Criminalization of HIV status non-disclosure: what’s the issue?

by Jihyun Rosel Kim 

When people hear the question “should non-disclosure of HIV status be a criminal offence?” their usual response is, “well of course! We shouldn’t hurt people.” When all we see and hear about HIV in the news is so sensationalized to the point that we equate HIV with death and people with HIV with predators, that response is understandable.

The landmark case involving HIV status disclosure was R. v. Cuerrier.[1] In the case, the Supreme Court established that failure to disclose one’s HIV status could lead to a charge of aggravated sexual assault, which can lead to a maximum of a life sentence in prison. Justice Cory for the majority stated that non-disclosure of HIV status that would lead to a “significant risk of harm” would constitute an aggravated sexual assault. However, he never clarified what exactly would amount to “significant risk,” despite the differing levels of risk of transmission in diverse sexual activities. Justice Cory did, however, stated in an obiter that certain actions such as wearing a condom might be seen as mitigating the “significant risk.”

Since the Cuerrier decision in 1998, science has come a long way for HIV/AIDS. Moreover, research has shown that transmission risks for HIV are generally low, and differ significantly depending on the activity. Generally, the transmission rate of HIV during unprotected vaginal intercourse is 0.1% per act (with recent analysis suggesting a more accurate rate would be 0.08% per act).[2] If a person has an undetectable viral load (below 50 copies of HIV virus per mililitre of blood), the risk of infection is about 1 in 10,000 for unprotected sex acts.[3] Recent studies also suggest that antiretroviral therapy can reduce transmission up to 96% in heterosexual couples, where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is HIV-negative.[4]

Yet, Canadian courts have not kept up with scientific evidence. Due to the unclear guidelines regarding what exactly constitutes “significant risk,” courts have continued to send mixed messages regarding legal duty to disclose one’s status. Some courts have held that a person who did not disclose to a partner but wore a condom is not criminally liable. Other courts have held the opposite view by charging a defendant with sexual assault for non-disclosure without considering the kind of sexual activities.

The conflicting messages from the courts seriously undermine and threaten the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHs). How can PLHs truly prove that they disclosed to a partner – should they require witnesses or signatures? Should activities such as oral sex and mutual masturbation, which bears almost zero risk of transmission, bear the possibility of a criminal charge, when almost no activity in our lives are truly risk-free? What about the issue of partners, who can blackmail and even abuse their HIV-positive partners by threatening to charge them?

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Canada’s Progress in its Commitment to Ending AIDS as a Global Health Threat by 2030

Nick PineauBy Nick Pineau

My final project with the HIV Legal Network involved writing a report analyzing Canada’s progress in its commitment toward ending AIDS as a global health threat by 2030. In March 2021, UNAIDS released its Global AIDS Strategy (hereafter “the Strategy”) for 2021–2026, which offers numerous recommendations to ensure the world has zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths by 2030. However, as COVID-19 developed into another global pandemic in early 2020, the progress toward ending the AIDS epidemic has halted. Furthermore, the twin pandemics have inequitably exacerbated the impact AIDS has on marginalized communities. To properly assess the barriers to people living with or affected by HIV, the Strategy offers numerous recommendations through an “inequalities lens”, evaluating the pandemic’s impact from the perspective of those most affected by it.

Despite its commitment toward ending the AIDS epidemic, Canada is still far from achieving the goals it has set out for itself. By 2019, over forty countries were within reach of the epidemiological milestone of endings AIDS—yet Canada was not among them. Populations at risk of HIV, including men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who inject drugs, sex workers and their clients, and people in prisons or other closed settings, remain in a precarious position within our country. Much of the HIV Legal Network’s work centres around the result areas mentioned in the Strategy. For this blog post, I will take a look at how Canada is doing in comparison to the Strategy’s recommendations in three key areas: prison rights, drug use, and HIV non-disclosure.

For prison rights, the Strategy advocates for a harm reduction approach for prison or other closed settings, including voluntary HIV testing and treatment, needle-syringe programs, opioid substitution therapy, and naloxone kits. While the Correctional Services of Canada stipulates that they offer inmate HIV testing, access to opioid treatment, and PrEP & PEP, there is limited data on the prevalence of such programs at each individual facility across Canada. The CSC should strive to better report on such programs to properly assess whether Canadian inmates are receiving adequate harm reduction services. Furthermore, Canada’s Prison Needle Exchange Program has not accelerated at the requisite rate—the program has only been implemented at 11 of the 53 federal institutions in Canada. Such a program could significantly reduce HIV transmission at closed facilities and secure inmates’ right to security of the person.

The Strategy also recommends that discriminatory laws and policies against drug use ought to be repealed, including those that criminalize drug possession for personal use. Rather than punish and stigmatize people who use drugs, a health-centred approach to drug use should be comprehensive, people-centred (with community-led responses and systems), and gender transformative. Canada has recently made progress in decriminalizing drug possession for personal use—a prosecutorial directive was issued in August 2020 to divert individuals from the criminal justice system for simple possession cases. Yet the criminal system may remain a blunt tool to deal with the intricacies of drug use. Rather than further stigmatizing individuals who use drugs by sending them to prison for, for instance, sharing between friends (and thus trafficking), Canada ought to adopt a health-centred model for dealing with drug use and not further entrench the marginalization of people who use drugs.

Finally, Canada is among the 92 countries worldwide that criminalize HIV non-disclosure. The Strategy recommends creating an enabling legal environment that de-stigmatizes seropositivity and the removal of discriminatory laws that criminalize HIV non-disclosure. The concept of U=U, undetectable = transmissible, whereby HIV-positive individuals with ‘undetectable’ viral loads cannot realistically transmit the virus, has the potential to accelerate anti-stigma efforts. Canada has recently made progress in lessening the criminality of HIV non-disclosure, with then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould issuing a prosecutorial directive in 2018 not to prosecute HIV non-disclosure except in more severe cases. Wilson-Raybould acknowledged that HIV is a public health issue that disproportionately affects Indigenous, gay, and Black persons in Canada, and I would contend that using the criminal law to solve such an issue can further entrench stigmatization. Yet the directive’s force is lesser than if a Criminal Code amendment were made to legislate on the subject. HIV non-disclosure remains a crime on the books in Canada, and can be prosecuted as aggravated sexual assault which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. This could undermine public health initiatives to encourage HIV testing, and may simultaneously increase the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV. Canada should adhere to the Strategy’s recommendations to fully realize the rights of those living with HIV.

This brief survey demonstrates that Canada has much to do in order to ensure the country is on track toward ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. Canada ought to adhere to the Strategy’s recommendations and fully implement harm reduction initiatives in prisons, decriminalize drug possession for personal use, and decriminalize HIV non-disclosure. With renewed political commitment, advocacy, and community mobilization, Canada has the potential to fully realize the human rights of people living with or affected by HIV and AIDS.

Carving a Path Towards Decriminalizing HIV in Canada

By Reeve Kako

Before starting my internship at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, I was completely unaware of the dire consequence that accusations of HIV non-disclosure have had upon thousands of people living with HIV across Canada. Canada remains fifth in the world in criminalizing individuals for not disclosing their status and continues to hold the unfortunate and unique title of prosecuting non-disclosure cases under the severe charge of aggravated sexual assault. Those convicted, including many who may be victims of sexual assault, abuse, or extortion by their accuser, face the threat of life sentences and a mandatory registration on the sex offender registry. Regardless of whether the virus was actually transmitted, and even with the use of a condom, the possibility of being charged and convicted for non-disclosure remains a frightening possibility for many throughout Canada.

Coming to understand this shocking reality faced by those living with HIV in a country I have always been proud to call a champion of human rights was deeply saddening and disturbing.  As an openly gay man who understands all too well the impact that government policy has had upon LGBTQ+ persons and their access to dignity, I was, and will continue to be ashamed of my government until HIV decriminalization advocates are listened to and reform efforts are realized.

Thankfully, despite this grim legal landscape for HIV non-disclosure cases in Canada, last month provided ample reason for me to believe that positive reform may be within reach. As part of my internship, I had the privilege of assisting at the second meeting of the Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization (CCRHC) on June 12th and 13th. The day following these meetings, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network also held a larger Symposium focused on HIV criminalization.

As the minute-taker at the CCRHC meetings, I was introduced to the challenging yet rewarding process that is coalition building. It was remarkable to see how a large group of people with a diverse set of viewpoints could share their opinions and work toward a common set of goals for the future. Tough questions were raised, such as the issue of how to reconcile the risks of pursuing legislative reform when it could ultimately lead to a new offence that might come with its own adverse consequences. In the end, however, compromises were struck, and priorities were laid out, while other issues were left to be decided when more information on the future political landscape became available. Being able to witness this valuable work allowed me to realize firsthand how reform efforts are championed and the significance of building consensus to achieve a common advocacy goal.

The Symposium on HIV Decriminalization that followed provided a medium to attract public attention to decriminalization efforts across Canada.  Canada’s Attorney General, David Lemetii opened the Symposium and spoke in support of decriminalization efforts. He committed his government to pushing decriminalization efforts further should his party win re-election in the fall. Survivors of decriminalization shared their sorties in a public forum, bringing an important personalized viewpoint of the issue to the public, and the leading science on the transmission of HIV was presented.  The Symposium was an incredible day that demonstrated to me the importance of public relations and communications strategy in advocacy, as well as the power derived from first-person storytelling.

In the week following these critical meetings, Canada saw yet another watershed moment for HIV criminalization reform. The federal Justice Committee released a report that called for the end of prosecutions of non-disclosure under aggravated sexual assault laws and instead advocated for a new offence that would only criminalize cases where the virus has actually been transmitted. This would significantly limit the current “realistic possibility of transmission” standard. While these findings are positive steps towards achieving the CCRHC’s ultimate goal of complete decriminalization, less favourable aspects of the report included the recommendation that this new offence include other communicable diseases within its scope, as well as the potential for individuals being charged with non-disclosure based on a reckless standard of intent. These recommendations would create a criminalization scheme that would go further than the intentional standard for which the CCRHC has advocated. Yet, despite these drawbacks, a law based on these recommendations would nevertheless be significant progress towards narrowing the ability for the criminal law to punish people living with HIV.

However, despite ample reason to celebrate the report’s favourable recommendations, the CCRHC remains hesitant to do so. The Justice Committee’s report is only a preliminary success in a long legislative process, with several more steps required to pass such recommendations into law. The political uncertainty created by the upcoming October federal election therefore poses a significant potential barrier to this reform being realized. The Justice Committee’s report was not unanimous and was broken into a majority report written by the Liberal majority and two dissenting opinions written by the NDP and the Conservative parties, respectively. The majority findings of the report summarized the findings outlined above, while the dissenting opinion of the NDP proved to be more in line with the CCRHCs goals in rejecting the potential inclusion of a reckless standard. However, the Conservative minority report significantly differed from the CCRHCs proposals, advocating for continued criminalization of a “realistic possibility of transmission,”, as opposed to actual transmission, and a refusal to rule out prosecution for sexual acts where a condom was used, or only oral sex was engaged in. Therefore, the distinct possibility of a federal Conservative majority following October’s election could see the halting of most, if not all, of the positive aspects of the CCRHC’s legislative reform efforts.

The findings of this report act as an illustration to me of the both the rewards and frustrations inherent in human rights advocacy work.  On one hand, in large part due to the lobbying efforts and testimony offered by members of the CCRHC, the government in power has finally acknowledged the harm they are doing to those living with HIV.  However, on the other hand this acknowledgement and its recommendations for change may never be realized due to future political uncertainty. While coming to terms with this reality is difficult, in the end, my internship has taught me that allowing this possibility to deter you or exhaust you from continuing to push for change is about the worst thing an advocate can do. Governments change, however, what remains consistent is the ability for advocacy groups to continue to push for needed reform in spite of resistance. Should the government change in the fall, reform efforts will recalibrate and the fight for justice must and will continue!

End Unjust HIV Criminalization in Canada: A Community Dialogue

By Heather Whiteside

Last Tuesday, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO) hosted a community dialogue on the unjust criminalization of HIV in Canada. I attended, along with my colleagues, the Legal Network’s board members, and many community members.

Three panelists discussed what the movement to resist the over-criminalization of HIV has achieved thus far. They also outlined the work that still needs to be done, especially following Ontario’s provincial election (something I considered in my previous blog post). The unifying goal that brought everyone in the room together was putting an end to the misuse of the criminal law in addressing HIV non-disclosure issues.

Before I elaborate on what emerged from the discussion, it might be helpful to back up and provide some context on HIV criminalization in Canada.

Canada has one of the highest rates in the world of criminalizing people living with HIV. People living with HIV who do not disclose their status are often charged with aggravated sexual assault, the most serious sexual offence in the Criminal Code, even if they had no intent to cause harm and no transmission occurred. This is despite the overwhelming scientific evidence showing that sexual activity with a person living with HIV who is taking prescribed treatment poses a negligible risk of transmission.

There is scant evidence that the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure deters behaviour that can transmit HIV. Instead, it has negative consequences. For example, the fear of criminal prosecution may deter people from being tested and receiving adequate treatment. It also places the burden of preventing HIV transmission on those living with HIV and portrays them as potential criminals.

Thankfully, governments are beginning to recognize that HIV is, first and foremost, a medical and public health issue and that criminal prosecutions should only be used in cases of actual, intentional transmission of HIV.  After years of advocacy by community organizations, both the federal and Ontario governments have finally recognized the need to limit the over-criminalization of HIV in Canada. Both governments have decided to cease prosecutions against people with a suppressed viral load, since this is not consistent with the science of HIV transmission.

During the Community Dialogue, the panelists welcomed this shift as an important first step. It suggests that advocacy efforts and persistent discussions with the Ministry of the Attorney General have been effective. The next step is to ensure that the governments’ conclusions are reflected in clear prosecutorial guidelines at both federal and provincial levels, which would determine if and how a case arrives in court.

One of the themes that I found most striking during the discussion was the particular impacts of HIV non-disclosure laws on women. Criminalizing HIV non-disclosure is often perceived as a way to protect heterosexual women, since the vast majority of people charged under these laws are men who have sex with women and sexual assault laws are traditionally thought to protect women from gender-based violence. But if we dig a little deeper, evidence suggests that HIV criminalization actually puts women at risk.

Women are often the first in a family to be tested for HIV during pre-natal care, and the first person to test positive is often blamed for bringing the infection into the relationship. Women are more likely to be in coercive sexual relationships where they are prevented from making autonomous decisions about when and how sexual intercourse occurs, and many women often feel forced to choose between disclosure or risking abuse at the hands of their partners. Non-disclosure laws also mean that women are unlikely to report sexual assault or domestic violence if they are positive. Even more shocking is the fact that criminal charges are often brought against HIV positive women at the end of a romantic, consensual relationship by vindictive partners (as in the case of R. v. D.C., 2012 SCC 48). Ultimately, HIV criminalization does very little to actually protect women from violence and from transmission, and it does even less to empower positive women.

At the end of the Community Dialogue, three concrete suggestions were put forth for changing the law as it’s currently written and applied:

  1. Advocacy in the courtroom
  2. Advocating for prosecutorial guidelines about when the Crown will seek convictions
  3. Legislative reform of the provisions in the Criminal Code

Given the change occurring at the federal level, and the energy and dedication I felt from other community organizers in the room, I got the sense that these goals have a strong likelihood of being achieved.

Responses to Renaude and Rose

Renaude Morin:

I was struck by the connection between story telling and justice in your post. It reminded me of one of my previous comments about the victims of the Huronia Regional Centre who wanted to tell their stories at trial. Their lawyers considered it a victory to reach a settlement with the Ontario government and pay each victim instead of giving them their day in court. Because of the harm to their dignity from the abuse in the government-run institution the victims saw the chance to tell their stories in open court as a way to heal and reclaim their agency. The nature of class action lawsuits privileges getting a huge settlement (which is how lawyers get paid) over going to trial and allowing victims to testify about their experiences.

Your post also made me think about another area of law in Canada that fails to let victims tell their stories publicly. Most of the time when an individual makes a complaint to their provincial human rights commission the matter is settled by mediation. There is no public record of the dispute and a condition of settlement may be a non-disclosure agreement. I know of an individual with a disability who made a human rights complaint when she was unable to vote in an election at her local polling place because it was inaccessible. In the end the barriers were removed but she was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement. For such a basic right – the right to vote – it astounds me that the settlement with the government should be private. One of the basic principles of our legal system is that it be public. In fact litigants must apply for a sealing order to avoid their court case being in the public record. Yet we have created a procedure for human rights complaints that is completely hidden from the public. We do not know, for example, how many disabled people are being disenfranchised, nor can we use these cases as precedent. These stories of discrimination remain untold.

 

Rose Adams:

I was excited to read in your post about the program for new indigenous law students that is taking place at the U of S this summer. While increasing education for judges and lawyers about Gladue sentencing is important, I am convinced that increasing the number of judges and lawyer who are indigenous is necessary. Law schools across Canada are making more efforts than before to ensure that their student populations reflect the actual Canadian population. My own experience with disability has really heightened my awareness about how difficult it is to fully understand the discrimination that others experience when you have immense privilege. Before my car accident I was aware of my privilege but it was not until I became a wheelchair user and began to experience the city of Montreal as a person with a disability that I fully understood privilege. As we (hopefully) move towards including indigenous legal perspectives and remedies in the Canadian legal system we absolutely must do so under the leadership of those who have embodied experience with what it means to be indigenous.

Close to Home

Sarah Grace RossBy Sarah Grace Ross

Unlike the majority of my fellow interns, my placement is not only within Canada, but in the very city where I was born: Toronto.

Despite having lived away from Toronto for a few years, it hasn’t taken long for me to become reacquainted with the city. From the neighbourhoods that my friends live in, to the best roti you can find, I know Toronto.

So with the start of my internship at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, I was curious to find out what it would mean to work in human rights so close to home. My first realization during the internship was that while I know Toronto, I only know my Toronto, which is one version among millions. My internship was situated in a very different Toronto, one nested in the intersection of health and law, where I would be conducting legal research and policy advocacy for a segment of the population that, I came to realize, I didn’t know at all.

I had never met someone who was openly HIV+. Further, the only two public figures with HIV or AIDS that I could bring to mind were Freddy Mercury and Magic Johnson, a pretty short list. Fortunately, my first week at the Legal Network coincided with their annual symposium, where I met activists, mobilizers, lawyers, volunteers, and many individuals living with HIV. It became clear that while I would be working in a familiar city, everything about this job was going to feel new.

I was prepared to feel appalled at the human rights abuses of people living with HIV abroad, but as I began my first legal research projects, I realized there were many elements of living with HIV in Canada that were worse than I thought. After Russia and the United States, Canada is one of the most aggressive prosecutors of people living with HIV. Worse still, the criminal charge in non-disclosure cases is aggravated sexual assault, one of the most serious offences in the Criminal Code. Past interns have written thorough blogs about disclosure, which is when someone is legally required to disclose their HIV status prior to sexual activity. Advocates such as the Legal Network argue that the criminal justice response is heavy handed and does not reflect scientific advances regarding HIV transmission risks. Studies show that maintaining an undetectable viral load through HIV medication makes the risk of transmitting the virus effectively non-existent.

The publication’s cover photo is from the 1990 Montreal Sex Garage riots.

A few years ago, Canada’s criminal justice approach to disclosure sparked an underground, anonymous, grassroots publication titled How to Have Sex in a Police State. The publication surfaced online in 2015 and provides tips on how a person can access support from the health care system without triggering surveillance from the criminal justice system in the process. The fact that these two systems are interconnected is a huge problem; people should not have to choose between health care and privacy. Since violence, stigma, and discrimination are a reality for many people living with HIV, the publication encourages individuals to protect themselves from potential criminal charges, for example by having proof of their HIV status disclosure (such as screenshots of text messages) or even going so far as having a signed waiver for sexual partners.

There’s an often-used slogan that captures the connection between the health care and criminal justice systems: ‘take the test, risk arrest’. I heard the slogan mentioned a few times during the symposium last month, which made me suspect that the ‘police state’ described in the publication was still a reality for some people living with HIV today, even in large, arguably progressive cities like Toronto. ‘Take the test, risk arrest’ refers to the assumption that whoever is diagnosed with HIV first is presumed to have brought it into the relationship. This misattribution of infection is particularly stigmatizing for vulnerable women whose diagnosis may take place as a result of prenatal care or other routine visits to the doctor. The fear of partner retaliation upon discovering HIV or risking criminal charges related to disclosure can lead vulnerable women to seek prenatal care at very late stages in their pregnancy, to stay in an abusive relationship, or to deter testing.

I haven’t been surprised to see flagrant HIV-related human rights abuses in my international research projects. But the extent to which a segment of the Canadian population has to intentionally protect itself from the criminal justice system on a health matter gives me pause. It troubles me to imagine that in my own city, people living with HIV are, even if unintentionally, treated as a threat from which criminal laws are meant to protect. Are people living with HIV not worthy of protection too? Or an even simpler question: what does criminal law have to do with HIV anyway?  Even when a person’s viral load is undetectable due to medication and therefore untransmittable, their sexual activities are subject to surveillance. Safe sex should be about protecting the health of one’s self and partner, not about protecting one’s self from the long arm of the law.

HIV and Sex – Not a Risky Business

By Isabelle Rémillard

IMG_3251[1]Four girls in downtown Toronto, a little bit of gin, and a conversation about one-night stands. It didn’t take too much time before we argued the proper etiquette to adopt before engaging in some gymnastics under the sheets with a total stranger. Each one of us had a different idea of what was appropriate to ask, what we should expect from our partner… and how these opinions would be completely different if the other person was actually HIV-positive. One of us said, quite categorically, that she would never sleep with someone who was HIV-positive, even if he’d wear a condom. ‘’You do know that there’s no risk of transmission when a condom is used, right?’’, ‘’I don’t care’’.

This remark made me cringe. As an intern at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, I learned all about the myths surrounding HIV transmission and how these misconceptions negatively affect the lives of people living with HIV. Yet, I couldn’t blame her for saying that; I’m not sure my opinion three months ago would have been much more different from hers. It is scary to realize that we were four educated girls, but we had such a poor understanding of how HIV may be transmitted. And I wonder whether the law is not in fact perpetuating (if not strengthening) this misinformation and therefore this stigma and discrimination around HIV.

Indeed, the Supreme Court of Canada’s rulings on HIV non-disclosure fail to reflect actual scientific knowledge on the matter. Under Canadian law, HIV-positive individuals may be charged and convicted of aggravated sexual assault if they do not disclose their status to their sexual partner unless they use a condom and have a low viral load. This is in contradiction with scientific and medical evidence which establishes that the possibility of transmission is negligible, or even nil, when only one of these requirements is satisfied. With such a legal interpretation, people living with HIV end up being labeled as criminals even when their actions pose no realistic possibility of transmission.

So I wonder what makes us think there’s a risk. Science doesn’t seem to have much influence on popular beliefs. Every time I mention the current state of HIV-related science, people tell me that it doesn’t matter, they wouldn’t want to take the chance – ‘’it’s too risky’’, they say. On the other hand, they do believe that our highest court is right in criminalizing such sexual behaviours. So are we keener to believe the law over science?

And what exactly is our responsibility as individuals to protect ourselves? In a generation where casual sex is more frequent, is it ever realistic to expect our sexual partner(s) to reveal such an intimate part of their life? Do we have to expose our whole life story every time we take off our clothes, especially to individuals we may perhaps never see again? Those in favour of non-disclosure prosecutions argue that individuals ought to be fully informed before taking a decision on whether to accept or refuse sex. But it’s hard for me to see how this rationale for HIV criminalization could stand. Considering that the scientific consensus is that the risk of transmission is negligible or nil, I don’t think a ‘’right to know’’ is defensible. How far do we want to go about the vow of telling ‘’the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’’? Such a vow may exist in courts and Hollywood movies, but it has no place in our bedrooms.

To be clear, I am not arguing that people should change their mind about having sex with HIV-positive partners on the basis that their fears are unfounded – absolutely not! No one should have to justify why they would or wouldn’t want to sleep with someone. But what I’m asking is: should it really be a crime not to disclose your status? Given that there is no realistic possibility of transmission, the answer seems obvious to me. Where there is no intention of transmission and where the HIV-positive partner had a low viral load or a condom was used, this sexual behaviour should not constitute a crime. As a society, we should give more weight to scientific facts in the establishment of our policies and laws. The four girls living in downtown Toronto, as most Canadians, respect and trust the authority of our judicial institutions and their rulings can have significant impacts. Therefore, our courts have a responsibility to ensure we do not discriminate against some groups in our society, including people living with HIV.

How should an activist be?

By Jihyun Rosel Kim 

Before I began my internship, I was told it would involve mostly research. That statement is technically true – the majority of my time here was spent wrestling with Quicklaw, writing memos, or making information charts. However, one thing I’ve learned about the Legal Network is that it is truly committed to the issues identified in its mission statement, and will speak out in various ways.

1. Quiet action at the Court of Appeal

On June 15, staff of the Legal Network and other members of the community (including members of the Ontario Working Group on Criminal Law and HIV Exposure) participated in a “quiet action” campaign at the Ontario Court of Appeal. The Court was scheduled to hear an appeal on a case involving HIV status non-disclosure (R. v. M.), where both the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and HIV/AIDS Legal Clinic of Ontario (HALCO) were intervenors.

The "HIV Positive" action at the ON Court of Appeal

At trial, the judge ignored case law by not applying the significant risk test (i.e. a person living with HIV must disclose his/her status to the partner when the sexual activity poses a “significant risk of bodily harm”) set out in R. v. Cuerrier. Instead, he charged the defendant with aggravated sexual assault simply on the ground that the defendant did not disclose his status. Although the defendant stated he used a condom (which further diminishes the already-low risk of HIV transmission), the trial judge said it did not matter whether the sex was protected or not.

To demonstrate to the Court that people living with HIV and their allies were concerned about such overbroad use of criminal law, the Legal Network organized a t-shirt campaign—members showed up to the courtroom all wearing the same t-shirt with the logo “HIV Positive” at the front. There were about 18 people at court, and since the assigned courtroom for the hearing happened to be a smaller one, we effectively filled the gallery.

Unfortunately, the Court decided to stay the appeal, to wait for the Supreme Court decision on HIV non-disclosure (R. v. D.C.; R. v. Mabior) later this year. Even though it was a bit anti-climactic, one of the justices did take notice of the audience uniformly dressed in “HIV Positive” shirts to address us directly, and say that he realizes these issues are important and that he will make sure to rule on the issues carefully once the Supreme Court decision came down.

2. Action around cuts to refugee health care

At the end of April, Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced changes to the Interim Federal Health Program, which would effectively cut most supplemental health care benefits for refugee claimants, and all access to government-funded health care services for failed refugee claimants (who may reapply to stay in Canada under humanitarian and compassionate grounds). The only exception would be when the claimant’s health condition presented a “public health risk”—such as HIV. As of now, the public outcry seems to have made Kenney’s office backtrack a little bit from their initial cuts these days, but most of the cuts still remain.

On June 18—the national day of action to protect refugee health care—the Executive Director emailed everyone about the protest in Toronto, and encouraged everyone to attend the protest with him. So later on that day, I went to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office on St. Clair Avenuewith a team of policy analysts and the ED of the Legal Network, and joined a few hundred people who were chanting “health care for refugees!”

Through participating in these actions, I’ve learned about the joys of being out on the streets with other people who believe in the same things as I do, which offers tremendous comfort in times where laws and policies seem to be going to a dark place. These experiences won’t appear on my CV as things I accomplished, but they nevertheless had a big impact on my outlook on activism and effective advocacy.

And for that intangible feeling of joy that came from connecting with other like-minded people who are committed to making things better, I am very grateful to the Legal Network.

The Interns

Established in 1996 and administered by the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (CHRLP) of McGill University, the International Human Rights Internship Program gives McGill Law students the opportunity to intern with NGOS, courts, and public institutions for a period of 12 weeks over the summer, while earning six credits toward their BCL/JD degree (previously called the BCL/LLB). For information on the program, our partner organizations, applications, FAQs, and more, please visit the International Human Rights Internships section of the CHRLP’s website.

Below are the bios of our student interns.

On this page: 2021| 2020

See also the 2010 to 2019 cohorts.


The 2021 Interns

Our 2021 Cohort

Our 2021 Cohort met over Zoom several times to prepare for this summer’s remote internships.

Ayelet Ami – Centre for Law and Democracy, Halifax, New Brunswick, Canada

Ami Ayelet

Ayelet Ami is a second-year BCL/JD student at McGill University. She holds a DEC in Social Sciences from Dawson College, having completed the program’s Law, Society and Justice profile.

Keenly interested in human rights, she pairs her legal studies with a position as the McGill Wallenberg Advocacy Group’s (WAG’s) Director of Legal Advocacy, fighting for political prisoners’ freedom. She is also a copy editor at the Faculty of Law’s bilingual newspaper, the Quid Novi, and a caseworker at the Legal Information Clinic at McGill (LICM).

Having gained some insight into the critical interplay between justice and freedom of expression through her work at WAG and into freedom of the press and access to information through the Quid and LICM respectively, she wonders what these rights entail internationally. This summer, she is excited to address this question and more as an intern at the Centre for Law and Democracy in Halifax. Read her posts.

Isabel Baltzan – Legal Clinic on Human Rights and Disability, Lima, Peru

Isabel BaltzanIsabel is a 1L student in the BCL/JD program at McGill. Before starting her legal studies, she completed a BSc in pharmacology at McGill. Her interest in healthcare, human rights and accessibility have driven her academic and research interests.

She currently works as a research assistant at the Ingram School of Nursing Migration and Reproductive Health Research Group and volunteers with Pro Bono Students Canada through the Law Faculty, working to vulgarize family law matters for Inter-Val 1175, a women’s shelter in Montreal.

She hopes to continue working to promote equity at the intersection of health and law in all aspects. The prospect of working on disability rights and access to care this summer promises to be an enriching and exciting experience for her. Read her posts.

Johanna Cline – Avocats Sans Frontières, Québec, Québec

Johanna ClineJohanna is a first year BCL/JD student at the McGill Faculty of Law. A New Brunswick native, she moved to Montreal to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Honours Philosophy with a minor in Gender, Sexuality, Feminist and Social Justice Studies (GSFS) at McGill University. During her undergraduate degree, Johanna worked as a research assistant on topics in feminist philosophy, epistemic injustice and discrimination. She also volunteered on the board of directors at the St-James Drop-In Centre, a centre for those who are experiencing homelessness and marginalization in Montreal.

At McGill, Johanna is a junior editor at the McGill Journal of Law and Health. She also volunteers with the LEX program and the LSA’s Mental Health Committee.

Her legal interests include access to justice, human rights, the intersection of law and health and the philosophy of law. She looks forward to learning more about human rights law during her summer internship with Avocats Sans Frontières. Read her posts.

Katerina Cook – Dignity Network

Katerina CookKaterina is a second-year BCL/JD student at the McGill Faculty of Law. Prior to studying law, she was at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she was awarded Best Contemporary Studies Honours Thesis for her paper on the phenomenology of LGBTQ-parented families.

En dehors de ses études, elle est passionnée du chant choral et de son travail en clinique juridique, où elle poursuit son intérêt pour l’accès à la justice et la vulgarisation de concepts juridiques.

This summer, Katerina looks forward to promoting international LGBTIQ human rights with the Dignity Network.

Read her posts.

Gabriela De Medeiros – Justice Department of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, Akwesasne, Québec, Canada

Gabriela De MedeirosI was born in Brazil and moved to Canada at age 7, and since then have been deeply concerned with the conditions that make it possible for some people to live well and freely while others struggle in poverty.

I have studied languages, communications, and psychology, and eventually found myself at McGill Law, where I have continued pursuing these questions. The major in International Human Rights has given me the incredible opportunity to engage with potential systemic solutions, and I am honoured to be completing this degree with an internship at the Akwesasne Justice Department this summer. Read her posts.

Janelle Deniset – Ateneo Centre, Manila, Philippines

Janelle DenisetJanelle is a second-year student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. She holds a Master of Global Affairs from the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs along with a Bachelor of Arts (hon.) in Political Science from the University of Winnipeg.

Prior to attending law school, Janelle worked as a Policy Analyst for Global Affairs Canada in Inter-American Affairs. Previously, she worked in Nairobi, Kenya, as a Special Projects Officer for the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, as part of their international youth fellowship program. She also spent time in Geneva, Switzerland as a Junior Policy Officer at the Canadian Permanent Mission to the United Nations, where she was part of a team that successfully supported the adoption of a resolution on the elimination of violence against women and girls, including Indigenous women and girls, at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council.

Janelle continues to pursue her interests as a law student at McGill. She is currently volunteering for the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) as well as the McGill International Law Society (MILS).  Read her posts.

Camila Franco – Instituto de Democracia y Derechos Humanos de la Pontificia Universidad Católica, Perú

Camila FrancoCamila is a second year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology, and a Certificate of International Learning from the University of Alberta. Prior to coming to McGill Law, Camila worked as a front-line social worker at the Youth Restorative Action Project, a youth justice committee in Edmonton that supports vulnerable youth navigating the justice system.

At the Faculty, Camila is currently a program coordinator for the L.E.X. (Law, Éducation, Connexion) youth outreach program. She is also a case worker at the Legal Information Clinic at McGill and an active member of Radlaw, where she participates in various abolitionist initiatives and co-produces Legalease,a community radio show.

Camila is passionate about youth empowerment, abolitionism, migrant justice, state accountability, as well as extra-judicial means to expand access to justice such as education, storytelling, and civic participation. She is deeply grateful to have the opportunity to work for the Instituto de Democracia y Derechos Humanos de la Pontificia Universidad Católica Perú (IDEHPUCP) to examine issues related to state corruption and the current forced displacement crisis of Venezuelan refugees in Latin America. Read her posts.

Mehri Ghazanjani – Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Mehri Ghazanjani Mehri has finished her first year of the BCL/JD program at the Faculty of Law of McGill University. She holds a PhD in sociology from McGill University, with a specialization in ethnic conflict and civil war. Mehri took four trips to Iran, Turkey, and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to conduct field observations and interviews with Kurdish Peshmerga. Her dissertation offers a comprehensive account of the emergence and growth of Kurdish insurgencies and provides insights into practical possibilities of conflict resolution in Iran while situating the conflict in the broader geopolitical context of the Middle East.

Furthermore, as a course lecturer at McGill, her goal has been to help her students develop their critical thinking skills and to create a positive learning environment by respecting and promoting intellectual diversity. Whether listening to the stories of Kurdish Peshmerga, studying/teaching civil conflict and war, or actively engaging in the pro-democracy movements of Iran, Mehri was reminded again and again that justice is not a given, and that strong advocates are needed to help give voice and strength to those who are so often silenced or ignored. Her personal life and academic experiences have reinforced her beliefs in the importance of human rights and the potential of the law to protect and strengthen them. Read her posts.

Christoph Ivancic – British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, BC, Canada

Christoph IvancicChristoph is a third-year BCL/JD student at the McGill Faculty of Law. He holds a BA in Political Science from the Memorial University of Newfoundland where he wrote a thesis in critical feminist legal studies examining sexual assault law.

Christoph has had a number of experiences at various intersections of human rights and law. Early in his undergraduate degree, he worked for the Victim/Witness assistance program at the courthouse in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where he got an appreciation for the impacts of the criminal justice system on Canada’s indigenous peoples. Later in his degree, he was an investigator for the Newfoundland Human Rights Commission. These experiences gave him an appreciation for human rights as both a practical and theoretical project.

Currently, Christoph is interested in projects that allow him to engage with both sides of human rights, working on policy projects with Dyslexia Canada and volunteering at the McGill Legal Information Clinic. He is also a lover of oral advocacy and hopes to be mooting in the coming year. Christoph is excited to learn more about human rights issues at the forefront of Canadian society with the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association this summer. Read his posts.

Garima Karia – Yukon Human Rights Commission, Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada

Garima KariaGarima is a second-year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. She holds an Honours B.A. in political science and history from McGill and spent a semester on exchange at Sciences Po Paris. During her undergrad, Garima was lucky enough to gain work experience in venture capital and strategy at the Business Development Bank of Canada and in private equity and impact investing at a firm in London, England.

At the Faculty, Garima is a Senior Editor for the McGill Law Journal and Contours, an active member of the Women of Colour Collective, and a research assistant in tax and contracts. She is deeply interested in the relationship between private law, economic systems, and critical studies.  She believes that intersectional approaches are necessary for more equitable legislating and policymaking in traditionally quantitative and business-oriented fields.

Some of Garima’s most meaningful law school experiences took place during her time as a volunteer caseworker at the Legal Information Clinic at McGill and with L.E.X., an organization that provides legal workshops and mentorship sessions to youth belonging to under-represented groups in legal education and in the legal profession or who face systemic barriers to education. This work cemented her ongoing commitment to access to justice. She looks forward to learning more about and contributing to access to justice initiatives in Northern Canada this summer at the Yukon Human Rights Commission in Whitehorse. Read her posts.

Kendra Landry – Bulgarian Centre for Not-for-Profit Law (BCNL), Sofia, Bulgaria

Kendra LandryKendra is a second-year student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. She grew up in small-town Nova Scotia and completed a bachelor’s degree in English and French from Université de Moncton. Afterwards, she moved to Ottawa to complete a master’s degree in English literature from Carleton University, concentrating on feminist and queer studies.

At the Faculty, she served as both senior and specialized editor for the McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law, and as VP Events for Lawyers without Borders McGill. Additionally, she volunteered with the Legal Information Clinic at McGill, and completed a Pro Bono Students Canada placement with the National Self-Represented Litigants Project. She currently works as a research assistant in the field of health law and has thoroughly enjoyed acting as a group assistant for the first-year extra-contractual obligations course this year.

Kendra is passionate about intersectional feminism, disability rights, and access to justice. In her free time, she loves swimming, biking, and playing the guitar. She is thrilled to undertake a remote internship with the Bulgarian Centre for Non-for-Profit Law, and to engage meaningfully with disability law and policy. Read her posts.

Bryce Lansdell – Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Center, Saskatchewan, Canada

Bryce LansdellBryce is a first year BCL/JD student at McGill’s faculty of law. He holds a Bachelor of Music, honours piano performance from Western University and a Master of Music in piano performance from McGill. During his undergraduate degree, Bryce helped organise an improvised music program for adults who were marginalized and housing-insecure with Sanctuary London. He also helped found the Youth Music Network, a free after school music program in Little Burgundy, during his Master’s while working with McGill’s Institute for the Public Life of the Arts and Ideas (IPLAI). Prior to law school, Bryce worked as a music director and collaborative pianist. He is passionate about the intersection of law, human rights, and community development, and is excited to intern with the Indigenous Law Centre this summer. Read his posts.

Niamh Leonard – Citizen Lab, Munk School, U. of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Niamh LeonardNiamh is a second-year law student at McGill University and has a particular interest in democracy and governance.

As president of the board of directors of the national nonprofit Apathy is Boring, she helps support young Canadians in becoming active citizens. In the 2019 federal election, Apathy is Boring reached over 1.4 million young Canadians. Niamh is also a board member at the Welcome Collective and at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics.

Prior to law school, Niamh worked at the McConnell Foundation, a philanthropic foundation that applies social innovation and social finance approaches to Canada’s most pressing challenges, including the equitable transition to a low-carbon economy and the quest for justice for Indigenous peoples.

Given her long-standing interest in democracy, Niamh is delighted to join the team at the Citizen Lab, where she will conduct research on legislative and policy responses to transnational digital repression. She knows nothing about cyber surveillance, but can’t wait to learn! Read her posts.

Attou Mamat – Commission des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse, Montréal, Québec, Canada

Attou MamatAttou is a third-year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. She is also pursuing a minor in Gender, Sexuality, Feminist and Social Justice Studies.

Avant ses études en droit, Attou a complété un DEC en Sciences de la nature au Cégep de l’Outaouais, à Gatineau, sur le territoire non-cédé de la nation algonquine anishinaabe. À McGill, elle s’implique notamment auprès de l’Association des étudiant(e)s noir(e)s en droit depuis 2018 et du journal Contours depuis 2019. Cette année, elle a contribué à la révision du mandat du journal pour adopter une approche intersectionnelle tenant compte de la diversité de genre. En sa capacité de présidente du comité de baladodiffusion, elle a travaillé sur le nouveau balado Outspoken! / Franc-parler!, qui explore le thème de la justice de genre sous cette approche.

Attou is deeply interested in justice both within and beyond institutional mechanisms. Her research interests include critical race theory, decolonial theory, feminist theory, police and prison abolition, and transformative justice. In 2018-2019, she volunteered for Pro Bono Students Canada at the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations and worked on numerous cases related to police interactions and racial profiling. She is looking forward to continuing to learn about human rights law during her internship at the Quebec Human Rights Commission this summer. Read her posts.

Kazumi Moore – Canadian Human Rights Commission, Office of the Housing Advocate, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Kazumi MooreKazumi Moore is a second-year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in International Management and International Relations from McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management. Kazumi works part-time for the Policy and Economic Research Council (PERC) as an economic policy researcher, as well as at the Faculty as a research assistant for Professor Christians.

Outside of academics, Kazumi is a senior editor for the McGill Journal of Dispute Resolution and a caseworker for the Legal Information Clinic at McGill. Her legal interests include international law, access to justice, and income inequality. She is looking forward to interning with the new Office of Federal Housing Advocate and gaining practical experience in the human rights field. Read her posts.

Basile Moreau – Haitian Bridge Alliance, USA

Basile MoreauBasile is a first-year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Tufts University in International Studies with a focus on economic development, as well as minors in History and Economics.

Prior to law school, Basile was a member of the Tisch Scholars program, a Tufts-based program connecting students to local organizations leading social justice campaigns. Through the program, Basile worked on reproductive justice with Ibis Reproductive Health and on humanitarian response to natural disaster with Oxfam America.

Basile is interested in better understanding the connections between development, migration and human rights. He is very excited to work on asylum rights this summer with Haitian Bridge Alliance and to learn more on how to combat the unfair and racists U.S. immigration system. Read his posts.

Kassandra Neranjan – Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Kassandra NeranjanKassandra Neranjan is a Gender Justice Researcher and Advocate entering her third year in the BCL/JD program at McGill University Faculty of Law. Kassandra completed her undergraduate degree in International Relations and Peace, Conflict and Justice Studies at Trinity College, University of Toronto. With passions at the nexus of intersectional feminism and global affairs, Kassandra’s research has brought her to examining different experiences of women globally across her academic career. This includes gendered aid provision for Rohingya refugee women and girls in Bangladesh; women’s experiences under security decentralization in Myanmar, women’s adaptive capacity and resilience under climate change; and long-term responses for access to justice in Rohingya refugee camps for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

As a gender justice advocate, Kassandra has spoken in various spaces addressing global affairs and feminist policymaking from the Toronto Women’s March to the United Nations General Assembly. As a law student, Kassandra is executive editor of Inter Gentes: McGill Journal of International Law and Legal Pluralism, Vice President of the Woman of Colour Collective, and Co-Founder of ‘Dictum’ – the school’s first student-run think tank. Read her posts.

Sarah Nixon – Maliiganik Tukisiiniakvik Legal Services – Iqualuit, Nunavut, Canada

Chloe RourkeSarah is a third year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. She holds a BA in Human Rights and Legal Studies from Carleton University. She grew up in Thunder Bay, on Robinson-Superior Treaty territory. Before deciding to come to law school, she worked as a server in fine dining, and as a legislative reporter for iPoliticsINTEL, where she primarily followed the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.

At McGill, Sarah works as a Senior Editor with the McGill Law Journal, and as the Co-Executive Editor of Rooted, a multimedia publication which explores and promotes Indigenous law and perspectives. Sarah has also worked in the Faculty of Law as a research assistant on topics in criminal and constitutional law, and as a volunteer with Pro Bono Students Canada, the Legal Information Clinic at McGill, and the Immigrant Workers Centre.

Sarah is very excited to learn and contribute to the important work of the Legal Services Board of Nunavut as a Summer Intern in 2021. Read her posts.

Mohammed Odusanya – Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, Montréal, Québec, Canada

Mohammed OdusanyaMohammed is a first-year student in the BCL/JD program at McGill University. He holds a Joint Honours degree in Art History and Gender, Sexuality, Feminist & Social Justice Studies from McGill.

During his undergraduate degree, he interned for Senator Kim Pate, conducting research on mass incarceration in the Canadian penal system. He was also the advocacy coordinator for the Black Students’ Network, during which time he co-organized the inaugural Black Grad.

This summer, he hopes to broaden his knowledge of the intersection between incarceration and social justice through his work at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. Read his posts.

Timothy Parr – Justice and Correctional Services of the Cree Nation, Waswinipi, Québec, Canada

Timothy ParrTim Parr graduated with distinction from Concordia University, with a Specialization in Film Studies (with a Minor in Law and Society) at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. He received the Sandra and Leo Kolber Scholarship for his achievements in the program. He pursued his graduate studies at Mel Hoppenheim where he received the Concordia and De Sève Graduate University fellowships. He also was awarded a Joseph-Armand Bombardier research grant through the Social Science and Human Research Council of Canada (SHRCC) for his thesis on the representation of the World Trade Centre (WTC) in film. After completing his thesis, Parr was admitted the Faculty of Law at McGill.

Parr contemplated studying law before studying film while he was a Liberal Arts student at Vanier College. His studies have been guided by an interdisciplinary approach. While he is interested in criminal law, human rights, and legal technology, he enjoys engaging critically with film, literature, and philosophy. He volunteered as a caseworker at the Legal Information Clinic at McGill and did legal research for the Center for Research Action on Race Relations through the Pro Bono Students of Canada.

For summer 2021, Parr will intern for the Justice and Correctional Services of the Cree Nation Government. Read his posts.

Nick Pineau – Canadian HIV-Aids Legal Network, Toronto, Ontario

Nick PineauNick is a second-year BCL/JD student at McGill University’s Faculty of Law. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Victoria, and he has worked in the technology and energy sectors of Canada.

At McGill Law, Nick currently serves as a senior editor for Inter Gentes, the McGill Journal of International Law and Legal Pluralism. He also acts as a caseworker with the Legal Information Clinic at McGill, helping deliver legal information to local community members and thereby seeking to increase access to justice. Nick also volunteers with L.E.X. “Law – Éducation – Connexion”, where he delivers law-related workshops to Montréal high school classes with other McGill law students to aid in democratizing legal instruction.

Nick is very excited to begin his work with the HIV Legal Network; and particularly to learn more about decriminalization efforts for HIV non-disclosure, drug use, and sex work. He is also looking forward to learning more about the intersection of law and policy, as well as advocacy efforts that stem from Canadian non-governmental organizations. Read his posts.

Hannah Reaburn – Ministry of Justice, Namibia

Hannah ReaburnHannah is a first-year JD/BCL student at McGill University’s Faculty of Law. She is a Junior Editor on the McGill Journal of Law and Health. She also volunteers with the Edmonton Community Legal Centre, which provides legal advice and information to low-income people in Alberta.

Prior to law school, Hannah completed a MA degree in Social Justice Education at the University of Toronto. Her SSHRC-funded thesis research focused on student engagement in the revision of sexual violence policies at universities in Ontario. During her BA degree at Ryerson University, Hannah worked at the Centre for Women and Trans People on campus where she did a variety of advocacy work pertaining to institutional responses to sexual violence.

Additionally, Hannah has worked as a Research Assistant at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, The 519 in Toronto, and at the Ontario Ministry of Child, Community and Social Services. These projects have included work on sexual violence, reproductive justice, LGBTQ rights, and trauma-informed mental health care.

Hannah is particularly interested in the accessibility of legal resources, health law, and feminist theory and practice. Read her posts.

Alex Recher – Institute for Human Rights (IHRDA), Banjul, The Gambia

Alex RecherAlex is a first-year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law originally from New York State, USA.

Previously, he completed a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in International Affairs and French at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, during which time he studied abroad in London, Paris and Senegal. He also interned at New York City Housing Court in the Bronx, NY and in the Political Office of the US Embassy in Kinshasa, DR Congo.

He is excited to increase his understanding of human rights on the international level, and is greatly looking forward to his internship with IHRDA. Read his posts.

Chloe Rourke – Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Chloe RourkeChloe is a second year BCL/JD student at the McGill Faculty of Law. Prior to law, she studied cognitive science and sociology at McGill.  After graduating Chloe moved to Ottawa to work in disability management and health systems improvement. She managed short-term disability benefit claims and accommodation requests for clients.

Chloe also completed an internship with the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement working to improve care for residents with dementia in long-term care homes in the Maritime provinces. Since returning to Montreal she has volunteered with Climate Justice Montreal, Les Fruits Défendus and completed a permaculture design course. Chloe is excited to be working with the Council for Canadians with Disabilities this summer. Read her posts.

Chrys Saget-Richard – Equitas, Montréal, Québec, Canada

Chrys Saget-RichardChrys is a 4L student at the McGill University Faculty of Law. Prior to their legal studies, they completed a Bachelor’s in Social Work at Ryerson University, while heavily involved in equity work and activism around issues of anti-Black racism, decolonization and anti-colonialism, Queer and Trans liberation struggles, mental health, disability and education.

They currently volunteer at the Peterborough Community Legal Centres Trans ID clinic and work as a legal research assistant with JusticeTrans, an organization dedicated to increasing access to justice for trans folks in Canada. Read their posts.

 

Emma Sitland – Human Rights Watch, NYC, New York, USA

Emma SitlandEmma is a second-year student in the BCL/JD program at McGill. Prior to her legal studies, she completed her undergraduate degree in International Development Studies and African Studies at McGill University. Emma’s interest in social justice and human rights led her to pursue experiences interning at the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice in Ghana and with Equitas Centre for International Human Rights Education here in Montreal.

At the Faculty of Law, Emma has been involved as an Executive Editor on the McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law and on the executive committee of Avocats sans frontières McGill. She also volunteers with the Legal Information Clinic at McGill and Pro Bono Students Canada. Emma is very excited to work with Human Rights Watch this summer promoting human rights and international justice, and hopes to pursue similar work upon completion of her legal studies. Read her posts.

Ellen Spannagel – Forum for Human Rights, Prague, Czech Republic

Ellen SpannagelEllen is a second year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism and Humanities from Carleton University.

She is passionate about work that is disability-inclusive and centers gender, sexual, and romantic minorities. She is also passionate about storytelling, and the ways in which knowledge is built, translated, and shared across regions and communities. Ellen grew up in Calgary, Alberta, and she enjoys spending her free time outdoors.

Ellen is thrilled to be doing her internship with Forum for Human Rights, an organization primarily based in Prague working in strategic litigation on human rights issues. Read her posts.

Jeremy Wiener – Commission des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse, Montréal, Québec, Canada

Jeremy WienerJeremy is a second-year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Queen’s University and studied at Sciences Po Paris.

Jeremy has worked at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, served on the editorial board of the McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law, and volunteered at a range of legal clinics including the Legal Information Clinic at McGill. He now helps to direct the Wallenberg Advocacy Group, a student club dedicated to defending political prisoners; volunteers at the Clinique juridique itinérante; interns at McGill’s Institute for Health and Social Policy; and works as a research assistant. Jeremy’s interests are underpinned by the pursuit of justice. Read his posts.

Taryn Wilkie – International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES), Colombo, Sri Lanka

Taryn WilkieTaryn is a second-year law student in the BCL/JD program at McGill. Prior to starting law school, she completed a dual degree Bachelor of Arts, Honours in Political Science with a minor in International Relations (UBC) and a Bachelor of Arts from Sciences Po, Euro-American campus de Reims, France.

At McGill, TarYn works with the International Refugee Assistance Project, researching and writing blog posts on Canadian immigration and refugee law. She also volunteers with Solidarity across Borders, working on humanitarian and compassionate grounds claims.

Her legal interests combine human rights, immigration and refugee law, and using the law to combat gender discrimination. Read her posts.

Mathew Yaworski – Yukon Human Rights Commission, Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada

Mathew YaworskiMathew Yaworski is a mature student and second year BCL/JD student.  He holds Honours Bachelor of Arts (York), Master of Public Administration (Dalhousie), and Master of Industrial Relations (Queen’s) degrees.

A lifelong stutterer, Mathew is a proud member of the Canadian Stuttering Association and McGill Law Club for Persons with Disabilities. He is passionate about disability rights, employment equity, and workplace and social justice. He served as the Student Accessibility Commissioner for the Dalhousie University Student Union. He was also a member of the Policy Pro Bono Program at Queen’s University, where he worked as an advisor to Outreach St. George’s Kingston, a non-profit secular organization assisting vulnerable persons.

Since arriving at McGill, Mathew volunteered with Lawyers without Borders. This year, he worked as a Junior Student Advocate with the Legal Information Clinic at McGill and was President of the McGill Labour & Employment Law Club. He continues to serve as a Student Ambassador for the Faculty of Law.

Prior to attending McGill, Mathew worked as a policy advisor and in human resources (labour relations), in the private and public sectors. He previously worked for General Motors of Canada, the Province of Ontario, the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Government of Canada, the University of Calgary, and the City of Toronto. Read his posts.


The 2020 Interns

The 2020 International Human Rights Internships Cohort, along with the program coordinators at an orientation session in February.

The 2020 International Human Rights Internships Cohort, along with the program coordinators at an orientation session in February. Photo by Lysanne Larose.

Summer 2020: because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of our summer 2020 interns worked remotely, some did an internship with a local NGO instead, and others deferred until next year.

Nilani Ananthamoorthy – Yukon Human Rights Commission – Whitehorse, Yukon (remote internship)

Nilani AnanthamoorthyNilani is a second-year BCL/JD student at the McGill Faculty of Law. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences from McMaster University and a Master’s of Sciences degree in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences from the University of Ottawa.

Prior to attending law school, Nilani was a research assistant at the Perry Lab at York University, where she assisted on a project exploring the experiences of parents raising children with development disabilities. At the University of Ottawa, Nilani was a member of the EnRiCH lab, where she was involved with community-based projects focusing on health, resilience and disability.

Nilani is particularly interested in the intersection of health law and human rights. Currently, she is a Senior Editor for the McGill Journal of Law and Health and a research associate with the Canada Research Chair in Human Rights and Transnational Environmental Governance at McGill University. She is looking forward to learning more about the implementation of human rights and anti-discrimination law at the Yukon Human Rights Commission this summer. Read her posts.

Amanda Bowie-Edwards – Avocats Sans Frontières – Ville de Québec, Québec (remote internship)

Amanda Bowie-Edwards Amanda is a second year BCL/JD student at the McGill Faculty of Law. Originally from Thunder Bay, Ontario, she moved to Montreal during high school. Prior to studying law, she obtained a DEC from John Abbott College in Liberal Arts.

Outside of the classroom, Amanda serves as VP Clubs and Services on the Law Students’ Association. She also volunteers at the Legal Information Clinic and is an associate managing editor for the McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law. This past summer, she interned at West Island Community Shares, where she worked on projects aimed at supporting local NGOs. This work led to an interest in community-based approaches to human rights issues. She is also interested in the intersection between human rights, environmental justice, and intergenerational equity. Amanda is excited and very grateful to have the chance to broaden her understanding of human rights law this summer – and to improve her French!

Shadaye Cousins – Canadian HIV-Aids Legal Network, Toronto, Ontario (remote internship)

Shadaye CousinsShadaye is a second year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. She holds a BA in Sociology with a minor in Education from McGill University and a MA in Criminology from the University of Toronto. Through her studies, she has been able to build upon and further explore her interdisciplinary interests in law, sociology and criminology. This interest has led her to pursue diverse experiences in the public sector while engaging in various community-oriented initiatives.

As a contributor to “Open Dialogue with the Surviving Families of Homicide Symposium”, a joint initiative between the Ontario Provincial Police and the University of Toronto, she contributed to policy recommendations that offered law enforcement different perspectives on criminal investigations that include the need for victim-focused training to support and respond to crime victims effectively.

Gemma Dingwall – Justice and Correctional Services of the Cree Nation Government, Waswanipi, Québec (télé-stage)

Gemma DingwallGemma est en deuxième année de droit à McGill. Avant son entrée à McGill, elle a habité à Ottawa pendant cinq années où elle a fait son Baccalauréat en français à l’université Carleton et travaillé pour le gouvernement fédéral. Elle est passionnée des droits humains dans le système de justice, notamment, l’application du droit dans les communautés rurales et isolées.

Gemma currently volunteers with Action Réfugées completing detention review reports and is developing legal workshops for Maison Plein Coeur through McGill Pro Bono program. Gemma is also a recreation representative for McGill’s Nordic Ski team.

Gemma is currently a McGill Global Health Scholar. This program provided her with the opportunity to conduct a research project in Eeyou Istchee on cyberbullying. She is looking forward to returning to the region to work with the Cree Nation’s Department of Justice and Correctional Services. Read her posts.

Amina Djouaher – Aswat Nissa (Voix des femmes), Tunisie (télé-stage)

Amina DjouaherAmina termine sa deuxième année en droit à McGill. Avant cela, elle a étudié au Cégep de Saint-Laurent dans le programme de double DEC en Danse et en Sciences naturelles. Le côté créatif de cette expérience lui a ouvert l’esprit à la découverte des sciences humaines et plus particulièrement du droit.

Elle s’implique à McGill dans différents clubs et journaux étudiants dont Contours et Animal Advocacy Club / Défense animale où elle fut impliquée dans la création du club. Elle a aussi été bénévole pour la clinique d’information juridique de McGill et a commencée à s’impliquer avec Élèves Pro-Bono au CRARR.

Pour l’instant, elle s’intéresse à de multiples facettes du droit allant du droit constitutionnel à la propriété intellectuelle. Elle a très hâte de commencer son stage auprès de l’organisation Aswat Nissa et de pouvoir se replonger dans ses racines maghrébines. NOTA BENE: suite à la pandémie de la COVID-19, Amina effectuera plutôt son stage avec le CRARR à Montréal. 

Maya Gunnarsson – Justice Department, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, Ontario/Quebec/NY border (remote internship)

Maya GunnarssonMaya is a second-year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. She holds a BA in Political Science from McGill and an M.A. in Canadian & Indigenous Studies from Trent University. Her master’s thesis looked at the role of the media in the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, with a particular focus on the attacks on Tina Fontaine and Rinelle Harper in 2014.

Prior to coming to law school, Maya worked as a researcher for the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, and completed an internship at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Section in Geneva, Switzerland.

Since coming to law school, Maya has volunteered for Pro Bono Students Canada at the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, as well as with LEX, a high school outreach program. She is also the Executive Online Editor for the McGill Journal of Law and Health.

Maya is excited to for her placement in Akwesasne with the Mohawk Justice Department. She is looking forward to learning more about Indigenous law-making and self-determination, while being immersed in Mohawk culture.  Read her posts.

Alice Jeon – Law Reform and Development Commission, Windhoek, Namibia (remote internship)

Alice JeonI am a first-year student at McGill and excited to be part of the International Human Rights Internships Program for the upcoming year! To say a little more about myself: I grew up in Richmond Hill, north of Toronto. I then spent my undergraduate years at Harvard studying social studies and getting a citation in French.

I was lucky to receive a fellowship from Harvard that allowed me to pursue a master’s in Sciences Po in Paris for two years, during which I studied International affairs with a concentration in human rights.

At McGill, I am currently involved in the legal clinic, working as an intake officer. I am also a junior editor of Inter Gentes, the Journal for International Law and Legal Pluralism. Read her posts.

Nevada McEniry-Hatajlo – Bulgarian Centre for Not-for-Profit Law (BCNL), Sofia, Bulgaria

Nevada McEniry-HatajloNevada is a third year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. She grew up in Montreal and completed her bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies at Concordia University. She also completed a Women’s Studies certificate at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia. While working at Concordia, she worked at the CSU’s Legal Information Clinic, as well as at the CSU’s Advocacy Centre. These experiences helped guide her to apply to law school.

Nevada has really appreciated the more practical experiences she’s had in law school. Over the summer of 2019, she began shadowing the director of Innocence McGill, and is now a co-director for the 2019-2020 school year. This experience has solidified her interest in criminal law, but it has also taught her countless other things. In addition, she’s was a previous volunteer at a local sex-workers organization called Stella, in which she participated in an ongoing legal research project in documenting sex-work cases throughout Canada. Throughout her studies, she was also getting to know McGill better by working at McGill’s Office for Students with Disabilities.

Nevada is really passionate about intersectional feminism, as well as discussing issues of oppression. She thrives on being able to help people and make meaningful connections. She will be interning over the summer at the Bulgarian Centre for Not-For-Profit Law and is very excited to get to know the capital city of Sofia. Read her posts.

Mehlka Mustansir – Ateneo Human Rights Centre, Manila, the Philippines (remote internship)

Mehlka MustansirMehlka is a first year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. She grew up in India and Kuwait, and holds a Joint BA in History and Political Science and an MA in Political Science from McGill University. During her graduate degree, she spent one year on exchange at Sciences Po, Paris specializing in security studies and economic policy.

At the Faculty, she is volunteering with the Food and Agriculture Law Clinic (Pro Bono Students Canada) and serving as a junior editor on the McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law. Passionate about issues of sustainability and governance, she hopes to expand her toolkit by practicing both research and litigation during her summer internship. She is particularly looking forward to working on diverse projects related to the rights of migrant workers, indigenous peoples and children as well as corporate social responsibility at the Ateneo Human Rights Center in Manila, Philippines.

Jasmine Razavi – Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, Montréal, Québec (télé-stage)

Jasmine RazaviJasmine est une étudiante de deuxième année du programme BCL/JD de la Faculté de droit de l’Université McGill.

Tout en travaillant à temps partiel dans un cabinet-boutique en droit des affaires à Montréal, Jasmine explore sa passion pour la politique, le droit international et le droit criminel en s’impliquant un éventail varié activités. Elle est notamment chroniqueuse en droit criminel au Comité Recherche et Législation du Jeun Barreau de Montréal, coach de l’équipe NMUN du Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf et impliquée au sein d’Avocats Sans Frontières McGill pour la deuxième année. Elle a aussi participé au programme Women in House McGill durant sa première année et a eu la chance de suivre une sénatrice au Parlement du Canada.

Jasmine aura l’opportunité de poursuivre son intérêt pour le droit public en étant la première étudiante de McGill à la Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse. Read her posts.

Hanna Rioseco – Centre for Law & Democracy, Halifax, Nova Scotia (remote internship)

Hanna Rioseco Hanna Rioseco is a first-year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. She volunteers with the McGill Corporate Accountability Project and is a layout editor for Quid Novi, the Faculty’s student newspaper. Hanna also holds a Bachelors of Science in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University, where she focused her studies on visual culture, political persuasion, media as dissidence, and transnational media flows.

Prior to her legal studies, Hanna worked at PBS’ flagship station, WNET. She oversaw the digital presence of both local and national on-air programs, many of which she grew up watching herself. She was also involved in the development of digital-first initiatives, including Uncovering NYC, a web series about the legacy of New York’s first free Black communities, and First Person, a digital series about LGBTQ+ identity.

Hanna is interested in exploring the role of media in promoting democracy and its influence on culture and society. As the digital age continues to advance in unpredictable ways, Hanna is excited to learn how the law can ensure that all forms of media, both old and new, uphold democratic values and promote equality and access to justice. She is excited to combine and utilize her passion for human rights and expertise in digital culture this summer at the Centre for Law and Democracy in Halifax. Read her posts.

Kayla Maria Rolland – Disability and Climate Justice Working Group, Montreal, Quebec (remote internship)

Kayla Maria RollandKayla Maria Rolland is a second year BCL/JD student. Prior to law school, she completed a BAH in Political Studies from Queen’s University, where she was a staff writer and assistant editor of the Queen’s International Affairs Association’s publication The Observer and sat on the executive of Queen’s Amnesty International.

Here at McGill, Kayla is a senior editor of the Inter Gentes Journal of International Law and Legal Pluralism, VP-Finance of the McGill International Law Society, and a staff writer with the McGill International Review. In addition to her studies and extracurricular involvement, she also continues to work part-time with her summer employer.

Kayla is thrilled about the opportunity to join the One Earth Future Foundation this summer, and is much appreciative of the support of the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. NOTA BENE: because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kayla Maria did a remote internship with the Disability and Climate Justice Working Group, instead of with the originally planned internship partner). Read her posts.

Sandrine Royer – Instituto de Democracia y Derechos Humanos, Lima, Peru (remote internship)

Sandrine RoyerSandrine is in her first year as a BCL/JD student in McGill’s Faculty of Law. She holds an Honours BA in international development from McGill University.

In the past, she has been an intern for Cyclo Nord-Sud, an NGO promoting sustainable mobility through increasing accessibility to bicycles. She also completed an Environmental Impact Assessment report during an internship with the Smithsonian Institute in Panama. She also did social work and taught piano and voice lessons in Sherbrooke, her hometown.

At the Faculty, Sandrine organizes events for the Indigenous Law Association de Droit Autochtone (ILADA) and volunteers for the Yukon Human Rights Commission through Pro Bono Students Canada.

Sandrine’s research and academic interests lie in the intersection between environment, indigenous legal traditions, refugees, and human rights. Read her posts.

Andrea Salguero – Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, Montreal, Quebec (remote internship)

Andrea SalgueroAndrea is a third year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. She holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Political Science and a minor in Philosophy from McGill University. Andrea is interested in the intersection between human rights, immigration and labour law.

At the Faculty, Andrea is a senior editor for the McGill Law Journal and enjoys writing for the student paper. In her first year of law school she volunteered with ProBono Students Canada at the PINAY Filipino Women’s Organization in Quebec. In her third year, Andrea volunteered with an immigration advocacy non-profit organization based in El Paso, Texas.

This summer, Andrea is very much looking forward to working with colleagues from across South America and learning about the promotion of international justice through the work of the Inter-American Court for Human Rights in San José, Costa Rica. NOTA BENE: because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Andrea did a remote internship with Montreal’s Wallenberg Centre instead of with her originally planned NGO). Read her posts.

Marie-Denise Vane – Maliiganik Tukisiiniakvik Legal Services, Iqualuit, Nunavut (télé-stage)

Marie-Denise VaneMarie-Denise est étudiante de deuxième année à la Faculté de droit de l’Université McGill et a précédemment obtenu son diplôme d’études collégiales au Collège André-Grasset. Native de Montréal et Afro-Québécoise, elle est intéressée par l’enjeu de l’autodétermination politique et socio-économique des pays africains. Elle travaille présentement pour le Centre sur les droits de la personne et le pluralisme juridique de McGill au niveau de l’organisation de Dialogues sur la Paix qui réuniront des dirigeants de l’Afrique de l’Ouest en mars 2020.

Passionnée par le litige, plus particulièrement le droit criminel et familial, elle a très hâte d’entreprendre son stage aux services d’aide juridique Maliiganik Tukisiinakvik à Iqaluit, au Nunavut, afin de pouvoir développer plus encore son intérêt pour les droits de la personne.

Marie-Denise est aussi impliquée bénévolement auprès de diverses organisations œuvrant dans différentes sphères de la société, allant notamment de l’appui aux personnes en situation d’itinérance avec la Clinique Juridique itinérante à la promotion du féminisme au sein du milieu juridique en tant que co-coordonatrice de Law Needs Feminism Because – McGill Chapter. Read her posts.

Sara Wright – Yukon Human Rights Commission, Whitehorse, Yukon (remote internship)

Sara Wright Sara Wright is a first-year BCL/JD student at McGill’s Faculty of Law. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and French from Columbia University. During her time at Columbia, Sara interned with the Legal Aid Society where she assisted undocumented youths obtain legal status to remain in the United States. Prior to attending law school, she spent two years as a litigation paralegal in New York City.

At McGill, Sara is an associate editor for the McGill Journal of Dispute Resolution and an active member of the McGill Muslim Law Students’ Association. Her legal interests encompass human rights, alternative sources of dispute resolution and access to justice. She is looking forward to interning with the Yukon Human Rights Commission and gaining practical experience with the legal implementation of human rights. Read her posts.

 

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.