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.