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Boulder Hikes

2015 McLean LauraBy Laura MacLean

Working in human rights is an incredibly demanding career. The problems don’t have obvious solutions, progress is too slow, the red-tape is too thick, the list goes on. It would be nearly impossible for individuals who work with victims of human rights abuses to never feel depressed or burnt-out. Even engaging with heavy topics from arms-length can be overwhelming. That’s why it is important to occasionally leave the world’s brutality behind and appreciate it’s beauty. There’s no better way to do this in Colorado than to hike.

The city of Boulder rests at the base of the Flatirons, beautiful rock formations that have walking paths weaving through them. These trails are accessible from the city. The most popular Flatiron hike is the Royal Arch trail, where the view of the city does not disappoint. It’s a busy trail on the Fourth of July when fireworks light up the sky.

Of course, no trip to Colorado would be complete without visiting Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and hiking in the Bear Lake area. It’s an easy jaunt around Bear Lake, and then a steady climb to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake. The views are wonderful, but the crowds are not. RMNP is wildly popular in the summer, especially on weekends when parking is at a premium and often the only way to access the trailheads is via shuttle.

Dream Lake in RMNP (Photo by Laura MacLean)

Dream Lake in RMNP (Photo by Laura MacLean)

There are other hikes that are just as beautiful and much more secluded. For example, beyond the little community of Eldora are the trailheads for Diamond Lake and King Lake. Hikers require a sense of adventure for these hikes as they are quite remote, often overrun by streams and deep snow can linger on the trail even during the summer months. However, the views more than make up for the physical toll.

Crossing a stream on the way to King Lake (Photo by Laura MacLean)

Crossing a stream on the way to King Lake           (Photo by Laura MacLean)

Not far from Boulder is the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, where moose often graze and there is a trail that leads to Lake Isabelle. The walk is not difficult and the pay-off is incredible, especially in mid-July when the wild flowers are in bloom.

A beautiful day at Lake Isabelle  (Photo by Stacey MacDonald)

A beautiful day at Lake Isabelle
(Photo by Stacey MacDonald)

Further north still, the hike to Chasm Lake is a personal favourite and has everything you could want on a hike. The trail starts in a forest, follows a creek with waterfalls up to a meadow above the tree line and then winds its way above a valley with Peacock Pool and Columbine Falls below. As the trail reaches a dead end at the rock face of the mountains, hikers become climbers as they are required to scramble up rocks for the pleasure of seeing Chasm Lake.

Admiring the view on the way to Chasm Lake (Photo by Laura MacLean)

Admiring the view on the way to Chasm Lake (Photo by Laura MacLean)

State Forest State Park is a three hour drive from Boulder. What the park’s name lacks in creativity, it makes up for with scenic hikes. Lake Agnes is a short, easy hike, and well-worth braving the narrow dirt road to access the trailhead. American Lakes (also called Michigan Lakes) and Snow Lake are at the end of a much longer and more challenging trail that starts in the Craig campground at campsite 16. The trail features many beautiful lookout points and if your timing is right, wild animals and millions of wildflowers.

The view of American Lakes from Snow Lake (Photo by Laura MacLean)

The view of American Lakes from Snow Lake (Photo by Laura MacLean)

Finally, Hanging Lake is located near Glenwood Springs. Though the hike is only 2.4 miles roundtrip, the trail is steep and the uneven rocks can make for a slow climb. The lake at the end is truly unique because its waters are a surreal green and the lake “hangs” in a canyon.

In some cities, it’s nearly impossible to enjoy rest and relaxation from arduous, emotionally demanding work. In Boulder, it’s right outside your door. These hikes offer more than sightseeing activities and beautiful pictures. Adopting the Boulder outdoor lifestyle means making your well-being a priority. Law school has a way of thwarting a healthy work-life balance, but in Boulder, the mountains on your doorstep have a way of inspiring a sense of adventure. Exploring Colorado’s natural beauty is a way to reconnect with the simple pleasures in life. Furthermore, the Boulder lifestyle forces one to challenge herself. Physical feats that seemed out of reach become exciting goals crossed off your bucket list. Weekend hikes also proved to be an excellent way to bond with others. Previously unknown classmates become fast friends when they brave sudden lightning storms and glacial lakes together.

Justice in an Indigenous Community

2015 Gilmer AnnaBy Anna Gilmer

I have recently completed my internship at Akwesasne, a cross-border Mohawk community near Cornwall, Ontario. I was specifically working for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, which governs the Canadian half of the community and is located partially in Ontario and partially in Quebec.


When I sat down to write this second blog post, I reflected on my time at the Akwesasne Justice Department, and tried to think of the most interesting thing about it. As I considered everything I had been exposed to at the department, about all the programs and services that they run, I was struck by the huge scope of their mandate.

The Justice Department of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne is made up of only approximately 17 staff. But these 17 people cover a huge range of services. Their lawyer and paralegals provide legal assistance on all legal matters to community members and to the band; they have probation and parole services as well as an early release program in place for community members in both Ontario and Quebec; and they run the conservation and compliance offices. They also draft new legislation, conduct the local elections and referendums, and are currently in negotiations with Canada for a final self-government agreement. The Akwesasne Mohawk Court serves as a community court, addressing matters within a specified mandate. Finally, the Community Justice Program (a program within the department) assists with young offenders, organizes community service work, and runs diversion programs and circle sentencing. It is a huge portfolio, and represents an impressive move towards local control over justice.

Of course, many aspects of justice at Akwesasne are reflective of outside structures, since the system has had to be redeveloped from scratch in the last few decades. In a discussion of the Akwesasne Mohawk Court, the Director of the department, Joyce King, explained to me that when the court was set up, the department brought in Canadian lawyers to train Justices. As such, the court is reflective of the only system those lawyers knew: it is adversarial, with the Justice at the front and rules reflective of Ontario and Quebec procedure. Despite the strong Canadian influence, the Justice Department has worked to incorporate Mohawk traditions, values and laws. Community control has also been prioritized, and is central to law enactment procedures and other processes. It is interesting to see how the community has worked to regain a Mohawk system of justice on the territory.

What is also interesting about the justice department, and especially about the Community Justice Program, is its genuine focus on ameliorating the problems facing the community. Among other things, this means addressing such issues with youth, and helping them stay safe and out of the justice system. Between my research and writing, I had the opportunity to help plan and then attend the program’s Summer Cultural Youth Camp. The Camp was focused on culture, and provided youth in the community (and particularly those in contact with the justice system) with an opportunity to practice their culture, to listen to teachings, and to live Mohawk values. They fished, sang, danced, did crafts, made fires and listened to stories. Programming also addressed issues facing youth in the community, such as drug and alcohol abuse, the large number of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and more generally the continued effects of colonialism. I was impressed by how well the participants responded to the camp.

In a small but incredibly complex community, the Akwesasne Justice Department does a lot. It attempts to rehabilitate community members who have been convicted. It works to keep youth safe and away from criminal activity. It incorporates Mohawk traditions and values into the justice system. It passes laws that reflect community priorities and ideas. Of course, it faces its share of challenges, and the structures in place are not perfect. Nonetheless, it is an impressive example of the kind of work that Indigenous communities are doing to regain control and assert self-determination.

Contemplating my Stay in ᐃᖃᓗᐃᑦ (Iqaluit)

Dominic Bell - HR Picture

By Dominic Bell

I am currently on a First Air flight back to Montreal.

We just stopped for a brief layover in Kuujjuaq after departing from Iqaluit.

I feel like now is as good a time as ever to continue my blog.

Where to begin?

I think my circuit to Pond Inlet is a good place to start.

During their summers, students at Maliiganik sometimes get the chance to travel on what is referred to as a “circuit court”.  As the largest subdivision in Canada, access to justice in Nunavut is hindered by how interspersed the communities are across this great expanse of the far North.  Just to give you an idea of the sheer magnitude, the distance from Pond Inlet to Montreal is about the same as the distance from Montreal to Jamaica; and yet, both are located in the same country.


I travelled on circuit from July 17-24th.  Our trip began with a short layover in Clyde River.  Thereafter, we continued to our destination.  I am positively confident in saying that Pond Inlet is the most beautiful place I have ever visited.  The view from our hotel (the Black Point Lodge) spanned a large bay of ice blocks drifting gently with the current, and across the blue water stood the mountain range of Bylot Island: a bird sanctuary.  From higher up, Mount Yerodia was visible to the east and the distance to both was underscored by how spectacular the view was.


The day after arrival, we began preparations for the court circuit by interviewing clients, potential witnesses, etc.  The two lawyers and court worker who I accompanied on this trip, worked tirelessly throughout the weekend to ensure that we were prepared for court on Monday.  In turn, I assisted in interviewing clients and witnesses, and prepared some youth cases as well.  Moreover, when the Crown prosecutors arrived later, I helped negotiate some joint positions.  This was a fantastic learning experience as I spoke to summary matters in court for the first time.


The beauty of Pond Inlet and the learning opportunity I have described mask the extreme pain which I witnessed during my time in the North. Many of our clients have endured some absolutely horrific events in their lives and some of the trials were difficult to listen to at times. The complexity of the situation is brought into full light when one considers present offences through a neo-colonial lens and sees the court as a continuing vehicle for past colonial injustices.  Indeed, there is a lingering feeling that justice is happening to the Inuit rather than for them. Conversely, I am sensitive to the plight of the complainants who were often women and children.

There is quite simply, no simple answer.


I am grateful for the time I have spent in the North.  I have been introduced to such a rich culture which was built on the tundra and ice of the Arctic.  Before leaving, I had the chance to visit Qaummaarviit national park, which is a short boat-ride away from Iqaluit across Frobisher Bay.  The ancient Inuit used this rocky outcrop which extends into the bay as a strategic outpost where they could hunt seal and walrus in the sea while maintaining land access to the caribou herds.  Moreover, they developed some ingenious forms of technology to assist in their hunting exploits.  One striking example that comes to mind is the toggling harpoon and float system that permitted the hunting of large sea mammals—such as whales—in open water.  On entry to the target’s skin, the specifically designed harpoon head would turn sideways, leaving the initial shaft to fall away and the attached float to tire out the animal.  I am amazed by the brilliance of this crafty device.


I head back to the South with mixed feelings.  Sad to leave such an incredible place with equally amazing people, but happy to go home as well.

I have learnt a lot during my stay in Iqaluit and hope to return soon.

Des modèles d’inspiration au féminin

2015 St-Jean FrederiquePar Frédérique St-Jean

Dans cette publication, je désire parler du projet incroyable sur lequel l’Association où je fais mon stage travaille : l’Académie politique des femmes. L’an dernier, ce projet a permis à 25 femmes impliquées dans des partis politiques et désirant se présenter aux prochaines élections municipales de bénéficier d’un programme de formation complet afin de les aider à développer leurs capacités et renforcer leur confiance en elle. L’Association espère ainsi qu’elles seront capables de réussir à mener une campagne électorale avec succès et à se faire élire au sein des conseils municipaux.

J’ai eu l’opportunité d’assister aux deux dernières formations du programme et d’y rencontrer les participantes. Avant de les rencontrer, je ne savais pas trop à quoi m’attendre. Je ne connaissais que très peu la culture tunisienne, j’avais rencontré encore très peu de gens à l’extérieur de mes collègues de travail, et je dois l’avouer, j’avais des attentes assez peu élevées relativement aux capacités et connaissances des femmes impliquées en politique en Tunisie. De façon plus générale, je crois que j’avais des attentes assez peu élevées du débat politique en Tunisie considérant la relative jeunesse de leur démocratie.

J’ai ainsi eu droit à des belles surprises lorsque j’ai rencontré les participantes : des femmes brillantes, réfléchies, capables de s’exprimer avec clarté et surtout de façon convaincante sur des enjeux complexes. J’ai rencontré des femmes ayant une vision, une vision pour leur communauté et pour leur pays. Des femmes ayant des idées, un plan concret pour rendre la vie de leurs concitoyens plus faciles. Et surtout, des femmes ayant une détermination et un courage impressionnant. J’aimerais vous parler de certaines de ces femmes.

La première se nomme Ourida Touhami. Elle provient de la région éloignée de Tozeur et représente le parti Ennahdha, parti qui forme présentement la coalition au pouvoir et qui est considéré comme un parti conservateur sur le plan religieux. Ourida m’a immédiatement charmée par sa facilité d’approche. Dès mon arrivée, elle s’est montrée extrêmement chaleureuse et s’est mise à me jaser de l’Académie, de politique, et de bien d’autres sujets. Ourida est l’une de ses personnes qui défend ses opinions avec acharnement. Elle raconte qu’elles sont deux femmes sur 13 dans le comité local de son parti et qu’elle et sa collègue n’acceptent pas un refus pour réponse si elles considèrent que leur point de vue est justifié. Elle explique qu’elle réussi à bien faire passer ses idées dans un comité dominé par les hommes. Je n’en ai aucun doute, vu l’acharnement et la détermination dont elle fait preuve lorsqu’elle cherche à convaincre. Elle fera sans aucun doute une redoutable politicienne.

IMG_4851 Ourida Touhami, lors de la formation sur la Responsabilité sociale des collectivités locales

La seconde se nomme Jihen Maatoug. Jihen est juriste de formation et avocate d’affaires de profession. Elle provient de Tunis et fait parti du parti Afek Tounes,  parti socio-libéral séculier. Elle s’exprime avec aisance et accorde beaucoup d’attentions aux détails. Elle offre ainsi un discours raffiné et des idées élaborées pour résoudre les problèmes de sa communauté. Elle cherche à sa manière à briser les normes sociales, que ce soit en étant une porte-parole hors-pairs des droits des femmes ou en ajoutant une touche mode à son style d’avocate. Lorsque je l’ai rencontrée, elle avait en effet teint la pointe de ses cheveux en bleu, et m’a expliquée qu’elle voulait participer à sa manière à protester contre les normes sociales. Je tiens à souligner l’aide qu’elle m’a fourni pour mon travail de recherche sur les droits des femmes, prenant de son temps pour m’emmener à la bibliothèque de droit pour trouver de la documentation pour étoffer mes recherches.

IMG_4876 Jihen Maatoug et moi

Si je le pouvais, je mentionnerais les qualités de chacune des femmes que j’ai rencontrée, le beau sourire de Chadia Soli, la détermination de Leila Keskes, et la confiance en elle que dégage Souad Hamdi. Les femmes qui ont participé à l’Académie ont très certainement le potentiel requis pour devenir de très bonnes représentantes municipales. Avec de la confiance en elles et une bonne dose de courage, elles arriveront à vaincre les nombreuses barrières qui se présenteront sur leur chemin en tant que femme politique tunisienne. Certes, ce ne sera pas facile. Elles devront faire face à des partis politiques qui sont réticents à promouvoir des femmes à des postes de responsabilité, des cocus fermés qui préfèreront placer des hommes en tête de liste pour augmenter leurs chances de gagner des sièges et une population qui jugera parfois qu’elles devraient être à la maison entrain de faire à manger plutôt que mener une campagne électorale. Or, elles ont les outils pour y arriver et je crois en leur potentiel.

1908186_1071808529500092_3957079562933994582_nLeila Keskes, lors de l’Assemblée politique des femmes organisée à Tozeur

Je tiens à souligner la solidarité et la collaboration dont cette équipe de femmes a fait preuve. Les différences idéologiques entre certains partis politiques représentés par ces femmes sont marquées. Or, cela ne les a pas empêché de les surmonter pour travailler à l’atteinte d’un objectif commun : la promotion des droits de la femme. Ce type de solidarité féminine sera indispensable pour permettre aux tunisiennes de mener le combat pour l’égalité vers la réussite. Ce n’est que grâce au dialogue entre les différents groupes idéologiques et sociaux tunisiens – les séculiers et les islamistes, les riches et les pauvres, les gens vivant en ville et les gens vivant en régions – que les tunisiens arriveront à comprendre les caractéristiques qui les différencient et à les accepter. Ce n’est qu’à travers la collaboration que les femmes arriveront à créer un front commun pour vaincre les barrières qui freinent leur émancipation.

The criminalization of drugs and access to health

For those wondering, that is tea, not coffee. PS: Thanks for taking time to read this post.

By Jeansil Bruyère

Coffee. Some people drink it religiously, whilst others, like myself, might (emphasis on might) have a sip once a year. It is a question of preference, no moral undertones whatsoever. I am not a bad or better person for not needing caffeine to function (Although some people are jealous of this ultra-human ability). This said, coffee has its positive and negative side-effects but remains socially acceptable. However, this is not the case for a panoply of drugs that are currently criminalized and drug users who are marginalized. As a communication studies major in a previous life, I have always been sensitive to how the media, particularly mainstream, depicts marginalized populations or deviant behaviour.

From the Western world’s blanket depiction of devout Muslims as extremists, or criminal masterminds systematically depicted as leading drug rings, drugs seem to be an evil to be eradicated. Realistically, prohibiting drug use, production and distribution is outrageous. Various drugs have roots in medicinal and even cultural practices. Take for example the coca leaf used for centuries by the Bolivian peoples to help deal with altitude ailments. What does all this have to do with my internship at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (the Network)?

The topic of my second blog post was inspired by recurring interrogations people have been having with the Network’s drug related projects. Goal #3 of the organization’s 2014-2017 aspirations include demanding human rights for prisoners and people who use drugs. This has been a source of confusion for many individuals as the link between drug users and HIV is not necessarily clear to everyone at first glance. The human right at risk here is access to health. People who use drugs face serious health risks closely linked to HIV transmission when adequate syringes and other drug-use equipment are not offered.

A classic example of how drugs have always had negative depictions in mainstream media would be Scarface (1983) where a Cuban refugee, Tony Montana (the dapper Al Pacino), rises to become a powerful drug kingpin.

Midway through my internship at the Network, I was lucky enough to witness the inner-workings and preparations of various important symposiums including the preparation of the Canadian Delegation to UNGASS 2016, on drug policy reform. Initially schedule for 2019, the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Drug and Crime was brought forward to 2016 in light of the outcry of various countries outraged and disappointed by the failure of the war on drugs. Notably, civil society is currently mobilizing to advocate for supervised consumption services, enhance political and legal support for needle and syringe programs, and ultimately defend the human rights of people who use drugs.

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network demands access to comprehensive HIV and HCV services for people who use drugs and people in prison.

From the various conferences organized by the Network,  I quickly learned that punitive drug laws and policies impede access to harm reduction for people who use drugs, which indirectly also has an impact on indigenous peoples, black communities, and prisoners to name a few. The global war on drugs has failed and prohibitionist policies are crumpling people of various populations.

Drug use in certain regions of the world are culturally accepted, and have been so for centuries. Bolivia, for instance, stopped campaigns of forced eradication of crops because chewing of coca leaves was and still is a part of their lives. The President ignored the international control system and did not accept the belief that the Coca leaf was a dangerous drug. This is a perfect example of how outdate laws and practices do not only impede the right to health but the autonomy and cultural practices of aboriginal peoples.

Bolivian President Evo Morales shows a coca leaf during a presentation before the UN, chewing this substance is a century old cultural practice frowned-upon by the proponents of the war on drugs.

In Canada, the Network has been part of various initiatives from Supreme Court interventions to cases based in Russia and other regions of the world. I had the opportunity to participate in our national contribution to an international campaign: Support don’t Punish, a global advocacy campaign calling for better drug policies that prioritise public health and human rights. While certain countries have been using the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking (June 26th) to publicly execute illicit drug users, civil society has come together to advocate for better policy reform. In collaboration with the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy, the Network participated in a rally on June 26th of 2015. To prepare for the event, I worked with various members of the Policy Analyst and Communications Department teams to create the Network’s our spin on the Support don’t Punish campaign. Taking people of various backgrounds to take a stand against the war on drugs, we created the following social media piece:


What’s next for Quebec? Safer Injection Centre or Supervised Injection Site (SIS) are currently in the works for our beautiful province. Hopefully, we will be able to follow the footsteps of the 2003 safe injection site (Insite) based in British Columbia. Needle exchanges do exist in Montreal, but safe injections sites are the next step in the paradigm shift towards drugs. A sterile and safe place where drug users can use their own drugs under medical supervision and with access to a variety of services. With over ten years of scientific evidence, SIS do not promote criminal activity. In fact, they save lives by preventing overdoses, as well as HIV and hepatitis C transmission.

That said, informed discussions surrounding sound drug policy are inevitable when talking about the right to adequate health services. Lives are at stake and Canada should become a leader in drug reform globally. Like coffee, drugs are consumed and who are we to judge? I do not judge people who drink coffee. So just because one does not consume such substances does not mean they are better people (duh!).

Women & Human Rights: Part II

2015 Stevens YuanBy Yuan Stevens

This is the second of two blog posts about the work of women in human rights. You can find my first post featuring Salini Sharma’s work with Safecity in Delhi, India right here.


mali logo


I want to tell you about the fascinating work of Ibtissame (Betty) Lachgar in Morocco. She is a clinical psychologist with expertise in victimology and criminology. 

In 2009, Betty (her preferred name) founded MALI (Mouvement Alternatif pour les Libertés Individuelles, or in Arabic, مالي؟ الحركة البديلة من أجل الحريات الفردية). They’re a radical civil disobedience organization and Betty claims that they are the only movement of this kind in the country.

MALI fights for civil liberties such as freedom of conscience, religion and expression, abortion rights and LGBTQI rights.

They fight for change in what has been criticized as an authoritarian and Islamic state where, for example, both pre-marital sex and homosexuality are illegal (see this Wikipedia page for details on the latter).



Betty, left, in one of MALI’s Facebook photos. Used with permission.


How does an organization like this do their work? 

Those in the MALI community initiate premeditated and strategic actions that fight for specific rights and in specific places.

MALI’s first action was in 2009.

In order to fight for freedom of conscience and from religion, Betty organized a picnic in the middle of the day during Ramadan, a Muslim holiday where those who partake don’t eat or drink except before dawn and after sunset.

The act was also a part of MALI’s struggle to repeal article 222 of the Moroccan penal code whereby anyone who is “commonly known to be Muslim” can be placed in prison for up to 6 months if they violate the fast.

The active was symbolic, Betty told a group of us during the IHRTP. She said the purpose of the action was not to provoke nor shock people, but to symbolically fight against the state religion which seeks to control citizens’ freedom of conscience. The MALI movement wanted to “create a buzz”; to get people thinking. Find out more about the picnic here.


mali 1

Part of an exhibit that MALI showed to the Moroccan embassy in the Netherlands in 2012. Taken from MALI’s Facebook page with permission.


Another key action of MALI was in 2013.

Betty organized a “kiss-in” in front of the Moroccan parliament building to protest the arrest of two teens who posted on Facebook a photo of themselves kissing in public. The teenaged friend who took the photo was also arrested — all of them for public indecency. Betty told us that this event caused her to fear for her life due to the death threats that ensued.

Finally, the last MALI action I want to highlight happened just this year in 2015.

MALI members decided to take a huge risk and stood in front of Moroccan parliament with gay pride flags.

This occurred in the atmosphere of two French Femen activists who were expelled from Morocco after they stripped to the waist with “In gay we trust” written on their chests and kissed in front of a 12th century unfinished mosque tower. The women did this in reaction to the court’s prosecution of three homosexual men.

Betty says this particular action was very hard — it was tense, dangerous. An army of police was there. The secret service were there. They waited for her, she said — but she said it was, in a way, nonetheless fun for her; it’s part of the game she needs to play to fight for people’s rights.


betty 4

Betty at Hamburg’s 2014 Pride Parade. Used with permission.


There is no doubt that MALI is a radical organization that is sure to make people feel uncomfortable — that’s part and parcel of the work they do.

Regardless of our stance on MALI’s initiatives, Betty is a role model for all of us in her courage and choices — as a human rights activist and in her context — to rally people together to fight for their civil liberties and sexual rights. 

You can find MALI’s Twitter feed here and Betty’s personal Twitter account here.

Beau sur papier, mais en réalité?

2015 St-Jean FrederiquePar Frédérique St-Jean

Pour bien des Tunisiens et des gens vivant à l’étranger, la Tunisie est un pays plutôt égalitaire. Fréquemment, lorsque j’expliquais aux gens que j’étais en Tunisie pour travailler dans une organisation défendant les droits des femmes, ils me répondaient que la Tunisie n’avait pas de problèmes sur ce plan me citant le président Habib Bourguiba comme champion de cette cause. Dès 1956, Bourguiba a en effet promulgué le Code du statut personnel qui donnait des droits extensifs aux femmes, pour un pays de religion musulmane de l’époque. Ce code a en effet aboli la polygamie et instauré le divorce judiciaire, ce qui était très avant-gardiste considérant que la polygamie est encore permise au Maroc par exemple. Plusieurs considèrent que Bourguiba avait créé ce discours, afin d’obtenir l’appui de la communauté internationale pour le maintien de son régime. [1]

Sous le régime de Ben Ali, le peuple a continué d’être maintenu dans l’ignorance sur l’état réel des choses. En effet, l’information était largement contrôlée par le gouvernement qui muselait quiconque souhaitait contredire ses positions. Jusqu’en 2011, le discours officiel a ainsi continué de laisser croire aux tunisiens que l’égalité hommes-femmes en Tunisie était acquise.


La Tunisie a fait honneur à sa réputation en 2014, lorsqu’elle a adopté sa nouvelle Constitution. Ce document juridique contient non-seulement une disposition codifiant l’égalité des entre hommes et femmes et le principe de non-discrimination, mais codifie également le principe d’égalité sur le plan du travail et d’égalité des chances.[2] Le gouvernement s’engage d’ailleurs à protéger, soutenir et améliorer les acquis de la femme, à garantir la représentativité des femmes dans les assemblées élues, à œuvrer à réaliser la parité dans les conseils élus et à prendre les mesures nécessaires pour éradiquer la violence envers les femmes.[3] Cette Constitution codifie ainsi des protections qui rendront jaloux même les pays les plus égalitaires.


Ainsi, depuis 1956, le discours qui règne au niveau de la société est que la Tunisie est un pays égalitaire. Or, ce discours est loin de refléter la réalité des femmes au quotidien. La Tunisie se classe en effet au 123e rang mondial sur le plan de l’égalité des genres.[4] Les femmes consacrent 8 fois plus de temps que les hommes au travail domestique et au soin des enfants et des personnes âgées. Elles doivent assumer 40% plus de tâches que les hommes.[5] Il de plus en plus commun pour les femmes de travailler pour contribuer à subvenir aux besoins de la famille, même si elles doivent continuer d’assumer la quasi-totalité des tâches domestiques. Elle font face à un taux de chômage qui est de près du double de celui auxquels font face les hommes, même si elles sont plus nombreuses à obtenir leur diplôme de niveau universitaire chaque année. En 2013, 42% des femmes diplômées faisaient face au chômage. Elles ont de la difficulté à accéder aux postes de responsabilité représentant seulement 6,5% des chefs d’entreprise, 0.76% des postes décisionnels par rapport à la totalité des agents de la fonction publique et 8% des postes décisionnels au sein des syndicats.[6]


Le gouvernement ne montre d’ailleurs aucun signe d’une volonté de poser des gestes concrets pour respecter ses engagements constitutionnels. Il y de cela quelques jours, le 22 août 2015, le gouvernement a en effet remanié les nominations aux postes de gouverneurs et a sciemment omis de nominer une femme au 24 postes existant sur le territoire tunisien.[7]

L’une des difficultés de notre travail en tant qu’Association défendant les droits des femmes en Tunisie est donc de détruire ce mythe de la Tunisie égalitaire et de renseigner la population sur les inégalités qui persistent. Pour réussir, l’Association doit dédier une part importante de son travail à la sensibilisation et l’éducation. En tant que responsable des communications, la sensibilisation occupait une large part de mes responsabilités.

J’ai ainsi décidé de réaliser la campagne « Beau sur papier, mais en réalité? », campagne dénonçant le gap qui existe entre les lois, le discours officiel et la réalité. Cette campagne a été transmise à travers les réseaux sociaux, et principalement Facebook, qui est le principal moyen de communication utilisé par les Tunisiens. À l’aide d’images évocatrices et en exposant le contraste entre les articles de la Constitution et les statistiques révélant les inégalités qui persistent en Tunisie, nous espérions pouvoir faire réaliser aux gens que, même si les lois tunisiennes sont plus égalitaires que dans d’autres pays arabes, il reste beaucoup de travail à faire pour réaliser l’égalité substantive. Cette campagne de sensibilisation a fait l’objet d’un article du Huffington Post tunisien, publicité d’une valeur inestimable pour une petite association comme Aswat Nissa.[8]


Nombre des inégalités qui persistent sont étroitement liées à la religion et aux traditions qui sont encore bien ancrées dans la société tunisienne. Pour que le travail de sensibilisation de l’Association soit efficace, il est donc primordial de montrer que l’égalité peut être acquise dans le respect des croyances religieuses et des racines islamiques. L’Association doit chercher à créer un discours de renforcement des capacités de la femme, tout en respectant les libertés religieuses et les croyances de celle-ci. Le débat sur le voile qui a lieu actuellement en Tunisie est un sujet de réflexion fructueux. Certaines jugent que le voile est un symbole de domination de la femme et que l’augmentation de son port est un phénomène inquiétant. Ils considèrent qu’une femme moderne et émancipée ne devrait pas porter le voile.[9] Or, le port du voile n’est-il pas simplement un choix religieux personnel? Une femme voilée faisant des choix libres, poursuivant ses ambitions sans barrière pour la freiner n’est-elle pas aussi émancipée qu’une femme qui ne l’est pas?

Mon travail à l’Association m’a beaucoup fait réfléchir sur un concept que l’on nous a introduit dès les premiers cours de notre parcours en droit : la normativité. Mon travail en Tunisie m’a en effet permis de voir que le travail à faire pour qu’une loi devienne une norme, et acquière ainsi une force persuasive ayant un impact sur le comportement des gens au quotidien, il doit se produire un long et complexe processus. Pour protéger les droits humains, il est primordial d’élargir l’analyse juridique afin de comprendre les traditions, la culture, les normes religieuses et politiques qui ont bien souvent un impact beaucoup plus puissant sur les droits humains que les lois elles-mêmes. Une grande partie du travail à faire repose dans le changement des mentalités, l’adaptation des traditions et de la culture pour les rendre plus conformes au respect des droits humains, sans pour autant leur imposer un cadre étranger.

[1] Giulia Daniele, « Tunisian Women’s Activism after the January 14 Revolution:

Looking within and towards the Other Side of the Mediterranean », (2014) 15 Journal of International Women’s Studies 5, à la p 19.

[2] Constitution Tunisienne, art. 21, art. 40.

[3] Constitution Tunisienne, art. 46, art. 34.

[4] World Economic Forum, « The Global Gender Gap Report 2014».

[5] «Budget-temps des ménages ruraux et travail invisible des femmes rurales en Tunisie», CREDIF (Centre de Recherches d’Études, de Documentation, d’Information sur les Femmes), Ministère des Affaires de la Femme et de la Famille, 2000.

[6] Boutheina Gribaa et Giorgia Depaoli, Profil genre de la Tunisie 2014, Juin 2014, financé par l’Union Européenne.

[7] Kapitalis, « Nouveaux gouverneurs : «Où sont les femmes?», demande Bochra Belhaj Hmida », 23 août 2015 (en ligne) : http://kapitalis.com/tunisie/2015/08/23/nouveaux-gouverneurs-ou-sont-les-femmes-demande-bochra-belhaj-hmida/; Mosaïque FM, « Nomination de nouveaux gouverneurs par Habib Essid », 22 août 2015, http://www.mosaiquefm.net/fr/index/a/ActuDetail/Element/56376-nomination-de-nouveaux-gouverneurs-par-habib-essid.

[8] Huffington Post Maghreb –Tunisie, « Droits des femmes en Tunisie: L’ONG “Aswat Nissa” relève les différences entre la Constitution et la réalité », 24 août 2015, (En ligne), http://www.huffpostmaghreb.com/2015/08/24/droits-femmes-tunisie_n_8030852.html?utm_hp_ref=maghreb.

[9] Faouzi Ksibi, La presse de Tunisie, « Jusqu’où ira la cabale intégriste ? », 19 août 2015, http://www.lapresse.tn/19082015/103007/jusquou-ira-la-cabale-integriste….html.


Désaccord international sur la Convention relative aux droits des handicapés

2015 Beaubien OlivierPar Olivier Beaubien

Un instrument légal avec lequel j’ai beaucoup travaillé, cet été à « Disability Rights Watch Zambia », est la Convention relative aux droits des handicapés de l’Organisation des Nations Unies. Ce traité multilatéral, ratifié par 157 états, constitue indéniablement un accomplissement pour les droits des handicapés et les droits humains. Il est précurseur d’un changement de paradigme; plutôt que de définir un « handicap » comme une dysfonction du corps humain, la Convention le définit comme une conséquence de barrières créées par des sociétés inadaptées aux différences des personnes handicapées.

Un article central à la Convention est l’article 12, qui réitère que toute personne handicapée a droit à la capacité juridique, concept qui nous permet d’exercer nos droits civils en tant qu’agents libéraux et autonomes. Cependant, des tensions ont rapidement surgies lors de l’application pratique de cet article, comme l’illustre bien mon collègue Max Zidel dans sa publication. J’aimerais pour ma part illustrer les tensions internationales qui en découlent.

Le dilemme éthique oppose deux principes juridiques importants. D’une part, il y a le principe de « capacité juridique » et le changement de paradigme que désire promouvoir la Convention. Si le handicap est causé par des barrières sociales, c’est à la société de trouver un moyen d’informer les gens handicapés et de comprendre leur décision. Même si celle-ci devait faire une erreur, ce serait sont droit. D’autre part, il y a le principe de « consentement éclairé ». Si des professionnels jugent qu’une personne a la capacité de comprendre et de consentir, elle peut faire ses propres choix nonobstant les conséquences. Si elle n’a pas une telle capacité, les professionnels pourront alors prendre des décisions pour son propre bien.

Collègues et moi au local de Disability Rights Watch

 Avec mes collègues Pamela Chungu et Bruce Chooma au local de Disability Rights Watch Zambia

Il n’y a pas de réponse universellement acceptée à ce dilemme dans le milieu de défense des droits des handicapés et il n’y en a certainement pas à l’échelle internationale. Le « Comité pour le droit des personnes handicapées » a été créé par la Convention et est composé d’experts nommés par les états signataires. Le Comité a entre autres le pouvoir de recevoir les plaintes des citoyens des états ayant signé le protocole facultatif et de trancher si cet état a enfreint la Convention. Le Comité a émis son premier Commentaire général, dans lequel il défend fermement le principe voulant que les personnes handicapées aient en tous temps la capacité juridique et demande l’abolition des systèmes de tutelles dans tous les pays signataires.

À l’étape même de la ratification de la Convention, certains pays avaient entrevus la possibilité d’une telle interprétation et avaient émises des réservations, notamment l’Australie, le Canada, l’Estonie, la Norvège et la Pologne. Dans leurs réservations, ils interprètent la Convention comme permettant les systèmes de tutelles et ne consentent pas à une obligation de les démanteler. De plus, à la suite de la publication du premier commentaire général, quatre pays ont émis des déclarations dans lesquelles ils contestent cette interprétation de la Convention. Il s’agit de l’Allemagne, du Danemark, de la France et de la Norvège.

D’un côté, le Comité détient certainement une expertise et exerce une influence passive sur l’interprétation de la Convention. Or, plusieurs des pays divergeant de son opinion ont eux-mêmes une excellente réputation au niveau du traitement des personnes handicapées.

Il n’y a pas de solution facile, ni même de « bonne solution », à cette divergence d’opinions. La situation actuelle m’a néanmoins permis de réfléchir aux limites – et même aux dangers – du droit international. Lorsqu’on parle des droits humains les plus fondamentaux, comme le fait la Convention, il est facile de vouloir promouvoir la ratification de traités et le renforcement d’institutions comme le Comité, ayant le pouvoir de tenir les états responsables de leurs engagements. Je demeure convaincu qu’ils seront bien souvent d’excellents outils pour défendre les droits humains.

Or, de telles institutions nécessiteront toujours, en pratique, une centralisation de pouvoir, une perte d’autonomie nationale et une perte de proximité (aucun praticien du domaine de la santé ne siégeait sur le Comité lorsque le commentaire fut émis). La situation actuelle offre une bonne opportunité de réfléchir aux divergences qui surgissent de bonne foi dans la définition des droits humains, aux gains qui peuvent être faits par ces divergences et au rôle que doit jouer le droit international dans de tels cas.

Human rights monitoring in DF, Mexico

2015-Boychuk-ClaireBy Claire Boychuk

It smells of cleaning chemicals and urine. Outside, a courtyard in the middle of the hospital explodes with tropical colours; red hibiscus, yellow sunlight. Inside, the colour of loneliness is gray-blue. The images will haunt me later: this man with calloused skull and twisted ankle has lived in this metal crib for fifty-two years. A sound like a zipper from the crunching jaw of a little boy whose arms are tied in bed sheets. Screams and rocking wheelchairs.

Downtown, Mexico CityI shadow our medical expert and record her observations in my notebook. Age, treatment, diagnosis. We ask, how many hours a day is she restrained in this chair? Do the patients ever leave? Do they have families? And sometimes, are the women sterilized? Between me and this great suffering is my notebook. Later we will type up these notes, connect facts and law, cite UN conventions, write letters and reports demanding that this torture end.

This is the cadence of human rights monitoring with Disability Rights International (DRI) in Mexico City. It’s hard but meaningful work. By July, much of this evidence comes together in the form of a report, No Justice: Torture, Trafficking and Segregation in Mexico. Within hours the report is picked up by every major news outlet in the city. Soon after, ABC News airs a report on DRI’s yearlong investigation into shelters for children and adults with disabilities in Mexico City. The Mexican government responds, promising to end the use of restraints and cages. This is an historic victory. DRI has been advocating for change in Mexico for over twenty years.

I leave Mexico knowing that there are still so many notebooks that could be filled with the stories of children and adults who have survived torture and abuse, who may never see justice or redress. I leave with a heightened awareness that there is so much more work to be done in Mexico and around the world to guarantee that this generation of persons with disabilities and the next live in a world free of torture. But I also take with me a simple insight that seems to be at the heart of DRI’s work. When you begin from premise that all people are entitled to live in dignity, the only logical conclusion is that change is necessary.


What Yoga Has Taught Me About Human Rights

2015 Meredith Carly

By Carly Meredith

In my past blog posts, I have spoken about the distinct Boulder lifestyle; known particularly for its people’s strong connection to the outdoors, their focus on cultivating and connecting in mind, body, and spirit with the earth and the beautiful mountainous surroundings that Boulder has been blessed with.

Last night, I did something distinctly “Boulder”. I went to yoga class at a microbrewery. The 15$ fee  includes a one-hour yoga class and a beer shared among fellow yogis afterwards. The class is held in the  actual brewery, among the imposing metallic vats, the mounds of skids and the piles of beer cans. The  activities within the brewery continue as the yoga class goes on – a true way to challenge whether you are  succeeding at avoiding distraction and harnessing all of your attention into your breath. It is the perfect reminder that inner peace and strength, if you focus your attention hard enough, can be found in nearly every setting…

My only concern about completing a human rights internship in Colorado was the fear that I would miss out on one of the very important elements that many of my fellow interns are acquiring from their experience: being in the field and experiencing the day to day life alongside the people they are committed to helping.

But as I move into yoga’s final resting pose, savasana, I feel a deep connection through my mind and body and realize that I haven’t missed out at all. In fact, I have learned a very important lesson: doing human rights work, and doing it well, is not dependent on being in a particular place. It is about choosing who you want to help, devoting your energy and love to the people and causes that you care about and finding ways to achieve those things, regardless of where we may be in the world. Doing human rights work is about more than just thinking, or conceptualizing, or acknowledging that certain problems exist. As the founder of One Earth Future metaphorically put it to the interns over lunch the other day: “What good is your hospital if everyone who comes to your hospital dies?”

Believing that we need to be in a particular place, to come from a particular background, to have certain innate characteristics in order to help (while sometimes helpful in understanding the plight of those suffering human rights abuses) should not be a cop out for neglecting to pursue the issues we feel strongly about. Keep an open mind. Be innovative. Embrace the challenge. Take your unique experiences, whether they come from Colorado, Uganda, Iqaluit or Montreal and allow them to shape what you can contribute to the world.

There are days that your mind and body will embrace the challenge more easily. As yoga has taught me: just because you did a certain pose with ease one day, it doesn’t mean that same pose will be easy the next. While this may seem frustrating, it is indeed a beautiful thing that the world around us changes every day. Every single day nature provides us with a different set of conditions; different opportunities to address the problems that may not have been solved the day before, but that may just thrive under the new conditions of the world. Change is not dependent on where we are. It’s dependent on how we use the conditions around us to achieve the things we wish to achieve. As Heraclitus so eloquently put it: No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Namaste.

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