d’appartenance à la profession juridique.

Après avoir terminé le programme au NLC, les élèves de cette année vont commencer leurs études en droit dans des universités à travers le Canada : l’Université de Victoria, l’Université de la Colombie-Britannique, l’Université de l’Alberta, l’Université Windsor et d’autres encore. Voyant tous les étudiants à la cérémonie à la fin du programme, j’étais triste qu’aucun d’entre eux ne poursuive ses études en droit à McGill. Même si je comprends qu’il y a plusieurs facteurs qui influencent le processus d’admission autant que le choix de recommander à un appliquant de poursuivre le cours d’été au NLC, il reste que le cours d’été offre de nombreux bénéfices. Les élèves sont introduits à l’étude du droit sous le mentorat de professeurs autochtones et on leur offre le soutien dont ils ont besoin quand on considère l’exclusion historique des élèves autochtones de telles institutions universitaires. De plus, le succès du programme du NLC se démontre dans les statistiques, comme celui que les trois quarts de tous les avocats autochtones au Canada y ont participé. J’espère qu’il y aura un ou plusieurs élèves du programme NLC qui intègrera la faculté de droit de McGill l’an prochain.

 

[1]Sonia Lawrence and Signa Shanks, “Indigenous Lawyers in Canada: Identity, Professionalization, Law” (2015) 38 Dalhousie L J 2, at 510

[2]Peter Devonshire, “Indigenous Students at Law School: Comparative Perspectives” (2014) 35 ADEL L REV at 311-312

[3]Devonshire, at 311

[4]Devonshire, at 312

[5]Lawrence and Shanks, at 513-514

ASWAT NISSA

ou La voix des femmes

Un acrostiche écrit par Aurélie Derigaud-Choquette

Appelée à défendre la cause des femmes et des populations marginalisées en Tunisie, Aswat Nissa mène son combat sur plusieurs fronts :
Soutenir et former les candidates aux élections, une mission!
Web, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, radio, presse écrite: tous les moyens sont bons pour sensibiliser au manque de représentation des femmes en politique ou à la violence faite aux femmes.
Analyser et étudier les progrès accomplis pour l’intégration de l’approche genre dans les politiques publiques, quoi de mieux pour en relever les lacunes et appeler au changement?
Tunisiennes et tunisiens sur un pied d’égalité, un idéal atteignable!

 

Nourrie et éveillée à la cause féminine par mon implication au sein de cette équipe motivée,
Ici et maintenant, mes efforts contribuent au changement à l’échelle locale, malgré l’adversité.
S‘aventurer dans des régions jusqu’alors inconnues du droit pour moi, et explorer les dessous du travail d’une organisation militante de la société civile.
S‘affirmer, apprendre, échanger, débattre, éveiller ma curiosité…
Aswat Nissa, je vous remercie de tant m’apprendre!

 

 

An Arbitrary Border in the Middle of Akwesasne

By: Larissa Parker

Akwesasne is a Mohawk community, which borders two Canadian provinces and the United States. As someone put it on my first day, it is a community with its own legal system that has to co-exist with American federal law, Canadian federal law, New York State law, Ontario law and Quebec law; a jurisdictional puzzle!

The community has four main districts: Cornwall Island, St Regis, Snye, and the Southern district. The first three are territory on the Canadian side, while the last one represents territory on the US side. Looking at the map above, you’ll notice that to get to each district, you need to cross through the US. Wherever you live, chances are you need to cross the border to do your shopping, pick up your kids, go to work, ect.

The official border crossing is on Cornwall Island. Although the island is entirely on the Canadian side, it sits strangely in between the Canadian and US border terminals. This crossing causes all community members a lot of hardship. You would think that they have processes in place to accommodate Mohawk individuals who are forced to cross it everyday, but this is not the case. On the contrary, there are rules in place that force community members to report to the border when they leave the different jurisdictions. Anyone coming from the US side, needing to go to Cornwall Island (which is only 5-10 km away) must drive up to Cornwall Island through the US Border, continue driving past their destination, report to the Canadian border, and then return. This is approximately a 30-minute detour. And if anyone does not do this, their car is seized and they are slapped with a hefty fine ($1000 for the first offence, $2000 for the second, ect). This is possible because of the cameras that have been set up to register license plates and the time that they cross; if you do not report within 10 minutes or so, border officials are alerted by the system and told to seize your vehicle.

The absurdity of this process is impossible not to notice when you work here. The Akwesasne Court, for example, is located on Cornwall Island, yet the Justice Department (where I work) is in St Regis. If I need to go to the Court, I must drive past it, report to the border and then come back (in addition to crossing the border daily on my way to and from work). Many people in my office make at least one trip to the Island every day, meaning they spend a lot of their time simply reporting to the border, going through customs, just to turn around. Not to mention if you live there, you also have to report every time you come home.

For me, it is difficult to fathom why either government thought it was appropriate to place a border in the middle of this community. There are two theories in my office: 1- it was an attempt to assimilate Akwesasne (which failed); or 2- it is a punitive response to the fact they did not assimilate.

One of my tasks this summer is to go through hundreds and hundreds of files of border misconduct and unreasonable car seizures, which are part of a class action suit that the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne filed against the border in 2015. Although I cannot write more on this work (as much of it is confidential), I want to stress how saddening it is to read about so many incidents of misconduct and abuse of power and how little sympathy either government or their border agents have for community residents.

Source: https://www.akwesasnetv.com/?tag=akwesasne-border-crossing

Funny enough, I have my own border troubles. I am driving a California plated car (long story!) and if you didn’t know, driving a US-plated car as a Canadian citizen in Canada is illegal unless you import it. Within three days of starting my internship, I was charged almost 1000 dollars in taxes, detained, and lectured to by several CBSA officers about my mistake. The American border has also flagged me as suspicious; I have been stuck for way too long trying to explain my internship, where I’m from, why I have this car, and must report to them every time I leave the US (which is every day at least once)! Nevertheless, the more I cross, the easier it gets, especially as people begin to recognize me.

Some of my colleagues think this is funny and joke that I am getting the “true” Akwesasne experience. But the reality is, I’m not. Despite my border issues, I am treated better than many Mohawk individuals. I know this because I have access to the files. Many Mohawk people are still arbitrarily searched, held, and verbally abused on a daily basis. Sometimes, border officials make rude remarks about their status cards and demand more documentation than is required under the law. In many cases, they are outrightly racist. They seem to have little regard for their time and sometimes, no respect for who they are. Although they use the border every day to travel within the borders of their territory, they are treated poorly on land that was stolen from them.

PS: Border struggles aside, here are some photos of how beautiful the community is!

Les droits humains au Pays des merveilles

Par Jennifer Lachance

Qu’est-ce que le Canada a le droit et l’obligation de faire lorsque l’un de ses ressortissants est emprisonné à l’étranger, ou pire, condamné à mort? Cette question m’a bien torturé lors de l’un de mes mandats de recherche chez ASFC. La réponse en trois mots? Pas grand chose. Et cette réponse m’a dévastée. Face à des situations aussi déplorables qu celle de Robert Schellenberg, ressortissant canadien condamné à mort, je n’ai pu me résoudre à accepter que le droit n’ait pas de réponse claire. Alors comment fait-on, lorsque notre idéal de droit humain ne trouve pas écho dans le droit international, où l’État règne en monstre imposant ses moindres caprices? 

On est terrifié. Clairement. Mais surtout, on se creuse les méninges afin de trouver un bout d’espoir sur lequel s’accrocher. Parce qu’on ne peut pas accepter le statu quo (qui le voudrait?). Parce qu’on sait qu’il y a ne serait-ce qu’une infime possibilité que cet idéal soit atteint si on a assez d’imagination pour marquer les esprits des prochains juges à qui seront présentées des violations de droits humains. Alors on ne baisse pas les bras. Je crois que c’est parfois cela, travailler en droits humains. C’est un combat de tous les jours qui est loin d’être facile. Mais lorsque ça fonctionne, ô combien est-ce satisfaisant. Et si une bataille ne définit pas le reste de la guerre, chaque mot, chaque recherche, chaque action devient les armes de demain. 

Chez Avocats sans Frontière, ce combat se mène sur plusieurs fronts, partout dans le monde en même temps. Ainsi, alors qu’on reste dans la beauté inouïe de la ville de Québec, on en vient à travailler sur des dossiers de groupes armés non étatiques en Colombie, sur la situation des droits humains en Afrique, et on se voit parfois même donner l’opportunité d’influencer le futur de l’organisation en participant à la rédaction de propositions de projets ailleurs dans le monde. On en vient à rencontrer les gens formidables qui ont porté ces projets à terme sur le terrain en partageant un thé autour d’une table avec des Maliens, en recevant une présentation d’Haïtiennes venues partager toute l’expérience qu’elles ont acquise auprès de la société civile avec ASFC, en écoutant des histoires cocasses avec des coopérants venus des quatre coins de la planète finir leur stage à Québec. Bref, on en vient à partager de nous, de notre culture, mais également à voyager à travers chacune de ces inoubliables rencontres qui forment les fondations de chacune de nos batailles en droits humains. 

Un magnifique coucher de soleil dans la ville

Adventures in Kenya – But First, The World Justice Forum

By Julia Green

Before leaving for Kenya, I had a Skype call with Jenna, an intern from U of T who I would be spending the summer with, as well as Fiona Sampson, the CEO of the equality effect (e²). While Fiona talked with great enthusiasm about the amazing work e² does fighting for justice for survivors of sexual violence, she emphasized that internships with her organization tend to be a little unpredictable. Her repeated advice was for us to be ready to “expect the unexpected.” Little did we know that the “unexpected” would begin before we even touched down on Kenyan soil.

When we accepted the internship, Jenna and I had been told we would be spending the summer on a rural compound that houses survivors of sexual violence near a place called Meru in central Kenya. Two days before we were meant to fly from Toronto to Nairobi however, we received an email from Fiona asking us if we would be open to starting our internship in Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city, instead. Fiona explained that one of e²’s partners there called the International Centre for Reproductive Health Kenya (ICRHK) was very keen to host us for some of the summer. After a quick Google search of the ICRHK I decided I was game, and Jenna and I emailed Fiona telling her we were down to switch things up. When we boarded the plane together in Toronto, the last message we had received from Fiona was her telling us that she would be in touch ASAP to confirm if Mombasa was a go.

Fresh off the plane and into the World Justice Forum! I learned from this experience that a lawyer should always have a change of professional-looking clothes, a bit of makeup, and something other than running shoes in her carry-on (none of which I had in my carry-on this time, sadly).

Our flight to Nairobi included a fourteen-hour layover in Amsterdam, which we thought would be nice since neither of us had ever been there before. Given the time difference we knew we would be exhausted when we arrived in the Netherlands, so we had planned a fairly low-key itinerary. However, when we connected to the Wifi at the Amsterdam airport we had yet another email from Fiona with even more “unexpected.” She told us she was still waiting to confirm about Mombasa, but had another question: would we be interested in going to the Hague to attend the World Justice Forum on behalf of e² during our layover? It turned out that on that particular day there was a conference going on at the World Forum (right across from the International Criminal Court) for people working in international human rights law. The e² staff who was supposed to be there for the last day of the conference wasn’t able to make it, so Fiona was wondering if we would be willing to step in for her. Despite the fact that we looked and felt the way one does after an overnight international flight, Jenna and I decided we were both interested. Within an hour of touchdown in Amsterdam, we were in a taxi on our way to the Hague for the conference’s 8 am start.

We arrived at the World Forum, haggard and exhausted, but the excitement about where we were soon took over. We spent the afternoon mingling with incredible human rights professionals from around the world, attending workshops on different access to justice initiatives, and listening to speeches from inspiring people who were doing all kinds of interesting work for vulnerable people. When Fiona asked us to attend she had mentioned that e² had been nominated for one of five $10,000 awards that would be handed out that day. According to her, the chances of e² actually winning were very slim, so she assured us th

at we needn’t worry too much about having to go accept an award.

Given that by the time the award was being announced Jenna and I had both been awake for over 24 hours and gone even longer without a shower, we were grateful to think that we could just sit back and enjoy the final part of the conference before we headed back to the airport. However, just as we were settling into our seats and cracking jokes about how funny it would be if we had to go up on stage and accept an award in our current post-flight state, they announced the first winner: the equality effect!

We laughed our way all the way up to the stage, unable to believe the absurdity of it all. There we were, in front of a room full of hundreds of well-dressed human rights lawyers and other professionals, wearing running shoes, athletic wear, glasses, and completely sleep-deprived. Things got even better when they asked one of us to give a speech and Jenna jumped on the mic to read the dialogue Fiona had sent us “just in case” we won but couldn’t get the email to open on her phone. She wound up free-styling, but whatever she said came out perfect. The room went wild with applause as we stepped off to the side to be photographed holding our huge framed award.

Because of how little sleep I had gotten for the entire duration of this ordeal, it still feels hard to believe it even happened. Luckily, the World Justice Forum had plenty of professional photographers on deck to get our classy airplane looks from every possible angle. It’s not exactly h

The professional photographer got a great shot of my plane outfit, featuring running shoes and yoga capris.

ow I imagined my first time accepting an award for international human rights work would be, but I quite honestly can’t think of a better story. At some point in all the madness we received an email from Fiona confirming that Mombasa was a go. As we boarded the flight from Amsterdam to Kenya, we both couldn’t help repeating that the summer really did seem to be shaping up to unexpected after all – in the best way possible.

“Why human rights law?”

By: Samantha Backman

“Why human rights law?” This question was posed to me by one of my supervisors in the early days of my internship at the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law (BCNL). In the last several weeks, as I have immersed myself in the field of disability rights at BCNL, I have found myself pondering this question time and time again. I believe that it is a critical question for anyone working in the area of human rights law to reflect upon. Pausing to ask ourselves why we are doing something can undoubtedly make us more purposeful and focused in our efforts and help us connect with the broader significance of our work.

I was drawn to the International Human Rights Internship Program because I am a bit of an idealist. I am optimistic about the law’s potential to be harnessed to achieve social justice. Human rights law greatly appealed to me, as it seemed to be rooted in a pursuit for freedom, equality, and human dignity. The notion of striving to uphold such lofty ideals was extremely inspiring to me.

Over the past few weeks, however, I have learned that human rights law is about more than a quest for abstract principles. As I have been discussing with my mentors at BCNL, it is also about people.

At BCNL, I have been tasked with writing a report on recent legislative reforms that countries have undertaken in light of Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which calls upon states to recognize the legal capacity of people with disabilities on an equal basis with others. Article 12 asks states to put into place supported decision-making mechanisms whereby persons with disabilities are authorised to make their own decisions with help from trusted individuals.

As I have been researching worldwide legislative reforms in the area of disability law, I have been struck by the role that civil society organizations have played in the painstaking process to enact change. Around the world, civil society organizations have given talks, organized pilot projects, led marches, lobbied governments, drafted legislation, and initiated strategic litigation to secure the full enjoyment of rights for persons with disabilities. These are fundamentally grassroots, bottom-up efforts. This is the work of parents of persons with disabilities who have been disheartened by their children’s disempowerment at the hands of society and the legal system, and who have come together and formed alliances. This is about lawyers who have advocated in the courts for people who have been stripped of their civil rights through placement under restrictive guardianship regimes. This is about civil society activists who have designed supported decision-making pilot projects so that persons with disabilities can gain control over their own life decisions. At its core, all of these endeavours are galvanized by the experiences of individual people. All of this energy is marshalled so that individual human beings can feel respected and have agency over their own lives.

My work in a civil society environment has shown me that the law has a human face. Human rights law is not simply about singing treaties and enshrining rights on paper. It is about advocacy. It is about ensuring the implementation of these rights on the ground. It is about holding governments to account. In these matters, civil society plays a critical role.

As I conduct my research in the context of my internship, I am amazed by the fact that in many countries, the work of disability rights activists has spanned many years. Civil society actors have persisted tirelessly with their efforts, even in the face of indifference or resistance from their governments. There is an astonishing will to continue to advocate for progress. It could very well be argued that these activists are pushing for freedom, equality, and human dignity. But they are critically focused on advocating for the people, for those individuals whose stories have moved and inspired them. Perhaps it is this personal connection that makes their fight for human rights so enduring. Extrapolating from this, if we aim to see human rights law on a “human scale,” perhaps this can help to remind us why this field is so worthwhile.

Photo credit: BCNL. BCNL helped to organize the Manifestation of Friendship, which took place in Sofia during Ability Day on May 18th, 2018. This was part of a national campaign for collecting signatures in support of a draft law in Bulgaria that would abolish guardianship and introduce supported decision-making (The National Citizen Initiative 7000).

NGO House: The BCNL headquarters is home to NGO House, an innovative co-working space for members of the local NGO community.

The Palace of Justice in Sofia

The bustling Vitosha Boulevard at the heart of the city centre

A tram in Sofia

Newer Entries »
Blog authors are solely responsible for the content of the blogs listed in the directory. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University. The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill.