Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

Daughters for Life Scolarships program 2017 open for applications

September 17, 2017

 The Daughters for Life Foundation is now accepting applications for its 2017 Scholarships Program. The Foundation is looking for outstanding female students, who would like to take their education to the next level.  It is offering up to 10 scholarships for the next academic year for students to follow their dreams at universities in North America, South Asia, and the UK.  The foundation’s goal is to represent the interests of young women of all nationalities, ethnicities, and religious affiliations across the Middle East. So far, more than 30 young scholars have enrolled in universities and colleges across North America, the United Kingdom, and Bangladesh.  Submission deadline: December 16, 2016

Izzeldin Abuelaish started the Daughters for Life organization after his daughters were tragically killed. Since then he’s devoted his life to promoting the higher education of young women in the Middle East and around the world. He has helped nearly 400 girls since 2010 achieve their dreams. He said seeing these remarkable women move to change the world is keeping his daughters memory alive. I reported earlier that even this kind of approach was considered ‘controversial’ by some [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/13/human-rights-museum-controversy-izzeldin-abuelaishfor-palestinian-doctor-gallery/]

 

Source: Daughters for Life Scolarships program 2017

Amnesty International campaigns with “7 women who refuse to wait for their rights”

March 8, 2017

Also in the light of International Women’s Day 2017…….here are the seven Women Human Rights Defenders whom AI UK are profiling in their campaign of women who “refuse to wait in the face of injustice, and often paying the price of freedom in the process”..:

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng – She won’t wait… while women are still denied abortions 

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng

Tlaleng is a medical doctor in South Africa. She fearlessly advocates for sexual health as a radio presenter, spreading her message far and wide.  ‘I won’t stop until the right of women to have an abortion is respected and provided for safely,’ she says. ‘In South Africa, women die every year due to unsafe abortions, yet politicians think they can use women’s reproductive rights as a political ping pong ball.‘ Tlaleng is also challenging rape culture, and championing the drive to get health practitioners to treat patients with respect and without discrimination.

Karla Avelar – She won’t wait… while refugees are denied safety

Karla Avelar

Karla Avelar is a survivor. She’s made it through gang attacks, murder attempts and prison in El Salvador. Today, she heads Comcavis Trans, which supports LGBTI people, all of whom face threats and violence in El Salvador. Their situation is so difficult in the country that many flee as refugees. Through Comcavis, Karla provides information and other support to help them on what is often a treacherous journey that normally takes them to the USA or Mexico. But the US’s hardline stance on refugees and migrants entering the country has thrown these LGBTI refugees into even greater jeopardy – something Karla is now tackling with energetic defiance.

Su Changlan – She won’t wait … to reunite another child bride with her parents

Sue Changlan

Former school teacher Su Changlan’s story is not unique. One of her closest friends says that hers is the story of many women in China. She couldn’t stand by when she heard about girls trafficked as brides or parents whose children had gone missing. She did her best to help them and many others, her activism extending to land rights issues and support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. She did all this knowing that she might have to sacrifice her freedom in the process. Sadly, this is just what happened. She has been detained by the authorities since 2015. ‘I hope that parents do not despair about searching for their missing children. We, civil society, should work together to help them reunite with their children. The government should also invest more in these efforts instead of hindering our work!

Samira Hamidi – She won’t wait… while women are excluded from government

Samira Hamidi

Since 2004, Samira Hamidi has been blazing a trail for women in Afghanistan. As Chairperson of the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) she has actively tried to ensure that women’s voices and concerns are represented at the highest levels of government. At the same time, she is a staunch advocate in the international arena, reminding governments and potential aid donors that promoting and securing women’s rights in Afghanistan must be part of any conversation they may have with the country’s leaders. She faces a steep road, but she remains undaunted, championing other women human rights defenders, ensuring that their concerns are amplified. Women should be given an equal opportunity to make a better Afghanistan.

Jeanette John Solstad Remø – She won’t wait… for the right to be recognised as a woman

Jeanette John Solstad Remo

Until recently, she was John Jeanette, her name signifying the dual identity she was forced to accept every day in Norway. Although this former submarine commander felt her future could only be female, Norwegian law did not allow her to change her legal gender without undergoing a compulsory ‘real sex conversion’. This would have involved having her reproductive organs removed, as well as a psychiatric diagnosis. She refused to put herself through any of this. As a result, her driving license, passport, medical prescriptions, even her library card, still referred to her as male. She campaigned hard against Norway’s abusive law and her actions, alongside those of her supporters – including Amnesty – scored a huge victory. In 2016, Norway finally adopted a new law on legal gender recognition, which allows transgender people to choose their gender. Today, in acknowledgement of this milestone, she has changed her name to Jeanette John.

Loujain al-Hathloul – She won’t wait… for the right to drive a car 

180Loujain%20al-Hathloul.png

Fearless and formidable, Loujain defied Saudi Arabia’s driving ban and faced the consequences. In November 2014, she was detained for 73 days for live-tweeting herself driving into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates. Released in February 2015, she went on to stand for election in November that year – the first time women were allowed to both vote and stand in elections in the state. However, despite finally being recognised as a candidate, her name was never added to the ballot. Today, she continues her fight to create a better future for her fellow Saudis – one where women enjoy their rights as full citizens of their nation. ‘I will win. Not immediately, but definitely.’

Connie Greyeyes – She won’t wait… for another sister to be stolen

Connie Greyeyes

Connie Greyeyes is an ‘accidental’ activist. An Indigenous Cree woman living in the province of British Columbia in Western Canada, she realised that a shocking number of Indigenous women in her community had gone missing or had been murdered. She began organising to support the families of these women and took the demand for a national inquiry to the Canadian capital in Ottawa. According to official figures, more than 1,000 Indigenous women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada in the last three decades. The efforts of Connie and many other Indigenous women across Canada have borne fruit, with the Canadian government finally announcing an inquiry in 2016. ‘When we’re together, there’s so much strength. Being able to smile even after finding out that your loved one was murdered. How can you not be inspired by women who have been to hell and back over their children? How can you not be inspired and want to continue fighting?

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/campaigns/international-womens-day

Canada and the wisdom of “governmental” human rights awards

March 6, 2017

I have written earlier about the wisdom of having purely governmental human rights awards. Now Canada adds to the discussion:

In my article for Oxford University Press (“Human Rights Awards for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders” J Hum Rights Pract (2013) 5 p552) I wrote: “A word of caution with regard to ‘governmental’ awards is in order. While it is one thing for a government to ‘support’ (e.g. financially) an otherwise independent award with an autonomous jury, the notion that governments (such as the USA, the Netherlands, France, Poland, Sweden, Canada) should run their own awards, select the winner, have the Minister hand it out and promote the award through the diplomatic service, does not sit well with the desire to protect HRDs from the charge of being ‘foreign agents’, a frequent claim by repressive governments trying to depict HRDs as being supported and funded from abroad… A degree of distance would benefit governments and would also serve the laureates themselves who usually want to be seen as spearheading the non-governmental human rights movement. Intergovernmental organizations face similar problems in having awards, as was demonstrated by the controversy surrounding UNESCO’s decision in 2010 to launch an award paid for and named after the president/dictator of Equatorial Guinea, Obiang Nguema.

In a post of 2011 I expressed some doubt about the USA State Department giving an award to Cuba dissidents (see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2011/04/24/us-state-department-gives-its-human-rights-defenders-award-to-cuban-ladies-in-white-how-wise/).

A recent article (5 March 2017) by Dean Beeby of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) entitled “Diefenbaker award missing in action after Liberals take over” brings home another aspect, namely that such an award becomes a ‘political tit-for-tat’.  An award created by Stephen Harper’s government, which honoured former Progressive Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker, was inaugurated in early 2011 and given out for four years running before ‘disappearing’ in 2015 and 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

2017 (4): Canada’s year of real human rights action?

January 23, 2017

Alex Neve and Beatrice Vaugrante (Amnesty International Canada) wrote in the Ottawa Citizen (23 January 2017) a piece entitled: “Why 2017 must be Canada’s year of human rights action”.

Referring to Trump’s election and a number of human rights ‘anniversaries’ they say that there “is no better way to mark 2017’s many anniversaries, and keep a clear Canadian identity, than to make it a year devoted to advancing a strong human rights agenda, at home and abroad. That is the theme of Amnesty International’s most recent Human Rights Agenda for Canada, released today: A Year to Get It Right.”

The need is certainly great….a deeply troubling current of populism, racism, xenophobia and misogyny that has dominated election and referendum campaigns in numerous countries, most notoriously in the United States. The world collectively holds its breath in worried apprehension about the human rights implications of Trump’s presidency. And what of Canada?

Important Canadian government policy changes last year point to a renewed commitment to human rights; not consistently, but certainly sorely needed after years of diminished world standing. That is particularly so when it comes to gender equality, refugee protection and diversity. We have significantly re-engaged with the UN human rights system, including support for institutions that we once helped established, such as the International Criminal Court.

On the home front, the government’s talk of a new relationship with Indigenous peoples is welcome. It has laid the ground for the long-overdue National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which faces challenges and misgivings but is nonetheless underway. However, it is disappointingly evident that inspirational words and gestures are not translating into the concrete measures needed to truly address the decades of human rights abuse at the heart of Canada’s legacy of colonialism. Nowhere is that more obvious than when major resource development projects – be it pipelines, mines or hydroelectricity – are at stake. This is well-evidenced in the continued federal support for British Columbia’s Site C Dam despite a scathing environmental impact assessment, vocal opposition from First Nations, and the government’s own acknowledgement that its Treaty obligations have been sidelined.  …..

It adds up to a year of considerable human rights responsibility and expectation for Canada. Responsibility: to make sure that 2017 is a turning point for Indigenous rights in Canada. No more excuses.  Governments, institutions and Canadian society more broadly must sincerely commit to profound action to ensure that violations against Indigenous peoples will at long last be brought to an end and justice done for those who have borne the burden of this terrible history.

Expectation: to stand up for human rights around the world.  There will be much pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to appease new counterparts, south of the border and elsewhere, who have come to power having fuelled discrimination and division. But there can be no room to waiver. Respect for human rights must be at the heart of what Canada seeks to advance around the world, as never before. 2017 must be a year for human rights.  

Alex Neve is Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada’s English Branch. Béatrice Vaugrante is Director General of Amnesty International Canada’s Francophone Branch.

Source: Why 2017 must be Canada’s year of real human rights action | Ottawa Citizen

Canada joins select group of Governments with Guidelines on human rights defenders

December 13, 2016

On 7 December 2016 the Government of Canada published Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders. It joins a limited number of Governments with a specific policy on human rights defenders (not just human rights in general) such as Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland and Austria, although they differ a bit in the degree of detail. And there are of course the EU Guidelines.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/01/13/quick-reminder-of-the-eu-guidelines-on-human-rights-defenders/] and those of the OSCE: Read the rest of this entry »

Protesters – or (human rights) defenders?

October 29, 2016

The definition of who is a human rights defenders and who is not, is in my view and that of many others not a very fruitful debate [see inter alia” https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/hinah-jilani-on-human-rights-defenders-the-first-report-of-her-maastricht-lecture/] What is more relevant is the question of how they are described in the media. On this topic  has written a clarifying piece in the The Independent of Canada on 28 October 2016, entitled: “Calling Indigenous Peoples ‘land protectors’ or ‘land defenders’ is not loaded language. Calling them ‘protesters’ is.”

Land Protectors shut down work on the $12 billion Muskrat Falls hydro project in a fight to protect their traditional food and way of life. Photo by Justin Brake.

Read the rest of this entry »

Academic Freedom monitored by Scholars at Risk which celebrates its 15th anniversary in Montreal

May 27, 2016

Attacks on higher education threaten the safety and well-being of scholars, administrators, staff and students; undermine academic work and instruction; and deny everyone the benefits of expert knowledge and scientific and creative progress. Too often such attacks go unreported. Scholars at Risk (SAR) publishes an Academic Freedom Monitor which tracks key attacks with the aims of protecting vulnerable individuals, promoting accountability and preventing future violations. In the period February – April 2016  SAR reports 20 incidents:

Read the rest of this entry »

Possible funding for training independent journalists exposing human rights abuses

May 19, 2016

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Giselle Portenier (CNW Group/Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma)

Independent documentary-makers and freelance journalists working to expose human rights abuses can compete for a bursary to help them obtain hostile environment training, more usually made available to journalists working in war zones. The 2016 Portenier Human Rights Bursary competition, offered by the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma, opened on 16 May and closes on June 30. The annual bursary, introduced last year, is sponsored by the documentary-maker Giselle Portenier. Read the rest of this entry »

Navi Pillay reflects on 50 years as a defender of human rights

April 14, 2016

I have had quite a few post on Navi Pillay as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/navi-pillay/]  before and after her term [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/navanethem-pillay-finishes-her-term-as-un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-a-great-lady/]. So when the Toronto Star ( Immigration reporter) did an interview with this remarkable woman on 12 April 2016, I am happy to bring it to your attention. She was the recipient of the 2003 Gruber Prize for Women’s Rights and the 2010 Stockhom Human Rights Award.

“Navi Pillay reflects on 50 years as a champion for human rights”

Navi Pillay, who grew up under apartheid in South Africa, is the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Navi Pillay, who grew up under apartheid in South Africa, is the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Sovereignty of Human Rights – Food for thought on New year’s eve

December 31, 2015

For those who want to spend New Year’s even with a more general reflection on “What are human rights?” I think that Patrick Macklem‘s “The Sovereignty of Human Rights” could be interesting reading”. Patrick Macklem is the William C. Graham Professor of Law at the University of Toronto and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. The Sovereignty of Human Rights, was published by Oxford University Press in 2015.

On this anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is worth reflecting on the nature of human rights and what functions they perform in moral, political and legal discourse and practice.

For moral theorists, the dominant approach to the normative foundations of international human rights conceives of human rights as moral entitlements that all human beings possess by virtue of our common humanity. What constitutes a human right, according to this approach, isn’t determined by a positive legal instrument or institution. Human rights are prior to and independent of positive international human rights law. Just because a legal order declares something to be a human right doesn’t make it so. Conversely, the fact that a human right doesn’t receive international legal protection doesn’t mean that it isn’t a human right. The existence or non-existence of a human right rests on abstract features of what it means to be human and the obligations to which these features give rise. The mission of the field is to secure international legal protection of universal features of what it means to be a human being.

On moral accounts such as these, human rights protect essential characteristics or features that all of us share despite the innumerable historical, geographical, cultural, communal, and other contingencies that shape our lives and our relations with others in unique ways. They give rise to specifiable duties that we all owe each other in ethical recognition of what it means to be human. Rights and obligations can also arise from the bonds of history, community, religion, culture, or nation. But if such rights relate simply to contingent features of human existence, they don’t constitute human rights and don’t merit a place on the international legal register. And if we owe each other duties for reasons other than our common humanity – say, because of friendship, kinship, or citizenship – then these duties don’t correspond to human rights and shouldn’t be identified as such by international legal instruments.

In recent years, political theorists have generated a distinctive account of the nature and role of human rights. Unlike most moral approaches, which focus on universal features of our common humanity, political conceptions define the nature of human rights in terms of their discursive function in global politics. Human rights, according to political conceptions, don’t necessarily correlate to the requirements of moral theory. Global human rights practice, for several political theorists, is a social practice whose participants invoke or rely on human rights as reasons for certain kinds of actions in certain circumstances. They represent reasons that social, political, and legal actors rely on in international arenas to advocate interfering in the internal affairs of a state and to provide assistance to states to promote their protection. What this practice reveals is that human rights protect urgent individual interests against certain predictable dangers associated with the exercise of sovereign power. States have a primary obligation to protect urgent interests of individuals over whom they exercise sovereign power, but external actors, such as other states and international institutions, have secondary obligations to secure protection when a state fails to live up to its responsibility.

Legal theorists of human rights, in contrast, typically start from the premise that international law, not moral theory or political practice, determines their existence. An international human right to food, for example, exists because the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights enshrines such a right. Its international legal status as a human right derives from the fact that international law, according to the principle pacta sunt servanda, provides that a treaty in force between two or more sovereign states is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith. Similarly, the right to development is a human right in international law because the UN General Assembly has declared its legal existence. The international legal validity of a norm – what makes it part of international law – rests on a relatively straightforward exercise in legal positivism; a norm possesses international legal validity if its enactment, promulgation, or specification is in accordance with more general rules that international law lays down for the creation of specific legal rights and obligations.

Determining the legal validity of an international human right is a relatively simple legal task. But legal validity doesn’t determine the normative purpose of a human right, and legal conceptions of human rights that seek to explain their purpose in terms that go beyond positivistic accounts of their legal production threaten to reintroduce moral and political considerations into the picture, which undermines the possibility that human rights can be understood in distinctly legal terms.

For example, human rights in international law are legal outcomes of deep political contestation over the international legal validity of the exercise of certain forms of power. Such contestation doesn’t cease upon the enactment of an international instrument that enshrines a human right in international law. Contestation continues over its nature and scope in particular contexts as diverse as individual or collective disputes requiring international legal resolution, opinions offered by international legal actors on state compliance with treaty obligations, juridical determinations of the boundaries between domestic and international legal spheres, and negotiations among state actors that yield binding or non-binding articulations of international legal obligations. Once transformed from political claim into legal right, and as subsequently as a result of interpretive acts that elaborate their nature and purpose, human rights in turn empower new political projects based on the rules they establish to govern the distribution and exercise of power. How to separate the legal dimensions of human rights from their political origins and outcomes is a challenge to those who seek to ascribe legitimacy to human rights in distinctively legal terms.

In my work, I seek to meet this challenge by defining the nature and purpose of human rights in terms of their capacity to promote a just international legal order. On this account, the mission of international human rights law is to mitigate the adverse effects of how international law deploys sovereignty as a legal entitlement to structure global political and economic realities into an international legal order. It contrasts this legal conception of international human rights with dominant moral conceptions that treat human rights as protecting universal features of what it means to be a human being. This account also takes issue with dominant political conceptions of international human rights, which focus on the function or role that human rights play in global political discourse. It demonstrates that human rights traditionally thought to lie at the margins of international human rights law – minority rights, indigenous rights, the right of self-determination, social rights, labour rights, and the right to development – are central to the normative architecture of the field.