CLAIHR Newsletter Third Quarter 2011


Responsibility to Protect and the Libyan Crisis

CLAIHR President Jillian Siskind

CLAIHR President Jillian Siskind speaks about the Responsibility To Protect

On March 26th, 2011, CLAIHR’s President, Jillian Siskind, delivered the keynote address for a two-day symposium at the University of Toronto titled “Deconstructing Humanitarian Aid in the 21st Century”. The symposium was organized by the International Relations Society at the Munk School of Global Affairs and featured many speakers and panellists in the field of human rights.

Delegates were presented with a comprehensive investigation of contemporary issues relating to the politics of humanitarian aid and intervention. In particular, the symposium offered a well-timed opportunity for students, scholars, practitioners and individuals interested in human rights to gather and discuss relevant human rights issues concerning the recent turmoil in the Middle East.

Jillian provided the delegates with an overview of the legal framework for humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect with the corresponding political considerations inherent in such actions. The focus then turned to the current armed conflict in Libya, with first the background history of the country, followed by a political discussion of the current crisis and the response of the international community.

Click here to read Jillian’s speech.


CLAIHR joins International Coalition for R2P

CLAIHR is proud to announce its recent membership in the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect. CLAIHR is the first Canadian NGO to join the international coalition and we  look forward to working with this global network to further promote the principles of the Responsibility to Protect. The Responsibility to Protect provides a framework to determine when outside intervention is required in domestic crises so that the international community can provide protection to civilians when their government is unable or unwilling to do so. As part of our commitment to the principles of R2P, CLAIHR will continue its work in education and awareness raising for this important international legal norm in the Canadian context.


The First Nations Truth and Reconciliation Committee

First Nations TRCOver the past two years, CLAIHR has closely followed the progress of the First Nations Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) with interest. In 2008 and 2009, CLAIHR was pleased to partner with the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law to conduct research regarding not only Canada’s First Nations TRC, but TRC’s around the world. CLAIHR was also honoured to speak to the students at St. Thomas Acquinas Secondary School in Oakville last May at the request of a student in the human rights class.

The residential schools, which are the subject of the TRC, were notorious for abuse and neglect of First Nations children. The children were forcibly sent to the schools, often hours away from their families, and were punished if they were caught practicing their religion, speaking their native language, among other reasons. An astounding number of children at the schools contracted tuberculosis, resulting in many deaths.

The main purpose of the schools was to assimilate aboriginal children into the dominant Anglo-Saxon culture of the rest of Canada. As Stephen Harper eloquently stated in his apology, “these objectives were based on the assumption aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, ‘to kill the Indian in the child.’ Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.”

The First Nations Truth and Reconciliation Project officially began in June of 2008, a year prior to Stephen Harper’s apology. The purpose of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Canada is to rectify knowledge and experiences from the IRS. Ultimately, the First Nations are searching for a truth to continue the healing process for those who may have been former students of the IRS and for all aboriginals that have experienced injustice. The TRC also hopes to offer recommendations to the government of Canada.


Responsibility to Protect Panel Discussion – April 2009

Early last year, CLAIHR was approached by the Law Society of Upper Canada to partner an event on the “Reconciling State Sovereignty with the Global Responsibility to Protect”. In approaching CLAIHR, the Law Society recognized the legitimacy of the organization’s role in the international human rights discourse. On April 6, 2009, the panel discussion took place, featuring prominent Canadian figures including the following: the Hon. Bob Rae, former Premier of Ontario, current Member of Parliament and fervent Human Rights defender and foreign affairs critic – in 2005 he oversaw discussions between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers – Steve Crawshaw, UN advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, Professor Pacifique Manirakiza, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law and the Hon. Harry F. LaForme, Ontario Court of Appeals judge. The panel proved to be an informative and educational discussion centered on the origins and applications of the responsibility to protect and specifically on Sri Lankan issues. This occurred for numerous reasons: the very presence of Bob Rae bringing his knowledge and direct experience in the region, the currency of the issues at the time of the event, and the makeup of the audience. While expectedly, the event was attended by lawyers, legal scholars and academics, there were a considerable number of members of the general public interested in the current topic and many were of Sri Lankan descent.

Following the hour and a half long panel discussion, Anne Marie Tremonti served as the keynote speaker at the reception. Tremonti, as an internationally experienced and award-winning journalist and host of “The Current” on CBC Radio, discussed the coverage of international human rights in the media. Bringing a media perspective to a law-emphasized event, she explained the way in which overseas assignments for journalists are the first to be cut in an economic recession, consequently reducing direct experiences and points of view from journalists and the entire public.

Serving as an event partner, CLAIHR also had the opportunity to set up an information booth at the reception following the panel discussion. There, representatives from CLAIHR promoted another event they were sponsoring: the Hotdocs film festival. There was significant interest in the film and subsequently, the film’s showing was sold out.

CLAIHR looks forward to partnering with and fostering an ongoing affiliation with the Law Society in promoting and educating on international human rights.


Event: Diplomatic Reflections on Afghanistan – March 24

On March 24, 2010, CLAIHR is proud to co-sponsor with the Law Society of Upper Canada an event entitled Peace, Reconciliation and Justice: The Afghanistan Experience Reflections of a Canadian Diplomat. The press release follows.

After three decades of social and political unrest, Afghanistan has an historic opportunity to break with the past and set the direction of its future. One of Canada’s esteemed former diplomats and the first-ever ambassador to Afghanistan will deliver a keynote address at the Law Society on March 24, 2010 to reflect on his mission to Afghanistan and the prospects of achieving peace in that country.

Christopher Alexander, Canada’s former Ambassador to Afghanistan (2003 – 2005) and former United Nations Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan (2005 – 2009), will share his first-hand experiences of promoting peace, human rights, justice and the rule of law while posted in Kabul.

He will also offer his perspectives on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, including his role in organizing the country’s historic elections, the progress that has been made in rebuilding Afghanistan, and the country’s pursuit of peace, democracy and justice.

Alexander joined the Canadian Foreign Service of the Department of External Affairs and International Trade in 1991 and held a number of positions, including serving abroad twice in the Canadian Embassy in Moscow. He has been named one of the “Top 40 under 40” by the Globe and Mail.

This special event is being presented by the Law Society, in partnership with the Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights, Amnesty International and Canadian Lawyers Abroad. It is part of the Law Society’s Rule of Law Education Series.

Members of the legal profession and the public are invited to attend this free event. Advance registration is required. To attend, please register by March 22, 2010 by calling 416-947-3413 or 1-800-668-7380, ext. 3413, or by email

Members of the media interested in attending are required to confirm their attendance in advance, to help ensure adequate space and audio requirements. Contact Susan Tonkin at 416-947-7605 or

Event details
Date: March 24, 2010
Presentation: 6 to 8 p.m.
Location: Convocation Hall


Looking Forward to 2010

With the success of CLAIHR’s events and undertakings in 2009, 2010 looks to be an exciting year. In addition to CLAIHR’s continued observation of the Munyaneza case, there are plans to submit a motion to intervene in the case. A variety of CLAIHR’s Student Chapters plan on showing films on relevant human rights topics – either through organizing a film festival or with individual viewings. These films have proven popular in the past and hopefully will continue to educate others interested in the promotion of human rights. The University of New Brunswick’s chapter is planning on tailoring a research project to coincide with the ongoing the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Committee. As CLAIHR continues to be a non-profit organization, there are plans underway for a late spring fundraiser to support activities undertaken by CLAIHR.


CLAIHR’s Student Chapters

CLAIHR has one of the largest networks of law student chapters among Canadian NGOs. Over the years, we have had presence in 12 law schools around the country. Currently, the most active Chapters are located at the Universities of British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Western Ontario, Windsor as well as Queen’s University Faculty of Law.

CLAIHR’s philosophy is to allow its Student Chapters to retain significant autonomy. This stimulates the diversity of projects, that range from poker tournaments to film festivals to research projects.

Ottawa Chapter is famous for organizing its Annual Global Generations Conference. The Conference has been providing opportunities to students to present their paper to a large likeminded audience since 2003.

Queen’s and Western Chapters bring together students and professors from all levels and departments of their respective universities to their Human Rights film festivals. The film viewings focus on specific issues related to human rights violations around the world. They are accompanied by presentations from famous speakers and roundtable discussions where everyone can share their thoughts on the issues raised in the films.

This year, our new UBC Chapter will be holding a Poker Tournament to raise funds for its First Human Rights Film Festival. The Festival is expected to be held at the end of the academic year. Other Chapters also hold various fundraising events, such as extremely popular Quiz Nights, and Speaker Series that focus on international human rights and politics.

This year, the University of New Brunswick Chapter is successfully continuing the research project initiated at the University of Toronto Chapter two years ago. The Project provides students with an opportunity to be involved in historical, policy and legal research related to the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Students in these chapters collect and analyze data on international experience in creating and operating similar Commissions.


New Board Members

Anatoly Vlasov

Anatoly Vlasov joined CLAIHR’s board in July 2009. He is in private practice in Toronto and has experience working for the defence at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. With CLAIHR, Anatoly has taken over responsibility for CLAIHR’s Student Chapters.

Antoinette Issa

Antoinette Issa joined CLAIHR’s board in September 2009. She has worked as both a trial and appeals counsel for the office of the prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (“ICTY”). Notably, she worked extensively on the notorious Srebrenica case, which was found to be the only genocide committed in the Former Yugoslavia and in Europe since World War II. She presently works for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada as a federal crown. Her interest lies in the International Criminal Law and International Humanitarian Law fields.

David Andrews

David Andrews joined CLAIHR’s board in December 2009. David is a technology and marketing consultant who runs Ryatta Group, a company specializing in the online marketing of luxury goods. He holds an MBA from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. David will assume responsibility for improving CLAIHR’s marketing, website and social media offerings.


Announcing the 2012 CLAIHR Human Rights Internship Contest
CLAIHR is thrilled to announce the launch of its 2012 Human Rights Internship contest. The contest will be open to a wide spectrum of candidates and the selection process will allow candidates to showcase their experience and commitment to human rights. CLAIHR is developing a selection process that will also allow its membership to participate in the decision-making process. The successful candidate will have with the opportunity to work with a partner organization in 2012.
CLAIHR has a long history of sending students on human rights internships dating back to mid-1990s, and it is excited to resume this role. Check our website in the coming months for further details of the contest, including application criteria and deadlines.
Van Breda Intervention at the SCC
The Supreme Court of Canada granted leave to appeal in two cases from the Ontario Court of Appeal concerning two Ontario residents who were injured or killed while on vacation in Cuba in the case of Club Resorts v. Van Breda.  The court heard arguments on the ability of a court to hear a case in which the defendant and the injuries were located outside of Canada.  CLAIHR, along with Amnesty International and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) were given intervenor status together to make arguments at the Supreme Court.  This case was of interest to CLAIHR, CCIJ and Amnesty as it raised the issue of the forum of necessity jurisdiction, which is vitally important for victims of human rights abuses abroad who wish to commence legal actions in Canada.  This jurisdiction is an emerging concept in private international law where litigants may bring actions in tort proceedings involving foreign defendants and extraterritorial events.  The recognition of this jurisdiction would allow Canadian courts to hear proceedings that could not possibly have been instituted elsewhere.   This jurisdiction provides potential litigants with greater access to justice for crimes where legal recourse has traditionally been virtually impossible such as civil claims relating to egregious human rights violations.  With the recognition of the forum of necessity, Canada would allow plaintiffs who cannot return to the country where the harm occurred, without risking their lives or further injury, to institute civil proceedings against the perpetrators in Canadian courts.
The Ontario Court of Appeal recognized this jurisdiction in limited cases and CLAIHR along with the CCIJ and Amnesty International are seeking confirmation of this approach.  While the Van Breda case does not involve human rights issues, it raises this important issue of jurisdiction that could be a very important tool in assisting victims of human rights violations to find justice in Canada.
CLAIHR, together with the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) and Amnesty International, were granted intervenor status by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Van Breda case and made oral arguments at the Supreme Court on March 21, 2011.  CLAIHR urged the Supreme Court to confirm the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in recognizing the forum of necessity jurisdiction so that victims of international crimes such as torture, war crimes and other serious international offences can seek justice through the civil courts in Canada so long as the plaintiff has some connection with the Canadian jurisdiction of the court.
CLAIHR is represented pro bono by Dr. François Larocque of the University of Ottawa and Mark Power of Heenan Blaikie LLP.
Click here for the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal.

CLAIHR to Host Human Rights Speaker Series Fundraiser
This fall, CLAIHR will resume its human rights speaker series with a fundraiser at the University of Toronto. CLAIHR, in partnership with the University of Toronto Human Rights Clinic, will provide you with the opportunity to hear a prominent Canadian voice on international human rights in an intimate setting.
Past speakers at CLAIHR events include former Justice Minister and UN Ambassador, Allan Rock, and former Supreme Court of Canada Justice, Peter Cory.
The event promises to be provocative, informative, and entertaining. It will also offer you an opportunity to network with like-minded professionals.
CLAIHR will provide further details of this event in our next newsletter.

Student Chapters
The number of CLAIHR Student Chapters is growing! A new CLAIHR student chapter will be starting at the University of Toronto this coming September.  The chapter has officially received chapter recognition from the University and CLAIHR in March and will be finding candidates to fill the executive positions. Another CLAIHR student chapter is preparing for its official launch at the Carleton University in Ottawa.  Stay tuned for more information!
As every year, the Queen’s University Chapters organized and hosted its Annual International Human Rights Film Festival in March. Students screened three documentaries addressing children’s rights in various parts of the world, followed by discussions with academics and leaders of several not-for profit organizations. Over the two days, Queen’s CLAIHR welcomed 140 attendees and, raising $230.43 for the World Food Program in North Africa.
This year, CLAIHR also started a Facebook group “CLAIHR  Student Chapters” for members of student chapters to share their ideas and advertise events.