« Older Entries | Newer Entries »

Black Economic Empowerment

By Bianca Braganza

Forging a future for Namibia, where ownership reflects the demographic of the country.

Like many days, I am the last to find out not only what I am to do for the day, but more pressingly, where I am to do it. It’s one of my favourite parts of the job- the excitement and unpredictability each day will bring.

We had barely arrived at the Commission’s office, when we received frantic calls that I was to go immediately to the State House, to accompany the Chairperson and the lawyers working on the National Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF). Scattered, I grabbed all the files I could, put on my nice spare shoes I keep at the office and ran out. As we raced through congested streets, I ran over the key points, strengths and weaknesses of the national economic strategy that I had amassed during my research and writing thus far.

Yet I couldn’t help but draw a blank when the massive golden gates of the President’s headquarters opened… the beauty and magnificence of the expansive white building, the golden Oryx, bright green foliage and marble encasing the main State House itself was simply breath taking.

But back to business (literally). I have spent much of my internship researching and writing reports and strategic plans on the core theoretical structure and implementation of financial instruments, for the equitable economic framework in Namibia. This required conducting cross-jurisdictional analyses predominantly with South Africa, but also with Malaysian and Canadian economic strategies that sought to incorporate and address racial disparities in accessibility and ownership within domestic markets.

The principle at the core of Namibia’s NEEEF policy is black economic empowerment. Inspiration was drawn from the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), which is a form of affirmative action crafted by the South African government, to address and change the economic landscape of racial inequalities of Apartheid, and increase economic participation of Black people in the South African economy. Interestingly, “black” as legally defined by the South African legislation encompasses African, Coloured, and Indian persons who are citizens of the country. Turning to the Namibian context, the purpose of legislation, reports and strategies based on NEEEF is to forge a future for Namibia where ownership reflects the demographic of the country. Much of this includes learning from the South African implementation of BEE and why the country struggled in practice to achieve the outcome of racial economic transformation that they originally had envisioned.

Namibia is only 29 years old, gaining independence from South Africa in 1990. The constitution of Namibia was created not by an act of Parliament, but rather as a negotiated settlement- a peace treaty, essentially- to secure independence. In effect, it solidified the ways in which the country’s economic landscape would be shaped and the way it would remain present day. Importantly, property as it was during Apartheid remained unaltered. Furthermore, constitutional provisions (for example, property under Article 16(1)) were created during this peace negotiation that protected property owners as they stood under Apartheid.

“Writing the Constitution” – Picture taken during my visit to the Independence Museum of Namibia.

If you grocery shop, or buy commodities, you will see that the previously disadvantaged majority (hereafter PDM; as defined under NEEEF means “victims of Apartheid policies”) occupies the lower level positions: sales representatives, cleaners, and public facing staff. However, ownership and controllership of those very firms, the upper management levels, are mostly held by the previously advantaged minority (PAM) Namibian population. In Namibia, there are a few owners of larger enterprises that own a monopoly on the major chains in Namibia- Pick and Pay (groceries), Pupkewitz (cars) and Shoprite (merchandise) for example.

The main challenge now remains, 29 years after independence, how do we shift the economic landscape to be more reflective of the actual demographic composition of the people of Namibia? Perhaps more importantly, how do we have more PDMs owning and controlling the economy and do so legally, in accordance with the constitution as it currently stands, unamended since Independence.

The basis upon which NEEEF operates is within government procurement. Corporations that do business with the government that meet certain compliance standards and statistical thresholds within employment and ownership of previously disadvantaged majority persons, are favoured. There are five pillars under which enterprises will be evaluated for procurement with government: Ownership, Management Control and Employment Equity, Human Resources and Skills Development, Entrepreneurship Development and Community Investment. A scoring system is enacted whereby, for example under the Ownership Pillar, “a business will score a minimum of 10 points if it is 25% owned by previously disadvantaged Namibians. For every additional 7.5% owned by previously disadvantaged Namibians, a business will score 1 additional point up to a maximum of 100% giving a total of 20 points“. Long term, the goal is for PDMs to not only own shares in companies, but to own enterprises themselves.

Much of a Nation’s independence is not simply political, but economic emancipation from external international access and controllership of the economy. In the Namibian context, if you drink water, eat chocolate or even moisturize with lotion, turn the product and you will invariably see “Product of South Africa”.  Despite Apartheid being over, South Africa dominates the Namibian economy through the reliance on their exports for goods in the country. In light of this, NEEEF also holds the potential to reduce import reliance and create a foundation for domestically producing commodities here in Namibia, and even long term to create an export economy for the country.

The NEEEF is a revolutionary attempt to achieve economic prosperity for the country by economically empowering and providing tools and financial instruments to those persons that were socially, educationally, and economically disadvantaged as a result of Apartheid. It provides the basis for a new vision of the country, based on social economic transformation to enhance equity, accessibility and ownership of the previously disadvantaged majority population.

After a most exciting day discussing economic empowerment in the country.

Day 2 of economic empowerment strategizing, back at the LRDC Office.

Fostering links with the general public: a role for civil society

By: Samantha Backman

On a soft August evening, I gathered with my coworkers from BCNL to attend the launch of an art exhibition in the Crystal Garden, a lush green oasis in the heart of Sofia. The sun’s rays permeated the cover of the park’s majestic trees to illuminate an array of boards depicting striking photographs, vibrant illustrations, and thought-provoking texts. This was an exhibit with a particularly special mandate – to portray “socially-engaged” art.

With funding from the Sofia Municipality and in partnership with the Center for Non-Formal Education and Cultural Activity (ALOS), BCNL organized a contest through which young people were to engage with the topic of civil rights and freedoms via photography, visual arts, and writing. The competition had a particular focus on freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and freedom of speech. The goal of this “Civil Alarm Clock” initiative was to develop the participants’ sense of civic culture and to stimulate their interest in human rights.

The award-winning works on display in the Crystal Garden evidenced a profound personal connection to a variety of themes, from environmental protection to “fake news.” In casting my eyes over the pieces, I was moved by the palpable commitment of these young artists to the defence of civil rights. They had mobilized art as a vessel to express their passion, their outrage, their determination.

This unique initiative has prompted me to reflect upon the importance of public outreach for civil society organizations. I am fascinated by BCNL’s mandate to foster connections with the general public in order to promote civil society and human rights on a societal level. Including everyday people in a dialogue about human rights seems perfectly in line with the grassroots, bottom-up orientation of civil society organizations. Moreover, I would like to believe that these kinds of efforts cultivate active citizenship and a sense of “community.” The exercise of thinking about what it means to have rights and what it is at stake when rights are trampled upon or lost undoubtedly makes us more sensitized to the world around us, with all of its injustice. If we can get people to “care” about human rights, then do we not have a greater chance of creating a more just and equal world? If people are awakened to the host of human rights issues around them, perhaps we can stem the tide of apathy towards the infringement of rights.

As I conduct my research on disability rights during my internship, I have come to see that there is a critical need for public outreach in this field. I have come to understand that securing legal reforms in the area of legal capacity and supported decision-making is only the first step towards ensuring that persons with disabilities enjoy the right to equality before the law in practice. Next, a broader cultural shift is required in terms of the ways in which persons with disabilities are viewed by their communities. Indeed, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has called upon states to raise awareness about the abilities and rights of persons with disabilities, and to dismantle stereotypes and negative attitudes towards persons with disabilities.[1] The Special Rapporteur affirms that “persons with disabilities must not be seen as objects of care, but rather as rights holders in the same way as every member of society.”[2]

How exactly are states to engage with the public to raise awareness about disability rights and combat prejudice against persons with disabilities? This is certainly not a straightforward question. Nevertheless, civil society organizations may provide crucial assistance in carrying out public outreach initiatives, as they can lead sensitization efforts on a local scale. Firmly embedded in their communities, civil society organizations like BCNL are singularly well-positioned to broadly spread awareness of social issues and to build bridges between people and groups so that we may ultimately peel back stereotypes and secure equal rights on the ground.

[1] Catalina Devandas Aguilar, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities (theme: legal capacity reform and supported decision making)” (12 December 2017), online: < https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Disability/A.HRC.37.56.docx>  at para 79.

[2] Ibid.


The “Civil Alarm Clock” art exhibition in the Crystal Garden


Photo Credit: BCNL. Attendees at the exhibition enjoy a live violin performance.


Photo Credit: BCNL. Attendees at the exhibition hear from one of the contest’s prizewinners.


A photo from my hike in the magnificent Seven Rila Lakes


Tsarevets Fortress in the city of Veliko Tarnovo

Les gens et les expériences

Par Riley Klassen-Molyneaux

One Earth Future, Colorado, États-Unis

13 août 2019

Hier, près du somment de la plus grande montagne des Rocheuses, Mount Elbert, un ami a posé une question à moi et à une deuxième amie qui complétait notre équipe tripartite. Il nous a demandé ce qui comptait le plus : l’activité, l’endroit, ou les gens qui nous entourait. L’amie a répondu de la manière qu’on répondrait tous du premier abord : c’est la combinaison des trois, de l’activité, de l’endroit, et des gens qui nous entourent, qui donne la meilleure expérience.

Mais notre interrogateur n’était pas satisfait. Nous étions tous d’accord pour dire que participer à une activité incroyable est mieux quand on arrive à la partager avec quelqu’un, durant ou après, mais il nous incitait à choisir un des trois pris en isolation : l’activité, l’endroit, ou les gens.

Introverti qu’il est, l’ami a répondu à sa propre question en disant qu’il préfère largement une activité stimulante qu’un bel endroit ou un groupe de gens avec qui il pourrait causer. Notre amie a décidé que s’il fallait choisir, elle choisirait aussi l’activité au prix de l’endroit et des gens.

Bien sûr, j’ai fait un tas d’explorations moi-même au Colorado, y compris le Denver Zoo, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, certains restaurants délectables comme Mezcal ou Machete Tequila + Tacos, et plusieurs randonnés qui permettaient des réflexions intéressantes. Je n’ai pas pu faire plusieurs activités aussi, comme le Colorado State Capitol, le Boulder History Museum, et St. Mary’s Glacier.

Mais ma réponse à sa question était que les gens me paraissaient le plus important, bien que l’activité et l’endroit comptent aussi.

Au cours de mon séjour avec One Earth Future (OEF) au Colorado, ce sont les gens qui m’ont marqué le plus. Cette expérience était incroyable grâce à ceux et celles que j’ai rencontrés, mais je les ai rencontrés grâce à l’endroit et nous avons créé nos amitiés au cours des activités inoubliables.

Tout au long de mon stage, j’ai pu m’entrainer avec un des meilleurs pratiquants de jiu-jitsu brésilien aux États-Unis, John Combs. De cette manière j’ai rencontré des Américains venant de chaque coin du pays. Le gymnase m’a offert des amitiés que seule la méritocratie du sport le peut.

De compagnie avec une douzaine d’athlètes de mon gymnase, j’ai eu l’expérience culturelle d’assister au 21e anniversaire d’un des nôtres et de rire en imitant l’accent russe, les uns les autres, et de profiter de la causerie fraternelle. Je crois bien qu’il y avait aussi de la boisson mêlée à cette affaire.

L’autre stagiaire, Derek, son amie, et moi sommes allés voir Canyonlands et Arches National Parks, entre autres, au Utah.Là-bas on a vu combien le ciel est bleu perché sur le rouge des pierres du désert. On y était aussi pour discuter du Sud des États-Unis et pour rire tout le long du trajet.

J’ai pu faire la fête à Denver avec un groupe de jeunes avocates et étudiantes en droit. Autour des tequilas, j’ai pu retracer mes capacités de danse two-step au fameux Grizzly Rose et leur dévoiler que le Canada était plus de quelques arpents de neige.

Au travail, j’ai appris à connaitre mes collègues, devenus amis. J’ai aussi appris que sauver le monde, un conflit à la fois, un pays à la fois, n’impliquait pas la morosité conversationnelle que je trouve chez beaucoup de bienfaiteurs dans le monde.

Dans deux affaires qui impliquaient aussi des breuvages alcoolisés, avec des collègues de OEF j’ai assisté à un match de soccer et un match de baseball. Il y avait là des expériences culturelles américaines où j’ai profité de leur compagnie sous prétexte du sport. Ces évènements, en plus des happy hour multiples auxquelles j’ai assistées, m’ont permis de connaitre mes collègues sur le plan personnel et m’ont fait partie de leurs opinons honnêtes sur OEF dans une ambiance décontractée.

Pour une course de relais sur trois cent miles qui montait du Wyoming jusqu’à Steamboat Springs, Derek et moi avions le supplice et le privilège de nous entrainer à côté d’une coureuse olympique prospective et dix autres personnes motivées. Ensemble, à travers des montagnes, nous avons couru l’un après l’autre pour plus de trente heures sans arrêt et sans beaucoup dormir. Le résultat était un placement compétitif –– même si on ne l’était pas –– et des amitiés forgées dans la sueur et des éclats de rire sans fin.

Avec ma copine, qui est venue me visiter, j’ai pu monter plusieurs montagnes au Rocky Mountain National Park, au Eldorado State Park, et au Chautauqua Park qui se situe dans la ville même de Boulder. Au cours de nos explorations, on a appris sur l’histoire de Boulder et on a vu le paysage qui entoure cette ville exquise.

En écrivant ces lignes, le centre-ville de Calgary s’approche et mon avion descend vers la mère patrie. Une chose est sure : je reviens à ma ville natale avec des souvenirs qui vont durer aussi longtemps que ma mémoire.

Law and Justice: Friends or Foes?

A very cloudy sunrise at Angkor Wat

By Adelise Lalande

As I prepare for my 32 hour-long journey home to Canada, I look back on my third week of work at LICADHO, when I sat in on interviews with incarcerated teenage girls in a prison outside Phnom Penh. While I was the designated note-taker for these interview sessions, I am sure I was brought along not because of my mediocre calligraphy skills, but rather because my manager thought it would be a great learning experience. 

Over the course of two hours, I jotted down the stories of fifteen- and seventeen-year-old girls who were facing up to twenty years in prison for nonviolent, drug-related offences. Prison conditions in Cambodia are horrendous. Because bail provisions aren’t being applied properly by the courts and because of the government’s “war on drugs” since 2017, overcrowding is a serious issue. Some inmates share a single cell with upwards of a hundred inmates. A bed is considered to be a luxury item which few have access to. Showers are similarly rare. With daily temperatures outside averaging about 35 degrees celsius, I can only imagine how suffocating prison cells must get. 

Trying (and failing) to master the art of crossing streets in Phnom Penh

The legal system in Cambodia fails not only defendants but also victims. In a country where 35% of the population still lives in poverty, many are unable to pay the bribes demanded by authorities in exchange for pursuing cases. Others lack the resources required to make frequent trips to court. The justice system is effectively inaccessible to those without money. 

For example, I was particularly shocked to learn that the cost of a rape kit in the country—which courts require in order to prosecute—is over US$40. Subsidised kits are available but the process for obtaining one is long and complex. For these reasons, victims of human rights abuses are often compelled to accept out-of-court cash settlements in lieu of pursuing charges. Their abusers thus get to walk free. 

In prisons, NGOs are greatly relied upon to deliver basic necessities, such as food, medicine, menstrual hygiene products, vocational training and recreational/cultural activities. As is the case in the justice system, prisons are worse for those without means. LICADHO reported in 2015 that basic commodities and individual rights come at a price behind bars. Due to widespread corruption in the system, bribes are demanded from inmates in exchange for anything from extra food and showers to opportunities for paid work and library access. LICADHO has even received reports of inmates having to pay bribes to receive medical care. 

Wat Phnom

Those behind bars are generally poor, and thus the strictest parts of the Cambodian criminal system  apply to them. This is not often the case for individuals with access to money. The same week of my prison visit, for example, a young woman who killed a young student in a hit-and-run while recklessly driving her Range Rover was released from prison after just two months in detention.  She was from a wealthy, well-connected family.

Cambodia’s legal system is skewed toward the country’s authoritarian leaders as heavily as it is toward its wealthy constituents. As any illusion of democracy in the country evaporates, the government has shown an eagerness to manipulate the legal system to maintain its power and quash dissent. Last week, I attended the trial of former Radio Free Asia (RFA) journalists Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin. The two men face espionage charges that carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years for allegedly sharing with RFA’s U.S. bureau publicly available information that was purportedly “damaging” to the government’s reputation. This is just one example of the government’s efforts to suppress independent journalism and freedom of expression in the country via the legal system. 

Like many of my peers, I recall writing something in my cover letter for law school about wanting to learn how to use the legal system to achieve greater social justice. Prior to coming to Cambodia, I saw in law the “space for struggle to advance the social project of human liberation and emancipation… even while expressing and reinforcing the rule of the bourgeoisie,” to quote from Prof. Issa G. Shivji. But since I’ve been here and witnessed first-hand the ways in which the law predominantly serves to preserve existing power imbalances and promote kleptocratic rule, I find it more difficult than I did in the West to brush aside law’s deficiencies.

Today, I still believe the law can help achieve more equitable societies. But I enter my second year of law school  armed with greater awareness of the ways in which legal systems can also be used to further social injustice and am thus more critical of the rule of law’s basic tenets than I once was. 


Tourist street in Siem Reap

Pit stop along the highway

Sunset over the Tonle Sap river


Des rencontres culturelles en Gambie

Par Linda Muhugusa

Le commencement de mon stage à l’Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa coïncida avec le début du mois sacré du Ramadan. La population de la Gambie étant musulmane à 90%, je me suis habituée à écouter les hymnes de la mosquée d’à côté et à voir au loin des groupes d’individus s’agenouiller sur leur tapis de prière pour le Asr, me signalant ainsi qu’il sonnait 17h. Je me suis rapidement retrouvée ébahie par les sublimes vêtements traditionnels qui, fabriqués de divers tissus aux couleurs hypnotiques, capturaient mon attention. Je me suis laissée charmer par la hâte des gens se précipitant chez eux juste à temps pour la prière de Maghrib, marquant la fin du jeûne, et au calme paisible qui régnait subséquemment dans les rues alors que tous étaient occupés à se régaler, entourés de leurs êtres chers.

Une mosquée à Banjul

Ainsi, assez brusquement, cette Sénégambie m’apprivoisa. J’y ressenti dès ma première semaine un sentiment de ‘chez moi’. Mais lorsque l’on voyage, tant bien que l’on essaie de se mettre à l’aise dans notre demeure temporaire, on préserve toujours un brin de voyeurisme. C’est pour cela que je m’attendais à ce que des choses et des événements, anodins pour les locaux, piquent ma curiosité ; je prévoyais et j’espérais être surprise. Cependant, je ne m’attendais pas trop à la surprise que j’allais éventuellement recevoir : que des étrangers décèlent un élément d’étonnement et de curiosité en moi.

En effet, il semblait que ma simple présence résultait en une longue ligne de questionnement.

« Hey sister ! Where are you from? »
« What’s your ethnicity? »

Ça, j’y étais habituée. Partout où je m’aventure, et même dans mon Montréal à moi, cette question m’a été posée. J’y réponds toujours, avec fierté, que je suis Canadienne, et originaire du Cap-Vert et du Congo. Cependant, c’est la suite qui me surprend.

« Not the country, I mean which ethnic group? Are you Fula? Or Tutsi? »

J’étais bouche bée. Des 20 ans de mon existence, jamais cette question ne m’avait été posée. Ayant vécu au Canada toute ma vie, mon entourage n’avait jamais accordé d’importance aux divisions fondées sur les ethnies, les peuples ou les tribus. J’étais Canadienne, Capverdienne, Congolaise ; que voulait-on de plus ?

Une plage près de mon appartement

Malgré mon laissez-faire initial, les commentaires sur la chose persistaient. Des étrangers, après un dépistage des traits de mon visage, m’arrêtaient parfois pour me demander si j’étais Fula.

« No… », je répondais.
« Your face really looks Fula. Or maybe Tutsi, are you Tutsi?”
« No..? »
« Are you sure? »

À vrai dire, je n’avais aucune idée. Bien que plusieurs se questionnaient sur mes origines et mon identité, je n’ai jamais ressenti que ces questions avaient pour but de m’exclure, puisqu’elles étaient posées avec l’attitude ‘teranga’ (hospitalière) propre à cette région du monde. Cependant, le groupe ethnique auquel j’appartenais était devenu une énigme autant pour ces étrangers que pour moi-même. Je savais bien qu’étant enfant d’un métissage ethnoculturel, la réponse à cette question n’allait pas être simple. Mais je me suis tout de même amenée à investiguer la chose, pour essayer de décortiquer les multiples facettes de mon identité, et afin de mieux identifier les composantes du créole qui joue en moi.

Mon mélange culturel, alors qu’il attire l’attention des étrangers, me sert cependant d’atout au travail, puisque la nature interafricaine de mon stage valorise le multilinguisme et la compréhension de nombreux systèmes juridiques. Ma connaissance de plusieurs nations et mon désir d’en apprendre plus sur les systèmes juridiques d’origine de mes parents s’étend presque sur tout le continent. Les diverses interactions que j’ai eues à propos de « ce que je suis » m’ont permis de mieux comprendre la complexité des questions ethniques qui se posent, et m’ont donné une meilleure idée du contexte culturel dans lequel opère les droits humains ici. Bien qu’emblèmes de la richesse et de la diversité de l’Afrique, les milliers d’ethnies constituant ce continent font aussi de ce dernier une terre complexe, et dans certains contextes, sont une source de divisions et de conflits.


La Commission africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples, à Banjul


En vrai, un mélange de culture est présent dans le système juridique Africain à part entière. Ayant évoluée sous les influences eurocentriques de la structure de l’ONU, mais ayant des valeurs africaines à sa genèse et en son cœur, la structure continentale des droits humains est un amalgame de cultures au sens pur. En ce sens, ce droit est un peu comme moi…

Ces interactions quasi-quotidiennes sur mon ethnicité, comme bien d’autres expériences qui ont eu lieu depuis le début de mon stage, m’ont permis de réaffirmer ce que je savais déjà : voyager c’est apprendre à se connaitre et à connaitre les autres. C’est également une opportunité de mieux comprendre comment les sociétés s’organisent, et ainsi, de mieux comprendre le droit.

Life after the Easter bombings

By Tessa Martin

It was April 21st. My partner came barging into the living room, a look of shock on his face.

“Tessa, there was just a terror attack in Sri Lanka, multiple bombs have gone off.”


Thirteen days later, my flight landed in Colombo.


So much can be said about the attack itself…

About the victims.

The 257 people who lost their lives and all the others left behind.

All that has been lost… the families blown apart.


About the perpetrators.

The fact that they were only a tiny radicalized group who most likely had outside help.


About the fact that this attack made little sense locally,

as there were no prior issues between Muslims and Christians to speak of

– only between Muslims and Buddhists, and Muslims and Hindus.

 This attack did not feed into any pre-existing local narrative.


About the Sri Lankan Government’s failure to react to all past and recent warnings

(from the Sri Lankan Muslim community itself

as well as from International Intelligence Agencies & Bodies)

about this specific group and a potential attack.


But there have been hundreds of news articles about that…

No, instead I want to talk about what happens after. How does society move on, or not?

I want to talk about what happens when the international eyes have turned away, following the dizzying spin of the news cycle, like flies drawn to the next brightest light. I do not mean this as an insult, as I also tend to fall into this rhythm.

But what happens after we stop watching?


I wish to talk about three things: Everyday life (locals), Islamophobia and Tourism.

Everything I have to say, of course, either comes from my experiences as an outsider, local news, or from countless Sri Lankans – friends, colleagues, random encounters and a lot of Tuk Tuk drivers – who have shared their thoughts, experiences and knowledge with me. I will do my best to relay what little understanding of the current situation I have gained over a mere two and a half months’ time.

I wish I could say this was my first time going to a city right after a terror attack. It wasn’t.

The memories of Paris in November of 2015 remain all too fresh.

Some parallels will be drawn.



I’ll begin with what perhaps, at first, appears most trivial… Tourism.

Only last year, Sri Lanka was rated the best country to travel to in 2019 by Lonely Planet. After a long a brutal civil war which ended in 2009, Sri Lanka had skyrocketed to the top of the travel charts.

The attacks quickly reversed this trend.

It did not take long to fall witness to this… On my second day in Sri Lanka, I decided to make my way to Gangaramaya Temple. While I was immediately dazzled by the peace and beauty of this place, one thing struck me all the more; the temple was completely empty. On the way back home from the temple I spoke to a Tuk Tuk driver/ tourist guide named Geethan, who told me that prior to the terror attacks an average of 800 tourists visited the temple every day. In the midst of our conversation, Geethan told me that he had gone from making 8000 rupees ($60 CAD) to 300 rupees ($2 CAD) a day because of the fall in tourism. He said, “I’m sure that in six months tourists will be back, but until then I don’t know how I will feed my 12-year-old daughter.”

The 70% fall in the hotel occupancy rate tells a similar story. In an effort to attract local tourism, the prices of rooms have dropped drastically. Although big hotels can take the hit, small hostel owners have been placed in a more precarious position.

While I was in Kandy, I found myself as the only occupant in a small hostel. One evening, I joined the owner of the hostel, Ramesh, for a drink and some nice conversation. Ramesh told me that prior to the attacks the place was always fully booked. In anticipation of the influx of tourists following the Lonely Planet rating, he had poured substantial finances into renovating the place. Ramesh is one of the many people now struggling to pay back their investment…

The East Coast, though in peak season right now, is deserted. Given the general upwards trend, many enterprising people from the area took out bank loans to open B&B’s and cafes and now are sitting empty while defaulting on their loans.

I hope this serves as a reminder of how important it is to come and support local economies in times of crisis. To us it’s a vacation; to them it’s a matter of subsistence.


Everyday life (locals)

My previous experience from being in Paris a week after the terror attacks in 2015 prepared me for one central sensation: the quiet. The feeling that time stood still… the deserted streets… the shock reverberating in everyone’s expressions. A rhythm of life slowed. The weight of the silence. The aura of mourning stagnant in the air.

To be honest, I did not fully grasp this upon first arriving in Sri Lanka. The constant flow of cars passing by and the periodic honking deluded me into a sense of ongoing activity. I was all the more confused when person after person commented on how quiet and empty the streets were. Today, now that the flow of traffic has mostly resumed to its pre-exiting insanity, I realize just how quiet Colombo had in fact been when I first arrived. ‘Quiet’ and ‘deserted’ are relative terms. Standstill looked different in Colombo as it had in Paris, but standstill it was.

In fact, I was not prepared for the level of disruption the attacks would have on people’s daily lives. Sri Lankans’ previous experience with 30 years of civil war – a war that only ended 10 years ago – did not desensitize people to the recent attacks, but rather triggered them. Over the course of my first couple of weeks in Colombo, I slowly came to understand that these attacks had shattered any sense of peace that people had finally acquired over the last decade.

The general feeling in the weeks following the attacks was: “we are back to square one.”

While the sight of the military in Paris felt absurd, almost like a parallel universe, the presence of the military in Colombo was all too familiar. I think this was best expressed by one of my co-workers, who said:

“I was driving my kids to school this morning and there were soldiers everywhere.

For a second, I thought WHAT YEAR IS THIS!? I was transported back to the war.

I don’t want my kids to get used to this… I don’t want this to be their reality too…”

She was one of the few people driving her kids to school that day.

This is where Paris in 2015 serves as an interesting, albeit morose, comparison. You see, the whole of Paris was in shock, but people kept going to work… kids continued to attend school… This was not the case in Colombo.

When schools reopened two weeks after the attacks, student attendance in major cities was reported to be as low as 5%.

In fact, people refused to leave their homes altogether. Supermarkets ran out of food as locals bunkered down in their houses for at least a week or two following the attacks.

The fear was palpable… Driven by a general mistrust in the government, and one another.

Over the past two months, I have watched as things slowly get back to normal.

But back to normal for who?

This brings me to the last and most important point I wish to make: the demonization of Muslims following the attacks…



Sri Lankan Muslims, representing 10% of the country’s population, are not new to Islamophobic attacks.

Communal violence erupted in 2014, and later in 2018 in Ampara and Kandy, as Sinhala Buddhist hardliners, with complicity of law enforcement agencies, rioted and destroyed Mosques, archeological sites, businesses and properties of Muslims. The reasons for the attacks were: (1) the phobia of a growing Muslim population, (2) the myth of sterilization pills, and (3) economic jealousy and rivalry between Muslims and Sinhalese. The idea of radicalization did not feature into the debate.

The Easter bombings didn’t just bring about a rise in Islamophobia, but birthed an entirely new reason to discriminate: fear of radicalization… of terrorism…

Muslims are not just seen as competitors today, they are seen as dangerous… as a threat to people’s safety.

The international Islamophobic narrative has made its debut in Sri Lanka, galvanizing the fears of the majority. The actions of a few have been held to represent an entire group, casting a dark shadow over Sri Lankan Muslims as a whole, all painted with the same brush. How… classic, I know. The predictability of human irrationality never falters.

It did not take long to see the effects…

The week of the bombings, Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena outlawed the Niqab and Burqa, invoking emergency law. The fact that the suicide bombers had all been men with uncovered faces apparently did not feature into the decision.

In fear of backlash, many Muslim men shaved their beards and women removed their hijabs.

Their fear was not misplaced…

Three weeks after the bombings, a wave of Anti-Muslim riots by Buddhist hardliners broke out across the country. Mosques, Muslim business and homes were burned to the ground. A Muslim man lost his life, stabbed to death in front of his family while trying to protect his carpentry workshop. A nation-wide curfew and a social media ban were imposed, lasting 4 days and a week respectively.

On the evening of the second day of the curfew I walked into the living room to find my housemate sitting on the couch on her phone. I asked her what she was doing.

“Watching my country burn,” she replied.

There was a simplicity in the way she said it… Her tone matter-of-fact, yet conveying all the emotion in the world. The phrase keeps resonating in my head.

Rumour was that the police had done little to stop the mob… The descent into unbridled violence had been sparked by a Facebook post by a Muslim shopkeeper stating, “Don’t laugh more, 1 day u will cry.” It was interpreted by locals to be a warning of an impending attack. The man was arrested. Most of the rioters, were not.

Muslims, activists and politicians have reported a rise in the arbitrary arrest of Muslims and police harassment in Sri Lanka, a reality which has even garnered the attention of the EU. A Muslim doctor, falsely accused of performing sterilization surgeries on Sinhalese women by certain individuals seeking political mileage, has been refused bail because it would cause ‘societal unrest’. Meanwhile, a hardline Buddhist monk convicted of spewing hate speech received a Presidential pardon.

What’s worse? On June 3rd, all of Sri Lanka’s Muslim ministers and their deputies resigned, following demands by hardline Buddhist monks to fire five Muslim provincial governors and a minister from the government. Sri Lankan Muslims have therefore been left largely unrepresented in government, causing warranted apprehension.

While more could be said on the subject, I wish instead to turn to my own encounters with day to day incidents of Islamophobia – incidents that I either witnessed or which were recounted to me by people I met.

A month and a half after the attack, I went on a trip to the South with a Sri Lankan friend of mine named Fadhl. We were in Gall fort trying to rent a motorcycle, but that did not go as planned. After demanding that Fadhl give him his passport, the motorcycle owner blatantly asked Fadhl if he was Muslim. Rather than explaining his mixed heritage (being ½ Moor, ¼ Sinhala and ¼ Tamil), Fadhl simply walked away, refusing to dignify the man’s comment with a response.

Later that day, we met a local coffee shop owner named Kat, who told us that a Tuk Tuk driver had tried to persuade her to go to a Sinhalese shop instead of the Muslim grocer that she always got her groceries from.

Boycotting of Muslim shops is a common occurrence these days. According to a documentary filmmaker who I met last week, 60% of Muslim businesses in Batticaloa (which has one of the highest percentages of Muslims in the country) have been boycotted. Meanwhile, Muslim Tuk Tuk drivers on Pick Me (the local equivalent to Uber) have started warning passengers that they are Muslim, leaving many people to decide to get another Tuk. This, I think, is representative of a greater, perhaps more troubling, trend – A trend which this filmmaker pointed out to me.

When I asked what surprised her most about her interviews with Muslims from across the country, it only took her a second to respond:

“The Guilt,” she said.

I nodded silently, trying to push down my outrage at the thought that victims of discrimination so often internalize people’s misconceptions. Outraged because the world has succeeded in making Muslims feel responsible for the actions of others whose beliefs share no resemblance to their own.

And you know what really scares me most? This isn’t local at all…

What I am witnessing here feels like just another facet to the global rise of Islamophobia.



Research and Knowledge Theft in Uganda

Katrina Bland

There was a professor from Canada, who every year would take me for coffee, and at the end of every coffee, she would have a chapter written based on my conversation. So, I have decided that I no longer share vital knowledge on the issues we have been working around. As an issue of intellectual property rights, this is my request, don’t let western scholars steal your knowledge. Let us write.”

Maybe it was my imagination, but I felt all eyes in the room turn to me. As the only Canadian present and the intern charged with taking verbatim notes, it appeared that I could be preparing to do the very thing he was warning against. Words that the speaker intended as a call to arms for the native Ugandans in the room would recur to me again and again as they echoed some questions I have been asking myself about my time in Uganda. 

This is the view from my office at RLP. Across the street is Old Kampala Primary School and in the distance the National Mosque is visible. From my office I can hear the sound of children playing, practicing the drums as well as the call to prayer everyday. Old Kampala is no longer the downtown centre of Kampala, but was the centre of the colonial administration before independence.

On my first day at Refugee Law Project (RLP), I sat in my office and read the Compendium of Conflicts put together after years of research by RLP’s Conflict, Transitional Justice and Governance department. I am embarrassed to admit that I was surprised by how complicated Uganda’s history of internal conflict is and how little I knew about the country that would be my home for the next three months. While I was familiar with Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army, I knew nothing about the funding of various rebel groups by foreign African governments, the diversity of Uganda’s ethnic make up and the inter-tribal tensions further exacerbated by religious adherence, or the efforts made to have customary, religious and English common law co-exist as parallel and at times equal legal systems. My surprise, however, transitioned into something that resembled exasperation and recognition of my own incompetence. Who am I to be here? What could I possibly offer?

Set up of a psychosocial, medical and legal aid camp hosted by RLP for World Refugee Day. Almost 300 people attended seeking access to one or all of the services at the event. Although the event was meant to end by 5PM, it stretched on due to the overwhelming demand. During the event I tried to help as much as I could, but my ability was limited. While I gained a great deal from witnessing the event, I feel that I was able to offer little in return.

I think internships are often more work for the host organizations than for the interns themselves, no matter where you are in the world. Here, so far away from home and where the perspective on history I had absorbed over my life is out of place, this is exacerbated. I imagine I would need at least a couple years of education in Uganda, on the culture, history, socioeconomic structure and so on, before I could offer anything at all. I am lucky that my colleagues at RLP have been nothing but patient and welcoming with me as I try to catch up.

One of the tasks I have felt I could be useful doing has been editing working papers and other documents written by RLP staff from across Uganda. I am extremely self-conscious while doing it, however. English was forced upon colonized societies and there is still a tendency for people from the Global North to assume that English being different in post-colonial societies is the same as English in those societies being bad. Instead, however, I think that English in Uganda simply evolved differently the same way English in Canada evolved differently from English in the United Kingdom or the way French in Montreal is recognizably different from French spoken in Paris. They are in a way, all different dialects with the same roots. As such, I struggle to understand at times, as the primary connotations of words here are different from those at home. More than this, I think story telling is a deeply personal and cultural practice. The expressions that resonate with individuals vary from place to place, from culture to culture. Is there any objective value to the Global North’s conception of academic English? Or should we all be moving towards accepting more diverse versions of story telling and argument writing?

Inner courtyard of the Parliament of Uganda in Kampala
Kampala was chosen as the capital of the British protectorate of Uganda as it was the centre of the Buganda Kingdom, the Kingdom the British favoured to rule over the conglomeration of other Kingdoms that became Uganda. The same speaker as in the quote above said in another instance, “What is Uganda? There is no such thing. You know, the thief is always in a hurry, so the British forgot the B. On the copy of the agreement signed between the British and Buganda Kingdom in Luganda, the B is still there.”

In my experience, this recognition of lived experiences as a form of truth telling worthy of legitimacy in academic and professional spheres is only emerging in legal scholarship in Canada. In comparison, it seems that Uganda is years ahead. RLP, for example, specializes in organizing events they call memory dialogues, which serve as an opportunity for individuals to describe events as they remember them and contribute to the creation of a collective history. I have edited many documents that draw on these memories, describing surviving mass killings in village squares or witnessing individual murders where the bodies were later skinned or boiled in the street. Who am I to change the words and phrases someone has chosen to relate their experience working with war torn communities in northern Uganda? Still, as the documents are intended for a global audience, particularly future donors and other NGOs looking for best practices to follow, there is some practical need for them to meet the expectations of those readers. As such, I try to find an appropriate balance between what my instincts tell me about academic English and the author’s original voice.

I am reminded of the words of the speaker above during this process. Although I am only editing, it is not hard to imagine the sense of ownership the speaker’s Canadian friend would feel over a chapter resulting from their conversation. Does translating stories into the Global North’s conception of an academic thesis give us the right to call the ideas our own? Or does it simply allow us to remain willfully blind to what the speaker resents? If I consider research and writing about Africa as, at least in part, a self-interested practice, often allowing individuals who participate in it to garner some kind of elite status, it seems that extracting knowledge and experiences as fuel for this process is akin to colonial resource extraction. Unlike physical resource extraction, however, the market in which scholars from the Global North sell their ideas does not buy raw materials. There are so many good reasons and intentions behind this kind of research and writing, but at the same time, I feel it may be complicit in the perpetuation of the Global North/South dichotomy. Have I trapped myself? I am not prepared to celebrate such scholarship wholeheartedly, but I am not prepared to denounce it and walk away either.

The question, then becomes, what can I possibly offer in the future? Will I ever come back to Uganda? Will I work for an international human rights organization somewhere else? Will I ever be able to give anything back to the people who have shaped my experience here by walking me through some of the most complicated and painful issues RLP is trying to tackle through transitional justice?

Petit, a fellow intern at RLP and law student and me at the Wildlife Conservation Centre in Entebbe, known to locals simply as the zoo

Solomy, a transitional justice lawyer with RLP, and me at an event on property rights in post-conflict communities hosted at the Parliament of Uganda

I thought at first that even if I took what I learned here and applied it in Canada or elsewhere, that would be enough. In fact, there is so much that Canada could learn from the transitional justice movement in Uganda. But, then I learned that the resentment against knowledge theft, as articulated by the speaker, is not an isolated opinion. Communities all over Uganda—whether rural or urban, refugee or host—describe people, like myself, coming in, conducting interviews, doing research, and leaving. It feels, understandably I think, exploitative to be asked to share painful experiences and hopes for the future with a stranger who will take your words, translate them into a paper written in academic English and return to their comfortable life somewhere where their families will be happy they survived Ebola. No tangible difference in your life as an individual, often no thank yous and no goodbyes.

My focus on this seems to reinforce that I am from the Global North, a fact that I often instinctively wish I could hide. In contrast, my colleagues seem less concerned. As educated professionals from the capital, they are in some ways removed from the people they are trying to help like me. More than anything, they want me to worry about gaining as much as I can from my internship experience. Just yesterday, one of my coworkers said he was going to talk my supervisor into taking me to the field to see some of what I have been reading about first hand. In response to my discomfort and concerns, he simply said ‘What you learn here could influence what you do for the rest of your life.’ I have no doubt that my time at Refugee Law Project already will, and even though I don’t think I have any answers to the questions I have been asking in this blog, maybe that is enough for now.

Lake Victoria as seen from Ssese Islands where the main economic activities are fishing, logging, and palm oil production for exportation. Prior to colonization, the islands were the spiritual centre of the region.

Proud Namibia

By Bianca Braganza

One of the most rewarding aspects of my time with the Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC) has been the civic outreach and education we have conducted. The Chairperson, as part of the mandate of the Commission, provides legal education to the public and community organizations on various subjects upon request. This summer has been filled with presentations crafted specifically for the legal rights of the LGBTQIA+ community in Windhoek, with a strong vision for the future of a Proud Namibia.

Wings to Transcend Namibia

Pictured with the board of Wings to Transcend Namibia: Left is Jholerina, the founder of the NGO, myself, Princess, Programs Officer, and right, the Chairperson of the LRDC, Ms. Dausab. Not pictured is Teddy, who is the Advocacy and Communications Officer.

In late May, the Board from the NGO Wings to Transcend Namibia, came to visit the Commission to request civic education on the status of the legal rights of transgender persons in the country. Here, Princess tells her story of coming out to her family and the journey to acceptance she has struggled to achieve within her family, community and country at large. What I have appreciated the most about our civic education and legal engagements is the way in which the Chairperson pushes for narratives, and for engaging our personal stories with the legal activism and endeavours we pursue. Ms. Dausab began the meeting not with agenda-setting and running through legal provisions and the report we prepared, but rather by inviting the Board to tell us about themselves, their journey, and the current experiences on the ground of persons who identify as transgender in Namibia.

Community Civic Education: Trans Rights

This led to the presentation we conducted earlier this month to the community at large on the legal rights of persons who identify as transgender in the country. Upon request from the community themselves, we addressed human and constitutional rights of transgender persons with regards to: interactions with the police (and the levels of brutality and discrimination this community faces), health care workers and discrimination in employment. We also presented legal steps that could be taken to change one’s name and pictures on official legal documents. This necessitated a thorough analysis of various birth, immigration and identification acts and informing the community of strong cases that could be made to advance legal recognition of their gender.

As we presented on the Pan African landscape for transgender rights, we were thrilled to discuss the exciting news from two weeks earlier that Botswana has decriminalized sodomy. This has had incredible repercussions for the perception, acceptance and legitimization of the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community at large. Botswana has also led the way for the rights of transgender persons, where in September of 2017, the High Court ruled for the right of a person to change their gender marker on their identity documents as refusing to do so was unreasonable, and violated their right to: dignity, privacy, freedom of expression, equal protection of the law, freedom from discrimination, and freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment.

The LRDC routinely conducts civic education on the history and application of Human Rights in the country. Ms. Dausab’s personal style uses interactive tools such as group discussions and activities to elicit key themes and takeaways from her presentation. For this presentation, she broke the approximately 30 community members into 3 groups, and had them complete an activity about the aftermath of a shipwreck, where we all were tasked with assigning roles (to the male and females in the fact pattern) for fetching wood, cooking, hunting, building, and engineering with the aim of outlining how cultural norms (and even domestically, how different tribes) conceptualize the traditional gender binary and male and female roles in society.

Completing the reflection activity.

One of the most pivotal parts of our presentation to the community included emphasizing not making the same mistakes as our neighbor South Africa, in the quest for equality. Here, legal progress preceded social progress. In the landmark case of Minister of Home Affairs vs Fourie, South Africa legalized same sex marriage in 2006, after a lesbian couple claimed their right to marry in a post-apartheid country. Although making South Africa a leader in the African context for marriage equality and legal protection against discrimination (the country has added protection provisions for discrimination based on sexual orientation in legislation), the case did not cause a nationwide consensus or shift in the social perception of LGBTQIA+ people. In effect, legal protection preceded public acceptance. There is currently more violence and brutality against the community in South Africa, despite the legal framework in place, than in Namibia, which does not have any legal provisions based on sexual orientation (or gender identification for that matter). It was therefore fundamental to provide a holistic account of social change during our presentation, and reinforce that the law is not always the sole answer. There needs to be incremental social change within the country based on: active citizenship (representation in government and the workforce of the community); education; media (using the arts as a powerful way to shift public perception and to foster empathy and compassion towards the community, as well as eradicate stigma related to HIV/AIDS and sex work); business indicators; and advocacy and action.*


The #BeFree Day that the Chairperson was invited to speak at was a very special and moving experience for me. It fused together the worlds I am passionate about of law, health, social justice, the arts and youth empowerment. The movement itself of #BeFree seeks to engage high school students with current topics that are culturally seen to be “taboo” and covers the topics specifically of LGBTQIA+, sex work and HIV/AIDS with the aim of educating youth and eradicating stigma and false information. The messages were beautifully presented, and incorporated a range of ways in which to explore these themes, including dance, comedy, theatre, the high school students themselves presenting a debate (the topic of religion versus culture), a panel discussion (with experts in legal, medical, and community activism), and of course, the open dialogue with the Chairperson, and the First Lady of Namibia (pictured to the right).

High School students from local Windhoek schools, awaiting the start of the programming.

At the #BeFree Day, alongside the Chairperson after her successful open dialogue on same sex marriage, disability rights and access to education with the First Lady of Namibia.


Namibia’s Diverse Women Association – UN SDGs and SOGIESC

Namibia’s Diverse Women’s Association (NDWA) requested a presentation from the LRDC to educate leaders in the community on the status of the rights of LGBTQIA+ persons in the country, with the aim of building a national linkage and intersectional human rights equality and inclusivity agenda. This was to be done by drawing upon UN systems and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to strategize on how exactly to advance the rights based on Sexual Orientation Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) in Namibia.

With the framework of the SDGs, we aimed to create a holistic presentation that highlighted the intersectionality of various sectors in the advancement of this community’s rights in Namibia (health protections, the police force, economic advancement, housing and education). We also presented on the language and provisions of the Constitution while drawing upon successful cases made in South Africa and Botswana. There are currently two cases currently going to the Supreme Court of Namibia for same sex marriage (we find ourselves in extremely exciting times!).

We concluded that potential law reform moving forward can take the shape of (foremost) the repeal of the criminalization of sodomy (Criminal Procedure Act of 1977), the amendment of the Combatting of Immoral Practices Act of 1980 (including the repeal of outdated and unconstitutional provisions) and the insertion of protection of the rights of persons from discrimination based on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identification into various acts- from Labour, to Immigration, to Health Services Acts. It can also include the amendment of the Identification Act to allow gender marker changes and pictures for identification to be accepted without proof of gender reassignment surgery (which, in addition to hormone therapy, is currently not covered by insurance nor provided in the country).

Pictured with leaders from various LGBTQIA+ community grassroots organizations in Windhoek.

* “South Africa still hasn’t won LGBTQ+ equality. Here are 5 reasons why”. Retrieved from: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/11/south-africa-road-to-lgbtq-equality/

From the Local to the National: A Snapshot of the Human Rights Situation in the Philippines

By Kathleen Barera

It’s already been about five weeks since I began my internship at Ateneo Human Rights Center in the Philippines. I am working at the AKAP/Child Rights Desk. My research project concerns the common children’s rights issues across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-states, namely Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. This is part of Ateneo Human Rights Center’s project of “Building a Child-Friendly ASEAN”.

I am having an absolutely wonderful experience and don’t want my time to end! Ever since my first day, I have felt completely welcomed. I am lucky to be surrounded by and to be learning from a group of passionate, kind-hearted, and fun-spirited colleagues every day!

With some colleagues who treated me at a vegan restaurant, Cosmic

Luckily, I also arrived just in time for the basic orientation seminar on human rights, an integral part of the summer internship program, which prepares students for their week-long immersion in an indigenous community and their month-long internship with an NGO. In the span of four days, we participated in a number of informative sessions and workshops on topics ranging from indigenous rights to children’s rights and from alternative lawyering to paralegal training.

Human Rights: A Bad Word?

During the basic orientation seminar’s human rights and drug policy session, an attorney from StreetLawPH, an organization of lawyers and advocates with a mandate to provide access to justice to and protect the human rights of drug users in the Philippines,[1] said that ‘human rights’ has become a bad word here. Sadly, this statement truly does represent the current state of affairs in the country. I am reminded of this chilling reality each day as I read up on recent developments in the news.

Myself and the group at the Basic Orientation Seminar in Tagaytay City

Ever since Duterte’s presidency, the political climate in the Philippines has been far from conducive to human rights. Nearly two weeks ago, a 3-year-old child was fatally shot by a police officer during a drug bust operation.[2] Following this inconceivable tragedy, the words uttered by Senator Bato, a former police chief, were that “shit happens”.[3] This repugnant disregard for human life has been the norm from the moment Duterte became president in 2016. In fact, the human rights situation has rapidly deteriorated, most notably as a result of Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ (read: war on the poor),[4] particularly the extrajudicial killings of at least 27,000 suspected drug dealers to date, even children.[5] Duterte has in the past justified that any child killed in the drug war is ‘collateral damage’[6] and recently, he said that he prefers being connected to the extrajudicial killings than with corruption.[7]

Yet, Duterte has garnered and retained the support of many Filipinos. To my surprise, some people told me that they considered Duterte to be the Philippines’ best president, particularly because he has reduced crime. I learned at the seminar that this is unfortunately a common sentiment. When drug dealers are gunned down, there is a lack of empathy for the plight of the individuals in question. Instead, their tragic deaths elicit the reaction that there will now be less ‘criminals’ and ‘bad people’ on the streets.

Ateneo Human Rights Center-Save the Children Philippines meeting

The complete disregard for the rule of law under Duterte’s administration extends beyond the war on drugs. For one thing, the freedoms of dissenters have been undermined in many ways. There has been a crackdown on media freedom, such that journalists are increasingly targeted and murdered.[8] Duterte even threatened to have individuals who planned to file a case to have him impeached after the exclusive economic zone China-fishermen debacle imprisoned.[9] Furthermore, the rights of children in conflict with the law are under attack. Recently, the Senate refiled the bill to lower the age of criminal liability for children from 15 to 12 years old.[10]

Metro Manila Pride March: Love Conquers Hate

On June 29, I attended the Metro Manila Pride March and Festival, themed Resist Together, in Marikina City. I felt proud to stand as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community in the Philippines. There was a record-breaking crowd of over 70,000 participants, almost triple the number of attendees from 2018.[11]

Metro Manila Pride March in Marikina City, where participant is seen marching on, despite the disruptive opposition from some religious counter-protestors

While Manila has the biggest Pride demonstrations in Southeast Asia,[12] I knew to expect counter-protests from religious groups. I witnessed dozens of people lined up holding signs and handing out pamphlets about how God hates sin, but not the sinners, and that LGBTQ+ people can be saved.[13] An attendee told me that for the most part, nobody confronts the counter-protestors; rather, they continue to celebrate themselves in their march for equality. While I was angered by their disruptive presence, I decided to focus my attention on the laughter, love, purpose, and warmth emanating from the crowd of participants, with “Free Hugs” signs and open resistance to social injustice.

Although there are closed-minded people who don’t believe their fellow human beings deserve the same dignity and human rights as them, and even though the SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression) equality bill is still pending in Congress, the mayor of Marikina City enacted, on the same day and in front of the attendees, an anti-discrimination ordinance.[14] The ordinance ensures equal rights to the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace, education, and government services, and also criminalizes discrimination.[15] In a country where the President claims that beautiful women helped him ‘cure’ himself of being gay,[16] this is a powerful symbol of hope for a better future.

In front of the Rizal Monument at the Rizal Park, which commemorates the executed national Filipino hero Jose Rizal

Pinoy local dish kare-kare (peanut sauce stew with vegetables) made vegan

Halo-halo, a popular Filipino dessert, topped with ube (purple yam) ice cream

The tricycle/trisikad, a common form of transportation, in Intramuros (the walled city)

[1] See: https://www.hri.global/abstracts/abstracthr19/593/print

[2] See: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1138105/shit-happens-bato-says-after-a-child-got-killed-in-drug-bust

[3] Ibid.

[4] See: https://www.hrw.org/tag/philippines-war-drugs & https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/08/rodrigo-dutertes-drug-war-is-large-scale-murdering-enterprise-says-amnesty 

[5] See: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/philippines#c007ac https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-rights-un/philippines-faces-call-for-un-investigation-into-war-on-drugs-killings-idUSKCN1TZ22M

[6] See: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/17/duterte-says-children-killed-in-philippines-drug-war-are-collateral-damage

[7] See: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1139316/duterte-you-may-link-me-with-ejks-but-not-with-corruption

[8] Ibid.

[9] See: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1134976/duterte-on-impeachment-proponents-ill-jail-them-all

[10] See: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1135970/early-18th-congress-bills-lower-age-of-criminal-liability-anti-fake-news-and-terrorism/amp?fbclid=IwAR0g47oS7QPRY9BSAOFfK2v-70WEsgR2dJBWaIpKeGQUB4XT9U-FA_6u5Lc

[11] See: https://www.rappler.com/move-ph/234225-metro-manila-pride-2019-attendees-breaks-record

[12] Ibid.

[13] See: https://www.rappler.com/move-ph/234350-how-religious-groups-clashed-lgbtq-rights-pride-march-2019

[14] See: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1135560/marikina-mayor-signs-anti-discrimination-ordinance

[15] Ibid.

[16] See: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/03/world/asia/duterte-gay.html

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

« Older Entries | 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.