Why Working to Uphold International Human Rights in Israel and Occupied Palestine is Important to Me

by Karen Segal

Today, CLAIHR has announced the formation of an ad hoc Working Group on the situation of human rights in Israel and Occupied Palestine. 

The current moment highlights the necessity of this group. In addition to the 1,139 Israelis and nationals of other countries tragically killed by Hamas on October 7, Israel has killed 25,000 Palestinians in three months, including 160 children per day, and injured close to 61,000 more. At the same time, Israel has engaged in countless human rights abuses of Palestinians, such as deprivation of food, water, and energy, targeting civilian infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, targeting aid workers, health care workers and journalists, and using chemical weapons, and Hamas continues to hold Israeli civilians hostage. According to leading experts on the ground, the situation in Gaza is catastrophic and unprecedented. 

Yet, the human rights crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories did not start on October 7 and will not end at the conclusion of this war. That’s why when CLAIHR President James Yap asked me to chair this working group, I had to say yes.

I come to this work in a number of ways. Being a lawyer, a Jewish person, a mother, and a feminist, I am unable to turn away from the human rights crisis in Occupied Palestine caused by decades of war, occupation and apartheid.

As a lawyer, I start from the basic overarching legal principle that human rights are universal and inalienable. That means that every person, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, nationality or religion, possesses human rights inherently. We cannot take those rights away, we can only violate those rights. Palestinians are just as entitled to live with freedom, dignity, and equality, and to realize their rights to self-determination, as are any other group, including Israelis. 

I also know that legal orders are only as strong as their weakest link. We cannot claim to live in a human rights based legal order if human rights are ignored and downplayed when it is politically convenient. If the world does not recognize and uphold the human rights of Palestinians as recognized in international law, then the laws that enshrine those rights cease to be laws of general application. That creates a very dangerous reality for any group.

This means that in a very real sense, my freedom is tied up with the freedom of Palestinians. As a Jewish person, I am devastated by the ongoing tragedies taking place in the OPT at Israel’s hands, just as I am devastated by the loss of civilian life in Israel. I also know how to recognize systematic oppression and violence, having learned about the Holocaust throughout my life. We are now observing conduct and rhetoric that is chillingly similar to that used by the Nazis against Jews being used against Palestinians by Israel, the US and their allies. Finally, I know that Jews, like other groups, are at risk when we start bending the rules of human rights for the “wrong people”. In that sense, Palestinian rights are everyone’s rights.

Third, I have spent my life and my career advocating for women’s equality. I know that in wars, women suffer unique gendered harms including sexual and reproductive violence. As a feminist, I hold dear the 1970s slogan, no woman is free until all women are free. 

Finally, and most critically, I come to this work as a mother. No parent can look away from the innocent faces of Palestinian children, who have lost their families, their homes, their limbs and their lives. I know that in another decade, it could have been my children suffering under genocide as the world looked away.

Amid the horrors on full display to the world, Canada actively supports Israel’s human rights abuses in violation of international law. Canada exports over $20-million worth of arms to Israel annually and it routinely casts votes in favour of Israel and its rights abuses in international fora such as the UN.  Canada provides economic, political and military support to its operations in Israel and in the OPTs. Canada has rightly condemned Hamas’ actions on October 7, but has failed in its obligations to defend the rights of Palestinians, as well.

Despite its many flaws, international human rights law can be a powerful tool to bring some measure of accountability to otherwise unrestrained state conduct. As South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice shows, international human rights law provides a powerful means to cast aside all rhetoric and judge disputes before the entire international community in an orderly manner according to universal legal standards that are agreed to in advance. Simply put, international human rights law matters.

For that reason, I am proud to chair CLAIHR’s Israel Palestine Working Group, and to lead this formidable group of experts in our legal advocacy for human rights for Israelis and Palestinians.

By |January 17th, 2024|Blog|

Climate Change Litigation in Canada

Join CLAIHR at 12 E.T. on Friday, Nov. 4 for a timely discussion on climate change litigation in Canada. We will host experts on climate change litigation in Canadian courts, including David Wu from Arvay Finlay (La Rose), Richard Overstall from Richard Overstall Law Office (Lho’imggin et. al.), Bruce Johnston from Trudel Johnston & Lesperance (ENVironment JEUnesse), Andrew Gage from West Coast Environmental Law (Sue Big Oil), and Fraser Thomson from Ecojustice. CLE credit may be available.

Sign up here:

By |October 29th, 2022|Current Events, News Releases|

Corporations as Good Citizens: Can respect for human rights and the environment be good business?

Wednesday April 20, 2022  |  12.00 – 13.30 EDT

Please join Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR) for a panel on Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) and other corporate responsibility initiatives. Is business that respects for human rights and the environment achievable within the framework of our current system of corporate economic organization? Or are the two fundamentally compatible? The discussion will be moderated by CLAIHR Board member Andrew Cleland, and featured guests will be Joel Bakan, Anita Dorett, Shin Imai, and Mónica Ospina.

This program is eligible for up to 1.5 substantive hours of Continuing Professional Development with the Law Society of Ontario.

To join the panel, please register in advance.

About Joel:

Joel Bakan is an author, filmmaker and a professor of law at the University of British Columbia. A former Rhodes Scholar and law clerk to Chief Justice Brian Dickson of the Supreme Court of Canada, Bakan has law degrees from Oxford, Dalhousie, and Harvard.

His critically acclaimed book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (2004), electrified readers around the world (it was published in over 20 languages), and became a bestseller in several countries. Bakan wrote and co-created (with Mark Achbar) a feature documentary film, The Corporation, based on the book’s ideas and directed by Achbar and Jennifer Abbott. The film won numerous awards, including best foreign documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, and was a critical and box office success.

The New Corporation, a sequel to that film, is based on Bakan’s book of the same name and directed by Bakan and Jennifer Abbott.

About Anita:

Anita Dorett is Director for the Investor Alliance for Human Rights. She mobilizes investor leverage to engage corporations on human rights due diligence based on the UN Guiding Principles for Human Rights and other international human rights standards and laws across multiple sectors.

Anita has a Master’s in Law from Columbia University, New York focused on Business and Human Rights. Her studies included international human rights law, extractive industries and sustainable development, human rights and development and international environmental law.

Anita brings with her 25 years of experience as a corporate attorney primarily in the technology and telecommunications industry. Prior to joining ICCR, Anita was an Associate General Counsel at IBM focused on global regulatory compliance including anti-bribery and corruption work and has worked in global roles at Dell Computers and British Telecommunications. She has worked internationally including in South East Asia.

About Shin:
Shin Imai is currently a professor emeritus at Osgoode Hall Law School. He has worked and published extensively in the areas of Indigenous rights, immigration law, clinical legal education and conflicts between Indigenous communities and Canadian mining companies.

Prior to his appointment to the law school, he worked at Keewaytinok Native Legal Services in Moosonee, started his own practice with a focus on immigration and human rights law and developed Alternative Dispute Resolution programs and justice projects in Indigenous communities at the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.

Professor Imai serves as a director of the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project ( a volunteer legal clinic that cultivates expertise in supporting Indigenous communities in the Americas and communities in Africa. He holds a BA from Yale, an LLB from the University of Toronto and an LLM from Osgoode Hall Law School.

About Mónica:
Mónica Ospina is a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability expert with recognized experience in the design and implementation of CSR strategies that support operational productivity while building trusting relationships with communities impacted by mineral exploration and mining operations.

As an author, Mónica created the Local Community Procurement Program (LCPP), a sustainable supply chain model, awarded by the IFC-World Bank in 2012. She has also contributed to the IFC-World Bank’s Guide for the Early Stakeholder Engagement (published in 2015) and participated in discussion groups for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the RIO + 20 World Convention on Sustainable Development in 2012. In 2020, she was awarded as Distinguished Lecturer by CIM (Canadian Institute of Mining).

Mónica holds a B.A. in Business Administration from Universidad del Rosario, Colombia, Master’s Degree in Diplomatic Studies from the University of Westminster, UK, and has completed postgraduate programs in Sustainability Management from Harvard University and in International Business Strategy, from the London School of Economics.

By |April 9th, 2022|Current Events, News Releases|

CLAIHR Open Meeting

Saturday, March 5, 2022   |  2:00 – 3:30 pm EST

CLAIHR invites you to an online gathering of human rights advocates to learn about the organization, share your view on the issues and projects it should work on, and help it set its priorities for the upcoming year.

Who? members, volunteers, students, and Canadian human rights advocates

When?     Saturday, March 5, 2022 from 2 to 3:30 pm EST


  • Learn who we are, what we do, and projects that we will be working on this year;
  • Share your perspective on what is going on in Canada and any ideas you have for projects for CLAIHR to take on;
  • Meet members of the human rights community and learn from peers;
  • Discover and join projects that interest you; and
  • Help CLAIHR set its human rights priorities, identify new projects, and develop new ways to support its members.

Language?     Presentations will be in English, but all attendees are welcome to participate in French or English.


Can’t make it but still interested?

Send an email to with your perspective on what is going on in Canada and any ideas that you have on projects and initiatives for us to take on 

And join CLAIHR

By |February 20th, 2022|Current Events, News Releases|

The Fourth Pillar: Community Principles for Business and Human Rights

12-2pm EST, Friday, December 10, 2021

International Human Rights Day 2021

To register, click here

By |November 29th, 2021|News Releases, Past Events|

Canada Behind Bars: A Conversation on Immigration Detention

Thursday, November 18, 2021  |  12:00 – 1:30 pm EST

Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR) is pleased to partner with the Human Rights Research and Education Centre (HRREC) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) to present our second and final panel on dignity behind bars:

Canada Behind Bars: A Conversation on Immigration Detention

Canada incarcerates thousands of people, including those fleeing persecution and seeking protection, on immigration-related grounds every year in often abusive conditions. A recent report from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International documents how people in immigration detention are regularly handcuffed, shackled, and held with little-to-no contact with the outside world. Those with mental health conditions experience discrimination throughout the process. With no set release date, they can be held for months or years. The Canada Border Services Agency remains the only major law enforcement agency in Canada without independent civilian oversight. Join us for this insightful conversation, moderated by Samer Muscati, about what is happening in Canada and how we can collectively push for an end to these abusive practices with Hanna GrosMolly JoeckJustin Mohammed and João Velloso.

Thursday, November 18 2021

12 p.m.


Event in English. | Free and open to all.

RSVP required to receive the link.

This event is part of a diverse and rich programme developed to highlight the 40th Anniversary of HRREC!


By |November 8th, 2021|News Releases, Past Events|

Dignity Behind Bars: The Impact of Prisons on Mental Health

Wednesday, October 27, 2021  |  12:00 – 1:30 pm EDT

Please join Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR) and the Law Union of Ontario (LUO) for a panel on the mental health impacts of prison and particularly solitary confinement. The discussion will be moderated by Zoë Paliare, creator and host of The Field podcast, who will be speaking with Mark Iyengar, associate at Peck and Company, and Vicki Prais, human rights consultant and lawyer.

This program is eligible for up to 1.5 substantive hours of Continuing Professional Development with the Law Society of Ontario.

To join the panel, please click the link at the appropriate time:

Meeting ID: 825 5782 0749

Passcode: 450507

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About Zoë:

Zoë Paliare is the creator and host of The Field podcast, which shares the stories of formerly incarcerated people with the goal of inspiring a future where they are seen for their humanity, not judged for their past. Zoë is also a transformational coach, entrepreneur, former litigator, learning & development professional, traveller, foodie, lifelong learner, mentor, and speaker. She also serves as the Director of Equity & Associate Performance at Cassels. In this role, Zoë is responsible for supporting the Cassels’ work allocation program, leadership development initiative, and the firm’s mentorship program, as well as coaching associates to reach their career goals. She is also a part of Cassels’ EDI team, advancing the firm’s inclusion and diversity efforts and related initiatives and events.

About Mark:

Mark Iyengar is an associate at Peck and Company and CLAIHR is lucky to have him as our pro bono counsel. He practices criminal, quasi-criminal, and administrative law. He joined Peck and Company in 2020, after serving as a judicial law clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada and the Court of Appeal for British Columbia. Before clerking, Mark articled in criminal and extradition law with the federal government. Mark sits on the board of directors of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers in British Columbia, serving as the chair of the advocacy committee.

About Vicki:
Vicki is an international human rights lawyer and academic, an engaging voice who speaks and writes in an accessible and eloquent manner including through hosting a podcast series, “The Passion Factor: Pursuing a Career in Human Rights.” As an independent human rights consultant, she exhibits expertise in prisoners’ rights, prison reform, dignity behind bars, and torture prevention. This year, she published an article in the Journal of Human Rights Practice, entitled “The Implementation in Canada of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners: A Practitioner’s Perspective.”

By |October 21st, 2021|News Releases, Past Events|

From the Field: Building a Career in Human Rights With Vicki Prais

Friday, September 17th at 12:00 pm (noon) EDT (presentation with Q&A to follow) 

The Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR) Board is pleased to offer a back to school event open to all students and recent graduates from Canadian University Chapters of CLAIHR. As we transition back into our academic and working lives we are provided with an opportunity to contemplate and rethink what direction we want to take our careers. We hope you will join us for an inspiring conversation with our guest Vicki Prais who has 25 years’ experience as a human rights practitioner, to explore the many ways you can apply a passion for human rights to the work that you do.

This event is free of charge.

Special thanks to the Law Union of Ontario for their support.

Please register here:

About Vicki Prais:

Vicki is an international human rights lawyer and academic, an engaging voice who speaks and writes in an accessible and eloquent manner including through hosting a podcast series, “The Passion Factor: Get Soaked in the Human Rights World”. As an independent human rights consultant she exhibits expertise in prisoners’ rights, prison reform, dignity behind bars and torture prevetntion. 

Find her here:

More about CLAIHR:

By |September 9th, 2021|News Releases, Past Events|

Canada Day Statement

July 1, 2021

This Canada Day, CLAIHR believes there is no better opportunity to stand firmly in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and reflect upon the hundreds of Indigenous children whose remains have been found buried on the grounds of several former residential schools across Canada in the past few weeks. CLAIHR is deeply saddened at the deaths of these children, and the thousands of other Indigenous children who never made it home from residential schools.

CLAIHR also recognizes that these tragic deaths occurred as a result of a widespread and systematic racist government policy. Residential schools were part of Canada’s colonial strategy to eradicate Indigenous culture, language, community and spirit. CLAIHR believes that there is strong evidence to suggest that they constituted, at least, crimes against humanity and cultural genocide. They certainly rank among the gravest mass atrocities ever to be committed on this continent. These human rights violations are not just part of Canada’s history, but are firmly rooted in the present. The last residential school in Canada only closed in 1996, and the pain, suffering and intergenerational harm and trauma of residential schools continues to reverberate today.

CLAIHR urges the government of Canada and the churches involved to work with Aboriginal communities to fully implement all of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (“TRC”) Calls to Action, particularly 71 to 76, which deal with missing children, unmarked graves and residential school cemeteries. As the TRC itself noted, this work is far from complete. Many relevant documents and records on the deaths of Aboriginal children in the care of residential school authorities have not been shared or reviewed. Ongoing work is required to identify, document, maintain, commemorate and protect residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. Thus far, graves have only been discovered at a few of the dozens of residential schools that were operated across Canada.

This is, however, only the beginning. Tangible policy change is also required to remedy the decades of violence that Canada has inflicted on Indigenous peoples through human rights abuses such as the residential schools program. For example, Canada should immediately discontinue its litigation against Indigenous children who were removed from their homes, including many survivors of residential schools, in two cases being appealed from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT). The government must also resolve all long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves. In these and other respects, CLAIHR is committed to supporting Indigenous communities, where useful, in their efforts to hold the Canadian government to its obligations under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), as well as under the various international treaties it has concluded directly with First Nations across the country.

To learn more, see the resources provided by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation ( and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada ( The National Residential School Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for survivors and family: 1-866-925-4419.

This Canada Day, CLAIHR calls on all Canadians to do their part to address the human rights violations committed against Canada’s First Peoples.

By |July 1st, 2021|Uncategorized|

CLAIHR Letter to PM Trudeau: Support the waiver on IP rights on COVID vaccines

While developed nations gradually bring the COVID-19 crisis under control through vaccinations, it continues to take a destructive toll on the Global South. Of the one billion COVID-19 vaccines administered globally, only 0.2% were administered to low-income countries. This is a product of global inequity and it can be addressed through decisive action. CLAIHR wrote to Prime Minister Trudeau and Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, calling on Canada to take a stand at the World Trade Organization in support of developing nations’ right to produce affordable generic COVID-19 vaccines. The intellectual property rights protected by the WTO provide pharmaceutical companies with a monopoly over the production of vaccines and medical supplies, which restricts access to life-saving medications for billions across the globe. While many nations have spoken out against these restrictive trade rules in the context of a global pandemic, Canada’s government has offered only non-committal generalities with no firm commitments. A global pandemic is not the time for token statements. CLAIHR is calling on Canada to take a stand to protect the right to human health, which is protected in international law. Read CLAIHR’s letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Karina Gould, calling on the Canadian government to support a petition to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive intellectual property rights and patent laws on all COVID-19 vaccines and treatments until global herd immunity is achieved.
By |June 2nd, 2021|Uncategorized|