We Can’t Ignore the Conflict in Sudan

by Hero Aiken

What is the history of this conflict?

The current civil war erupted in April of 2023, and has its roots in decades of armed conflict between rivalling factions in Sudan. The most recent violence has taken place between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), led by general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan “Hemdti” Dagalo’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). In 2019, the two groups joined forces in order to oust the then dictatorial leader Omar al-Bashir, in response to “broad popular and civil society mobilization for a change in leadership” (Vox). However, the ensuing attempts to transition to a democratic government were unsuccessful, and created a power struggle between the SAF and the RSF which has resulted in direct military conflict between the two parties (The Guardian).

While violence initially broke out in Khartoum and the nearby city of Omdurman, it has since spread to the regions of Port Sudan and Darfur. This widespread conflict zone covers almost the entirety of Sudan, which is one of Africa’s largest countries. Unfortunately, this military conflict has been accompanied by “inter-communal violence” in the Darfur region, as well as the formation of armed self-defence groups from what had previously been “neighbourhood resistance communities,” committed to the return of civilian democratic governance in Sudan (UNHCR, Chatham House). What’s more, there have been credible reports that the RSF is engaging in targeted assaults on certain minority groups, such as the Masalit, much as they did during the ethnically motivated violence in the Darfur region in 2003 (Vox).

Tragically, “both the RSF and army have been accused of indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, targeting civilians and obstructing and commandeering essential aid” (Aljazeera). However, despite the dire nature of the situation in Sudan, as well as linked crises in the region of the Horn of Africa, “the African region is critically undercovered in the media, and the Sudan war has suffered that fate.” It is clear that “the conflict and humanitarian situation will only continue to spiral if the international community keeps ignoring it” (Vox).

What are its current and future effects on Sudan’s people?

It goes without saying that the current civil war is producing untold suffering among Sudan’s civilian population. Of the country’s nearly 46 million inhabitants, roughly 12% have been internally displaced – that amounts to about 6 million people. Besides this, over 1.4 million Sudanese individuals have fled to neighbouring countries including Chad, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Central African Republic in search of safety (UNHCR). This means that Sudan is currently facing one of the world’s largest displacement crises (OCHA).

Besides this, the Sudanese population is being confronted with the threat of famine and disease due to the fact that the civil war has rendered it “challenging to establish an effective and competent civilian government capable of fulfilling the state obligations in providing public services” (Sudan Tribune). The widespread violence in Sudan has made it nearly impossible for individuals to receive adequate medical care, and cholera has proliferated, with there having been around 10 700 suspected cases as of February 2024 (OCHA). What’s more, “with expectations of a reduced upcoming harvest, prices of staple food are likely to remain atypically high in the harvest season” (OCHA). This issue will only contribute to the rampant food insecurity which is already present in Sudan. To this point, Aljazeera reports that “more than 18 million Sudanese are facing acute food insecurity – 10 million more than at this time last year – while 730,000 Sudanese children are believed to be suffering from severe malnutrition.”

On top of this, the risk of sexual violence and rape at the hands of armed forces has risen sharply for Sudan’s women and girls, and the number of children who are without education in the country is close to reaching 19 million (The Guardian). This heartbreaking information is even more striking when considering the dearth of Western media attention which has been focused on Sudan in the past year. As we approach the one year anniversary of the beginning of the current hostilities, Edem Wosornu, director of operations at the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs has argued that, “simply put, we are failing the people of Sudan” (Aljazeera).

What paths are there to peace?

From the above, it is clear that the Sudanese people are in desperate need of humanitarian aid, a need which cannot be adequately responded to in the absence of a ceasefire. According to Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation, this outcome will necessitate the mediation of international groups, as well as neighbouring countries, and regional cooperation. Moreover, he argues that “a common goal of preventing the worst outcome should override differing preferences for who should lead the country” (Chatham House). It seems clear that mitigating the suffering of the Sudanese civilian ought to be the greatest concern in considering how to handle the current conflict in that country, and that the desire for increased power in the form of control over land or natural ressources is a serious impediment to peace in Sudan and the surrounding area.

Above all, a resolution to Sudan’s civil war will be reached most quickly through global cooperation, something which requires that we keep our attention trained on the atrocities that are currently taking place in that country. In the words of de Waal, “if Sudan remains an international orphan, the calamity will only deepen” (Chatham House). We owe it to the people of Sudan to value their safety over our discomfort, and to engage with humanitarian and news reports which emerge from within the current crisis.

Works Cited

Al Jazeera. (2024, March 11). Sudan War threatens “world’s largest hunger crisis”: WFP. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/3/6/sudan-war-could-trigger-worst-famine-in-world-wfp

de Waal, A. (2024). Sudan is collapsing – here’s how to stop it. https://www.chathamhouse.org/publications/the-world-today/2024-02/sudan-collapsing-heres-how-stop-it

Grandi, F. (2024). Sudan emergency. UNHCR. https://www.unhcr.org/emergencies/sudan-emergency

Guardian News and Media. (2024, April 15). What caused the Civil War in Sudan and how has it become one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises? The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2024/mar/22/what-caused-the-civil-war-in-sudan-and-how-has-it-become-one-of-the-worlds-worst-humanitarian-crises

Ioanes, E. (2024, March 5). Don’t ignore Sudan’s horrific conflict. Vox. https://www.vox.com/24090710/sudan-conflict-war-crime-allegations-briefly-explained

Saeed, S. (2024). Options for a transitional government in war-torn Sudan. Sudan Tribune. https://sudantribune.com/article283604/

Sudan crisis one of the “worst humanitarian disasters in recent memory”: Un. AlJazeera. (2024, March 20). https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/3/20/sudan-is-one-of-the-worst-humanitarian-disasters-in-recent-memory-un

Sudan maps. Worldometer. (n.d.). https://www.worldometers.info/maps/sudan-maps/#google_vignette

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (2024). Sudan Situation Report. Situation Reports. https://reports.unocha.org/en/country/sudan/

The Rise of Fascism: Yesterday and Today

by Hero Aiken

Data indicate that violent action and rhetoric against marginalized groups is on the rise in almost every region of the world. A number of far-right leaders and governments are now in power – especially in Europe. Italy’s current prime minister Georgia Melon and her party the Brothers of Italy are widely viewed as the closest Italy has come to Mussolini’s fascist politics since World War II. The largest party in the Dutch parliament is now a far right party. Geert Wilders’ proposed policies include a net-zero immigration rate for the Netherlands, as well as a complete ban on mosques and the Quran. Moreover, right-wing populists currently hold the second most seats in the national parliaments of both Finland and Sweden (The Wire).

Many of the aforementioned countries have long been heralded as models for political moderation and democracy. It is therefore all the more alarming that they have not resisted the global trend towards fascist ideas. I have deliberately chosen the examples above in order to impress upon the reader that no state – no matter how democratic or tolerant – is free from the possibility of a return to dangerous or right-wing politics. In other words, the human rights that we now enjoy cannot be regarded as irrevocable.

The passing of time has meant that our knowledge of World War II’s horrors has largely become second hand, and has been relegated almost entirely to the history textbook. The rise of right-wing populism which swept Europe and led to the industrialization of genocide and mass displacement is often regarded as being of purely academic interest, allowing those of us who reside in wealthy democracies to feel as though we are immune to the danger of returning to nationalist or totalitarian rule.

Seventy-nine years after the supposed fall of fascism, barely more than 5% of American World War II veterans are still alive. Well over 100 of these individuals die every day (USA Today). Similarly, fewer than 250 000 Holocaust survivors are still alive in 2024, a miniscule number compared to the millions murdered in the concentration camps of Europe (Washington Post). This may begin to explain why over 10% of respondents to a recent American survey on Holocaust knowledge had never heard the word “Holocaust” before (NBC). Likewise, in a survey conducted on the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings (D-Day), 1 in 10 American college graduates admitted to believing that the landings occurred at Pearl Harbor, in Hawai’i (ACTA). It is clear from this information that we are losing our collective living memory of World War II and its associated atrocities.

Not only is this lack of knowledge profoundly embarrassing, it is also very dangerous. As the dictum goes: “those who do not learn history are destined to repeat it.” If education on past wars is not kept up, how will we know to adopt governments who won’t espouse fascist ideals? If knowledge of past genocides and past totalitarian regimes is not common knowledge, who will keep these institutions at bay? Unfortunately, I believe that we have already begun to witness the failures of education and memory in this area.

Although “[a]nnual data are still being compiled, […] police across Canada have been reporting marked increases in the number of crimes targeting Muslims and Jews alike” (CityNews). Along these same lines, attacks based on sexual orientation have risen 13.8% in the past year, in the United States (HRC). Europe is no exception to this alarming rule; almost half of Europeans of African descent face overt racism in their daily lives, and that number reaches 70% in some countries. This represents a marked increase from previous years.

From this, it is painfully clear that fascist sentiment is once more on the rise throughout Europe and the world, and this despite the purported safeguards of democracy. Because of this, it is more important than ever to remember that the fight for the maintenance of human rights is not one that admits complacency. Recent events such as the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the stripping of abortion rights in many American states ought to remind the reader that each human right that we now take for granted was won through the hardwork and sacrifice of real people, and can be lost if the ideals and practices which won it are abandoned. Resisting yesterday’s rise of fascism took a concerted international effort, how will we continue these efforts today?

Works Cited

Alacbay, A. (2014, May 7). On 70th Anniversary of D-Day, Survey Finds Many Americans Know Little About the Fateful Battle. American Council of Trustees and Alumni. https://www.goacta.org/2014/06/on_70th_anniversary_of_d_day_survey_finds_many_americans_know_little_about/

Lagatta, E. (2023). 131 World War II vets die each day, on average; here is how their stories are being preserved. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2023/11/10/historians-world-war-ii-america-veterans-day/71393175007/

Luneau, D. (2023). FBI’s Annual Crime Report — Amid State of Emergency, Anti-LGBTQ+ Hate Crimes Hit Staggering Record Highs. Human Rights Campaign. https://www.hrc.org/press-releases/fbis-annual-crime-report-amid-state-of-emergency-anti-lgbtq-hate-crimes-hit-staggering-record-highs

O’Flaherty, M. (2023, November 23). Europe’s shame: how to confront rising racism. The Parliament Magazine. https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/news/article/europes-shame-how-to-confront-rising-racism

Ramgopal, K. (2020). Survey finds “shocking” lack of Holocaust knowledge among millennials and Gen Z. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/survey-finds-shocking-lack-holocaust-knowledge-among-millennials-gen-z-n1240031

Robertson, D. (2024, January 27). Anti-Islamophobia envoy warns of chill on speaking out about Gaza, hate crimes. CityNews Toronto. https://toronto.citynews.ca/2024/01/27/anti-islamophobia-envoy-warns-of-chill-on-speaking-out-about-gaza-hate-crimes/

Timsit, A. (2024). 245,000 Jewish holocaust survivors are alive today. Where are they now?. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/01/24/jewish-holocaust-survivors/

Whitehead, A. (2023). The Right Wing Is on the Rise Globally. The Wire. https://thewire.in/world/the-right-wing-is-on-the-rise-globally

The Plight of Female Sugarcane Cutters in Maharashtra

by Elsa Rollier

India is the second largest sugar producer in the world and the state of Maharashtra alone accounts for almost a third of that production (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). Maharashtra provides sugar for multiple countries, as well as multinational companies such as Coca-Cola or Pepsi (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). However, this huge industry relies on an abusive labor system.

As Oxfam Germany’s Business Global Coordinator Pooja Adhikari explains: “There are deep-rooted concerns in the way the [sugar industry] functions, regarding human rights violations, migrant labour and the living conditions [of labourers], child labour and child marriages, and women’s rights” (Shukla, Aggarwal & Upreti, 2022). Indeed, the labor system in Maharashtra’s sugar industry is extremely abusive towards its workers. Sugar laborers do not receive wages, but an advance from their employers at the start of each harvest season, which lasts around 6 months (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). This advance typically represents around $1800 for one couple (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024), and the interest rate of these loans are high, as contractors usually lend money to workers with a 50 to 60% interest rate (Shukla, Aggarwal & Upreti, 2022). The workers then have to pay back that advance with their work in the fields and also have to pay a fee in order to miss work, even for medical reasons (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). And this system is only getting reinforced. As Narayan Gaikwad, a member of the farmer’s association All India Kisan Sabha notes: “In the past four to five years, the instances of debt bondage have increased a lot” (Jain, 2023).

One of the consequences of this abusive labor system is the pressure put on female sugar laborers to get hysterectomies, a surgery to remove the uterus (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). Hysterectomies are routinely performed worldwide but are not common for women under 40 years old (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). In India, such surgeries are more common for instance as a birth control measure; but in Maharashtra, women are pushed by various actors (their contractors, other sugar field workers and sometimes doctors) to get this surgery (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). This operation is very widespread amongst women working in the sugar fields, and a local government report revealed that out of 82,200 female sugar cane workers working in the district of Beed in Maharashtra, approximately one in five had a hysterectomy (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). These operations are paid by labor brokers lending money for the surgeries in order to treat ailments like painful periods, which can keep women from working effectively in the fields (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). Women therefore “seek hysterectomies in hopes of stopping their periods, as a drastic form of uterine cancer prevention or to end the need for routine gynecological care” (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024).

After undergoing a hysterectomy, women then continue their work without having to deal with medical visits or menstruation issues in an environment where they have no access to toilets, shelters or even running water (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). As sugar industry worker Gangabai Prakash Shingare explains: “I have worked in Maharashtra and Karnataka but I have not once seen a toilet or bathroom for women. Men can walk to the nearest pond and bathe but what do we do? Early in the morning, when it is still dark, we walk into dense sugarcane fields. That is the only time and place we have to manage our businesses” (Sah, 2022). Women do not have access to menstrual hygiene and healthcare, for menstrual products are expensive and complicated to find and take care of; and women in the fields typically have to use reused cloth that they wash by hand during their periods (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). Most of the women working in the fields are not educated about these operations and are left with little choice (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024).

However, these surgeries are not without risk for women, especially under 40 years old (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). Indeed, women encounter short-term risks such as blood clots or abdominal pain, but also long-term risks such as osteoporosis or higher chances of heart disease due to early menopause, for a hysterectomy often involves the removal of the ovaries as well (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). Furthermore, in addition to the health consequences, they also have to pay back the surgery, which increases their debt, keeping them even longer in the fields (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). Young girls in Maharashtra are also pushed into marriage because working in the fields to cut sugar cane as a couple pays more than a man working alone (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). Also, when children accompany their parents in the fields, parents have to support them, which is why families usually try to get their daughters to marry young, and contractors also sometimes pressure girls to get married (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). As associate professor at Wardha‘s Kumbhalkar College of Social Work Mahadev Chunche points out, sexual harassment is a big issue for female sugar laborers (Shukla et al., 2022). Out of the 400 women working in Maharashtra’s sugar industry that Chunche interviewed, almost 80% of them spoke about the molestation, rape, or sexual harassment they faced by male workers, intermediaries, or drivers (Shukla et al., 2022). Women are also pushed to stay silent: “Sometimes the pressure is from the labour contractors not to speak but the main reason is their poverty. They fear that if they report [the abuse], it will bring disrepute, they will get no more work and there will be no one to marry them.” (Shukla et al., 2022). A study by researchers from Symbiosis International University in 2020 affirmed the living and working conditions of these women as “violate basic human rights” (Shukla et al., 2022).

The working conditions in the fields are extremely harsh. Laborers typically work until midnight, sleep under tents on thin mattresses, and women wake up before their families, around 4 a.m., to take care of the chores and prepare for the day before going back to work (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). A workday typically lasts between 13 to 16 hours, during which workers plant seeds, irrigate crops, cut sugar canes and load them for transportation to the sugar mills (Shukla, Aggarwal & Upreti, 2022). The workers have to work in extreme heat, which severely impacts their physical and mental health, and can lead them to develop troubles such as anemia, anxiety, or depression (Shukla, Aggarwal & Upreti, 2022). These conditions have also deteriorated because of the impacts of climate change, which led more crops to fail and made fewer jobs accessible for small scale-farmers or agriculture, leading even more workers to migrate (Jain, 2023). In addition, by engendering droughts or heatwaves, climate change also led contractors to lend less money to workers, when those events led to the destruction of crops (Shukla, Aggarwal & Upreti, 2022). Due to the decrease of sugar cane yields, more workers are coming back to the sugar fields for multiple seasons (Jain, 2023). Along with the decline of the harvests, the rise of sugar cutting machines might also further degrade the working conditions of the laborers in the field, leaving them “with much less work and no bargaining power” (Jain, 2023). Indeed, the contractors do not keep track of how much sugar the workers cut, nor establish official work contracts, and claim after every season that workers did not pay back their advance (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). This type of arrangement has been defined by the United Nations labor agency and workers’ rights group as forced labor (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024).

This abusive system is not a secret. Sugar producers, as well as the companies buying from them, are aware of such arrangements (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). As mentioned before, the labor from these women and families provides sugar to companies like Pepsi or Coca-Cola which both confirmed they were buying sugar in Maharashtra, and mostly use it for products distributed in India (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). In addition to supporting this abusive system, these companies are also aware of the conditions of the sugar laborers. In 2019, an investigation was launched by a Maharashtra state lawmaker regarding the high number of hysterectomies among female sugar-cane cutters (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). After surveying thousands of women, researchers reported that workers faced horrible working conditions (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). They established a link between the sugar industry and the high level of hysterectomies performed in the state, which they tied to the inability for women to take time off during their pregnancy or for medical appointments, which leaves them with no choice but this surgery (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). In 2019, Coca-Cola also issued another report from Arche Advisors audit firm, which visited 123 farms in Maharashtra and another state (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). They revealed they had found children workers in approximately half of the farms, who either migrated along with their parents, or were directly working in the fields cutting, carrying and bundling sugar cane (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). The firm noted that the suppliers of Coca-Cola did not provide any toilets or shelters to the workers (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). Therefore, the report called on the mills to provide these basic elements, as well as the minimum wage to workers (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024).

These companies have publicly condemned such systems. In another corporate report in 2019, Coca-Cola affirmed it was supporting a program to “gradually reduce child labor” in India (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). The company published, like Pepsico, codes of conduct that prohibits business partners and suppliers to use forced labor or child labor (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). Pepsico also issued a statement saying that: “The description of the working conditions of sugar-cane cutters in Maharashtra is deeply concerning […] We will engage with our franchisee partners to conduct an assessment to understand the sugar-cane cutter working conditions and any actions that may need to be taken.” (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). Major buyer companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsico claim they hold their suppliers to strict standards of labor rights, however these same companies rarely monitor the numerous farms their supply chains rely on (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). They instead rely on the sugar mill owners that supply them, but these owners claim they do not employ the workers themselves. They pay contractors to do so and therefore have no influence on the treatment of those workers (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). These contractors often do not have any qualifications in terms of employment and simply distribute the money of the mill owners and consequently cannot oversee working conditions (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). One of the only changes made was the creation of a rule requiring civil surgeons (the top health officials of the district) to approve hysterectomies, in order to prevent some doctors to profit off unnecessary operations; but the surgeries on younger women still continue, and little overall change has been made (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). Indeed, the sugar industry in Maharashtra relies on that system. As Sanjay Khatal, the managing director of a sugar mill lobbying group explains, for mill owners to provide benefits to workers, it would require them to be seen as direct employers, which would raise costs and compromise the entire system: “It is the very existence of the industry which can come into question” (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024). Therefore, these brands keep on profiting from a violent labor system, exploiting children and pushing women to get unnecessary hysterectomies (Rajagopalan & Inzamam, 2024).

As Article 12 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) states, the discrimination of women in regards to health services is prohibited, and states are obliged to provide appropriate services for women’s reproductive health (Kanodia, 2023). States thus need to provide access to healthcare and services by trained professionals to every woman regardless of their status (Kanodia, 2023). In a recent case in India (Dr. Narendra Gupta versus Union of India & Ors) dating from April 2023, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) declared: “The right to health is an intrinsic element of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution. Life, to be enjoyed in all its diverse elements, must be based on robust conditions of health. There has been a serious violation of the fundamental rights of the women who underwent unnecessary hysterectomies”, and also said each state should set a hysterectomy monitoring committee to oversee medical institutions that perform unnecessary hysterectomies (Kanodia, 2023). Unnecessary hysterectomies performed under pressure on uninformed women are a violation of women’s personal liberty and fundamental rights (Kanodia, 2023). In order for women to be fully informed about the procedure, they will need to have access to information about the post-effects of the surgery, as well as about other alternative treatments (Kanodia, 2023).

As principal researcher for IIED Ritu Bhardwaj claims, the situation of these female sugar workers could be seen as a consequence of the current climate crisis (Mishra, 2024). According to her, the loss and damage fund established during COP27 in 2022 to compensate people for “irreversible losses” due to climate change should be used to compensate these female workers as well: “When we talk about the losses incurred and the damage done by climate change, we’re not just talking about flooded apartments in New York, or scorched hillsides in Greece. These women’s experiences are also a result of climate change which has decimated their livelihoods, and some of what they have lost – their dignity, good health, in some cases their lives – is difficult to quantify” (Mishra, 2024). For instance, the money could be used to enhance access to healthcare or provide more social protection: “By prioritising direct cash or benefit transfers to the most vulnerable communities, including leveraging technology and financial inclusion, the fund can ensure swift support reaches those in need” (Mishra, 2024).

Works Cited

Jain, S. (2023, February 7). In Maharashtra, sugarcane workers suffer debt bondage as climate change ruins crops. Scroll.in. https://scroll.in/article/1043358/in-maharashtra-sugarcane-workers-suffer-debt-bondage-as-clima te-change-ruins-crops

Kanodia, A. (2023, October 22). The tall sugarcane in Beed hides a bitter truth. NewsClick. https://www.newsclick.in/tall-sugarcane-beed-hides-bitter-truth

Mishra, S. (2024, March 12). In a hotter world, these women are left with little option but sterilization. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/beed-maharashtra-india-drought-women-st erilization-b2511174.html

Rajagopalan, M., & Inzamam, Q. (2024, March 24). The brutality of sugar: Debt, Child marriage and hysterectomies. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/24/world/asia/india-sugar-cane-fields-child-labor-hysterectom ies.html?searchResultPosition=23

Sah, P. (2023, November 10). Why women sugarcane cutters of Maharashtra seek needless hysterectomies. BehanBox. https://behanbox.com/2022/07/19/why-women-sugarcane-cutters-of-maharashtra-seek-needless- hysterectomies/

Shukla, A., Aggarwal, M., & Upreti, M. (2022, December 20). Migrant labourers suffer exploitation in India’s sugar fields. Climate Home News. https://www.climatechangenews.com/2022/12/19/migrant-labourers-suffer-exploitation-in-indias -sugar-fields/#:~:text=More%20and%20more%2C%20these%20migrants,a%20report%20by%2 0Oxfam%20India.

Shukla, A., Aggarwal, M., Upreti, M., & Bhatia, G. (2022, December 21). India’s female cane cutters face child marriage and hysterectomy. Climate Home News. https://www.climatechangenews.com/2022/12/20/indias-female-cane-cutters-face-child-marriage -and-hysterectomy/

No More Turning Away: Homelessness in Our City

by Hero Aiken

“You can’t sleep on the streets, would you? Of course not. Me either, but it’s the option that’s available.” – Innocent Amuda (Global News)

When the matter of homelessness in Toronto is presented as a collection of detached facts it is easy to forget the devastating reality of the situations to which they refer. Most of you reading this will not have had to triage admission to a respite shelter. I am willing to bet, however, that you have walked past an unhoused person, and decided whether or not to offer them spare change. That person might have been one of 140 people denied shelter in April of this year. They might even have wound up one of the approximately 3 people who died weekly from homelessness in 2023 (City of Toronto).

Now, I want to make it clear that my intentions are not to make any reader feel guilty; even the more privileged Torontonian does not have encouraging economic prospects. It is not certain, therefore, that any given person has anything to spare for their homeless fellows. That said, my intention is to highlight the plight of homeless people, in the hopes of making it harder for the average Torontonian to ignore. Just as the government’s efforts to disguise our unhoused populations through hostile architecture make it harder to demand action towards alleviating their condition, the willful ignorance of many of our city’s more fortunate has a similar effect.

I fear that at this point, I may lose some readers in protest against my condemnation of their actions. Perhaps you will say that you do not look away from the suffering of others out of malice. Perhaps you will say that you do not look away from the suffering of others out of a lack of regard for their humanity. “It is the opposite, actually,” you might explain, “I look away because I care too much. It’s just too painful to keep my eyes on hardship that I am powerless to alleviate.” If that is the case, I could not agree more. I cannot assent, however, to the idea that this absolves us of the responsibility of at least bearing witness to the pain felt by our homeless neighbours. I am not asking you to part with your money. I am not asking that you sacrifice any of the material comforts that you enjoy in your daily life. I merely ask that you endure the relatively miniscule burden of helping to keep the public’s eyes trained on this humiliation, a humiliation that is among humanity’s greatest: our failure to provide the necessities of life for our daughters, brothers, nieces, grandparents and friends.

In January of 2022, I wrote an article for Amnesty International U of T on the plight of unhoused individuals in Toronto. I spoke about the disingenuous ways in which our federal and municipal governments promote an image of benevolence and generosity, while failing to provide for our most vulnerable populations. I also detailed the lack of services available to homeless and transient Torontonians. I wrote about how every penny and every man-hour that goes towards disguising the issue of homelessness in our city, rather than towards solving it, is a disgrace. Almost two years on, the lived circumstances of Toronto’s unhoused people remain largely unchanged.

As per the Toronto Star, “[a]cross Toronto, more than 10,500 people are known to be homeless, according to the city’s latest data from April.” This is at least a 6% increase from 2022. Perhaps even more striking is the fact that there were more than 4,200 instances of people being turned away from shelters in April 2023 alone (“Homeless Encampments are Growing Again in Toronto,” §8). What’s more, city counsel has warned that its spending on shelters has far exceeded the amount allotted for this purpose in its annual budget (§25). This information can only be received with alarm; Toronto is not able to adequately address the needs of its homeless citizens, even while financially overreaching itself. Without additional support from both federal and provincial governments, it is clear that the number of people turned away from shelters will only grow, especially as we enter the colder months.

Furthermore, the above statistics cover only the difficulties faced by Toronto’s unhoused in achieving temporary access to basic necessities. I have not said anything about the housing crisis more broadly, and the bleak prospects with which Toronto’s most vulnerable are faced when searching for a permanent place to call home. As housing prices skyrocket, and wages do not rise in kind, even people who are currently housed can find themselves on the path to homelessness, if they are faced with job loss or health concerns (The Homeless Hub). This is acutely felt by recent immigrants and refugees arriving in Toronto, many of whom have had to inaugurate their stay in Canada with a bout of homelessness (Global News).

I want to emphasize that housing is a human right like any other, and that the circumstances that I have described are those of people who are being denied a human right.The above information, though presented as a slew of statistics, represents the daily situation of a real population, made up of real individuals, who are enduring real suffering. In my previous article, I denounced the ways in which our governments take calculated actions towards the disguising of this injustice, in Toronto. Obviously, this makes it more difficult for resources to be directed towards the alleviation of homelessness. This is not the only obstacle affecting our response to our unhoused neighbours; individuals like you and me are just as guilty of effacing this issue in our own minds.

Works Cited

City of Toronto. (2024, January 25). Deaths of people experiencing homelessness. https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/health-wellness-care/health-inspections-m onitoring/monitoring-deaths-of-homeless-people/.

Gibson, V. (2023, June 8). Homeless encampments are growing again in Toronto, as the city faces a surging crisis. Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/homeless-encampments-are-growing-again-in-toronto-as-the-city-faces-a-surging-crisis/article_83795fa0-e8bd-5001-93e7-6cccdb6b4190.html#:~:text=The%20number%20of%20homeless%20encampments,the%20city’s%20deepening%20homelessness%20crisis.

Jackson, H., & Rocca, R. (2023, August 16). Toronto is in a housing “crisis” leaving newcomers, residents in the lurch. Global News. https://globalnews.ca/news/9882577/new-roots-toronto-housing-immigration/

Where will we live? ontario’s Affordable Housing Crisis. Where Will We Live? Ontario’s Affordable Housing Crisis | The Homeless Hub. (2018). https://www.homelesshub.ca/resource/where-will-we-live-ontarios-affordable-housing-crisis

Dispelling A Myth About Feminism

by Laura Moldoveanu

55% of people believe that gender inequality exists, yet far fewer support or identify as feminist (Beaver, 2022). In fact, one-third of men believe that feminism does more harm than good. A common misconception is that feminism promotes misandry or is anti-man. In this article views on feminism versus gender equality are analyzed to examine whether this idea is a fact or a harmful myth.

Firstly, let us clear up the most basic definitions. Feminism, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is the “Advocacy of equality of the sexes and the establishment of the political, social, and economic rights of the female sex”. Merriam-Webster states feminism is the “belief in and advocacy of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes expressed especially through organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests”. A simple Google search brings up that feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes”. Nowhere in any of these entries are the ideas of anti-manness, female superiority, hate, misandry, etc.

A 2020 Pew Research Center survey of American women found that 61% agree that the term “feminist” describes them to some extent, but only 19% say that it describes them very well (Barroso, 2020). At the same time, 45% see it as polarizing and 30% as outdated, with an intersectional lens finding that almost half of white adults view feminism in a somewhat negative light as opposed to around a third of Black or Hispanic adults (Barroso, 2020) . Interestingly, another study done by the Pew Research Center asking people about their views on gender equality found much more favourable results: 69% of women who self-identify as non-feminist say that it is important for women to have equal rights with men (Minkin, 2020).

A common theme between all three definitions outlined above is supporting women’s rights and equality between the sexes, which is exactly what the majority of “non-feminists” say that they support. So where does this disconnect come from? One thought to keep in mind is that the dictionary definition may not necessarily reflect what feminism means in practice, right? Therefore, it is key to delve deeper into the attitudes of feminists themselves and their thoughts about men.

Both feminists and non-feminists alike hold the assumption that feminists harbour negative attitudes toward men (Elsesser, 2023). This belief is unfounded. A study in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly found that both feminists and non-feminists largely hold positive opinions about men (Hopkins-Doyle et al., 2023). Feminists held similar views towards men as men did towards themselves (Hopkins-Doyle et al., 2023). Despite this, feminists themselves believed that their peers generally held negative perceptions towards men even if they did not. This misconception is clearly very persistent even though it was found to be false.

At its core, regardless of what some might spin the concept of feminism into meaning, feminism supports gender equality which is a sentiment many non-feminists support too. Just because someone who identifies as a feminist holds negative feelings about men it does not mean that this is a feminist ideal. Even if a person does not self-identify as a feminist, it is very possible that they actually agree with its basis. More nuanced critiques on the feminist movement are infinitely acceptable and useful, but this one is misguided. In clearing up the myth that feminism equates to misandry, more positive dialogue between its supporters and opposers can become possible and room for constructive discussion is achieved.

Works Cited

Barroso, A. (2020, July 7). 61% of U.S. women say ‘feminist’ describes them well; many see feminism as empowering, polarizing. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2020/07/07/61-of-u-s-women-say-feminist-d escribes-them-well-many-see-feminism-as-empowering-polarizing/

Beaver, K. (2022, March 4). One in three men believe feminism does more harm than good. Ipsos Group. https://www.ipsos.com/en/one-three-men-believe-feminism-does-more-harm-good

Elsesser, K. (2023, Nov. 7). Feminists don’t hate men, according to new research. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimelsesser/2023/11/27/feminists-dont-hate-men-accord ing-to-new-research/?sh=6ac64cef4df8

“Feminism (n), sense 3”. (2023, July). Oxford English Dictionary. https://doi.org/10.1093/OED/6092042326.

“Feminism”. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feminism

Hopkins-Doyle, A., et al. (2024). The Misandry Myth: An Inaccurate Stereotype About Feminists’ Attitudes Toward Men. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 48(1), 8-37. https://doi.org/10.1177/03616843231202708

Minkin, R. (2020, July 14). Most Americans support gender equality, even if they don’t identify as feminists. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2020/07/14/most-americans-support-gender -equality-even-if-they-dont-identify-as-feminists/

The New New Colossus: An Examination of Migration in Texas, Operation Lone Star and SB4

by Peter Xaiver Rossetti

Migration has always been a touchy subject in the modern political history of the Western world. Whether it is refugees in Europe or international students in Canada, political tensions skyrocket whenever public and government attention is placed on immigration. And nowhere is this currently more true than in the United States of America. As of the time of writing, the Texas state government, the US federal government and the Mexican government are in a Mexican standoff (no pun intended) over the state of migrants in Texas. Yet another case of political tensions heating past the boiling point when immigration is involved. Though, in order to understand why that is in this specific case, a step back is needed and the whole story needs to be told. And it starts with Texas, the Rio Grande Valley and barbed wire.

Back in 2021, Texas State Governor Greg Abbott announced his government’s new policy that would see the state crackdown on illegal immigration. The plan is called Operation Lone Star and it has turned the Rio Grande Valley into a war zone. Back in the summer of 2023, under the initiative of Operation Lone Star, Texas state authorities implemented razor sharp barbed-wire and “walls” built of old shipping containers to prevent any potential asylum seekers wishing to cross through the valley from Mexico to Texas from doing so (Gonzalez, 2023). In addition, Texas has also dispatched its own border task force composed of garrisoned troops, helicopters, air boats, and patrol trucks (Gonzalez, 2023). In the Rio Grande itself, the state has placed a roughly 1,000 foot-long string of buoys with nets and “saw-like blades” attached to the bottom to deter migrants from crossing where the river is at its lowest (Gonzalez, 2023). All of this has successfully made the Rio Grande Valley a very inhospitable landscape to those trying to cross into the US.

Yet, just because Texas is taking all of these measures, it does not mean that desperate migrants will not still try to cross into the US. Terribly, but predictably, these measures had resulted in the deaths of 3 migrants, 2 children and a woman, as they tried to cross in January of 2024 (The Associated Press, 2024). These deaths, however, seemed to have acted as the catalyst of public outrage against Operation Lone Star, which, in turn, finally brought real attention to the situation in Texas from the Biden administration. Washington was quick to point out that, in the US government system, immigration is a responsibility solely held by the federal government (The Associated Press, 2024). Meaning that Texas has no real legal argument to back up what it has been doing.

Nevertheless, this legal reality has not stopped Texas from drafting and attempting to implement its own state law that strictly deals with immigration. The law is known as Senate Bill 4, or SB4 for short, and it was passed by the Texas legislature and signed by Governor Abbott last year (Sheridan, 2024). However, due to the Biden administration claiming that it oversteps legal boundaries between state and federal power, the law has remained unenforced for now as it is deliberated over by the US court system and legal community (Sheridan, 2024). But what is SB4? Put simply, it would allow local Texan authorities, such as police officers and other state officials, to detain and deport migrants suspected to be illegally residing in the state – a responsibility usually held by federal authorities (Sheridan, 2024). Although no one, not even the local Texan authorities it would give power to, knows really how it will work if put into effect, the results of an effective SB4 are already clear. It is easy to deduce that it would result in a very disorganized and messy witch-hunt that would result in thousands of lives being destroyed.

The lives of these people have been seemingly overlooked by both state and federal governments in their fight over legality, state rights and federal responsibilities. It seems that all politically-charged decisions and discussions surrounding immigration, all over the West, forget (or actively ignore) the fact that these “illegal aliens” are people too. This dehumanization only acts to perpetuate this harmful outlook, which regulates the well-being of migrants as an afterthought, even further. However, not all hope is lost, for within this chaos there seems to be at least one figure which stands with the migrant community and that is Mexico.

Mexico, which has been a key US ally when it comes to handling immigration and border crossings, has placed its foot down. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has publicly denounced SB4 and has gone on record stating that Mexico will resist any deportation attempts from Texan authorities (Sheridan, 2024). In the eyes of the Mexican government, the treatment of migrants in Texas has been inhumane, and, as a result, the country will stiffen its political poster and will not cooperate with the SB4 (Sheridan, 2024). The hope is that without anywhere to deport these migrants to, Texas will come to an agreement with both the federal and Mexican government that satisfies all parties. But until then, all three governments stand facing the others, in classic Mexican standoff fashion, just waiting for something to happen.

Mexico’s position in this politically red-hot situation reminds us all that SB4 and Operation Lone Star is not just about some arbitrary legalities and a division of powers but rather it is about people’s lives. No matter one’s own personal opinion on the legal-ness of the case that surrounds this current issue, the fact is that, no matter the outcome, thousands of human lives will change. The US is a country built on the idea that anyone, no matter their country of origin, can make it if they try. And nowhere is this better represented than in the poem, The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus which planted the words,“give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” deep into the American psyche and on the Statue of Liberty itself – the biggest beacon of American identity. But today that identity hangs in the balance. For if the US decides to turn its back on those reaching its lands for a better life now, did it ever really mean those words in the first place?

Works Cited

Gonzalez, M. (2023). Deadly buoys, razor wires, armed guards: Greg Abbott is fixated on keeping migrants out. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/aug/29/greg-abott-texas-governor-mexico-border-a sylum-seekers-risk

Sheridan, M. (2024). Mexico vows to fight effort by Texas to deport migrants under S.B.$

The Associated Press. (2024). White House, Texas exchange accusations, blame after drowning deaths of 3 migrants. CBC/Radio-Canada. https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/us-migrant-drownings-texas-1.7083842

Childhood in Crisis: Urgent Plea for Global Action in Gaza-Israel Conflict

by Viana Sadeghi

In the midst of the enduring conflict between Gaza and Israel, a profound humanitarian crisis is unfolding, casting its grim shadow most heavily upon the vulnerable lives of children. This narrative not only confronts the immediate casualties and destruction but also delves deep into the lasting impact etched upon the dreams and futures of the youngest victims (Russell, 2023). As we grapple with the intricacies of this crisis, the urgent need for comprehensive international intervention becomes evident. It is crucial to address both the immediate and long-term consequences faced by the children in Gaza and Israel, considering the enduring physical and mental health impacts. Therefore, this article seeks to explore the humanitarian crisis, characterizing it by the imminent threats to children’s lives and well-being, necessitating swift global intervention to protect the most vulnerable and disrupt the cycles of suffering perpetuated by ongoing conflict.

The urgency of the immediate humanitarian crisis is starkly underscored by alarming statistics, revealing that, on average, over 480 Palestinian children experience daily casualties, painting a harrowing picture of a dire emergency (Russell, 2023). The densely populated Gaza Strip transforms into a perilous trap, leaving children vulnerable to displacement and imminent harm. This crisis not only demands swift action but also a collective acknowledgment of the moral imperative to protect the most vulnerable amidst conflict. Analyzing this immediate crisis reveals a pressing need for a comprehensive international response, emphasizing the disproportionate impact on children and the necessity for urgent intervention beyond mere numerical considerations. The stark reality of daily casualties not only highlights the immediacy of the crisis but also underscores the critical need for swift and concerted efforts to avert further loss of innocent lives and protect the future of the youngest generation.

Moving beyond the immediate conflict, the dire living conditions in Gaza amplify the crisis manifold. For instance, the scarcity of clean water, forces reliance on polluted wells, creating a potential health catastrophe. Constant shelling and restricted movement further exacerbate the vulnerability of the population (Ruggeri, 2024). This intersection of conflict and environmental degradation transcends regional boundaries; it is a global concern demanding immediate and decisive international intervention. By exploring the environmental and health aspects of the crisis, a recognition emerges of the interconnectedness of conflict and its wider ramifications. The shortage of clean water, reliance on contaminated sources, and heightened risk of disease outbreaks pose a threat not only to the residents of Gaza but also to the collective commitment to uphold fundamental human rights. Thus, the imperative for humanitarian intervention becomes an embodiment of the global responsibility to protect basic human rights.

UNICEF executive’s emphasis on the enduring impact of conflict on children extends far beyond immediate casualties to the profound psychological toll on the youngest population. Over 816,000 children in Gaza were identified as needing mental health support even before the recent escalation, underscoring the chronic and systemic nature of the crisis (Russell, 2023). The perpetual state of stress and fear robs these children of a normal childhood and a promising future. This serves as a rallying cry for sustained attention and intervention, recognizing the enduring consequences of conflict on the younger generation. The aftermath of war should not become a life sentence for the youngest victims; it is a call to invest in the future, acknowledging the potential of these children despite the scars inflicted upon them.

The revelation that even the unborn bear the trauma of conflict is a poignant reminder of the intergenerational nature of the crisis. Studies indicate that babies in the womb experience the effects of maternal trauma, underscoring the profound and far-reaching consequences of war (Ruggeri, 2024). This realization challenges us to broaden our perspective, recognizing the deep-seated intergenerational impact of conflicts and the urgent need to break the cycle of violence. Bringing attention to the long-term societal consequences of conflict emphasizes the imperative to address not just the visible wounds but the deeply embedded scars echoing through generations. In acknowledging the unborn victims, a recognition emerges of the need for holistic approaches to post-conflict recovery, fostering conditions for sustainable peace and breaking free from the cycle of violence.

In conclusion, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and Israel demands urgent international intervention to address both immediate threats and long-term consequences (Russell, 2023). The statistics of daily child casualties highlight the dire emergency, necessitating swift and comprehensive action. The environmental and health ramifications of conflict underscore the interconnectedness of regional crises with global concerns, demanding decisive international intervention. The enduring impact on the physical and mental well-being of children, as emphasized by Russell, underscores the chronic and systemic nature of the crisis. It is a call for sustained attention and intervention, recognizing the enduring consequences of conflict on an entire generation. The revelation of unborn victims highlights the intergenerational nature of the crisis, challenging us to envision a future free from the shackles of war. In navigating this multifaceted crisis, our collective responsibility is to recognize the urgency, acknowledge the interconnectedness of global concerns, and advocate for comprehensive international intervention. It is a call to safeguard the most vulnerable, break the cycles of suffering perpetuated by ongoing conflict, and work towards a future where the innocence of children is no longer sacrificed at the altar of war.

Works Cited

Ruggeri, A. (2024, February 21). Many children must live with the trauma of war. Here’s how to help them. Bbc.com; BBC. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20240220-ukraine-and-gaza-the-hidden-effects-of-war-trauma-on-children

Russell, C. (2023). Gaza and Israel: The cost of war will be counted in children’s lives. Unicef.org. https://www.unicef.org/gaza-israel-cost-of-war-counted-children-lives

Fighting Abroad: Canadian Soldiers in Ukraine

by Laura Modoveanu

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entering its third calendar year, there seems to be no sign of a resolution coming anytime soon. Some have decided to take matters into their own hands and offer support by enlisting as soldiers to fight for the Ukrainian side. Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, said in 2022 that over 20,000 people from 52 countries volunteered to join Ukraine’s International Defence Legion (Burke, 2022). This article looks at the stories of three Canadian veterans who have joined the conflict.

Some volunteers, like “Wali”, who has been identified by a nickname, bypassed the application process altogether. He told CBC News “We needed to get as fast as possible to the front. So we don’t have time to register the ‘clean way.’ So we just go to the border, try to meet up with somebody.” (Burke, 2022). Wali is a former sniper for the Royal 22e Regiment regiment and served in Afghanistan, which is where he earned his nickname (Brewster, 2022). He says that he crossed the border from Poland to Ukraine with three other veterans where they were met with a positive response from Ukrainians. They are now working on properly joining the fight through official channels. However, foreign fighters are being asked to sign three-year contracts which are important for ensuring legal protection (Brewster, 2022). For example, being protected by humanitarian law in the event of being captured. The transition from civilian life to seeing the conflict first-hand has been difficult, though the “hardest part” is being away from his family (Brewster, 2022). Wali also runs a humanitarian organization called the Norman Group that has volunteered to send aid to eastern Ukraine. He sums up his reasons for enlisting by simply saying, “I don’t think the Ukrainians deserve what’s going on” (Brewster, 2022).

JT, also a retired soldier, moved out of his Ottawa home, telling CBC, “I can’t sit back and watch it anymore. I have to do something” (Tunney, 2022). He explains that he joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1994 and that his experiences in Bosnia, Macedonia, Afghanistan, and more built his skills in combat engineering (Tunney, 2022). He aims to help with training but is open to help wherever he is needed and stay on to help with rebuilding. JT is especially focused on the burden the conflict is placing on younger soldiers and civilians who are “suddenly having to step up and do things that are normally repugnant to the average person” and are undergoing very traumatic conditions (Tunney, 2022). His actions go against Global Affairs Canada, which issued a travel advisory on February 1, 2022. The main danger is the lack of consular services and that the Canadian government may be unable to help citizens who are injured or captured in the conflict (Tunney, 2022). Nevertheless, JT understands that while he is only one person, “every drop fills a bucket…and ultimately, this is a fire that we need to put out.” (Tunney, 2022). He also admits that he is “prepared for whatever comes” and has “made peace with everything” in the event that he should not return home. He concludes, “But I guarantee that I’ll be pushing as hard as I can to the end if that is what happens.” (Tunney, 2022).

Dave Smith resigned from his job as a major in the Canadian armed forces to fight in Ukraine(Shannon,2024). His family was understanding, “I actually never had to explain it to them. My brother, when I told him — I was on a phone call with him and my sister — and he said something to the effect of ‘I can’t believe you’re not there already’” (Shannon, 2024). Unlike the previous examples, Smith joined a Belarussian unit that is not part of the International Legion, stating “They’re all kind of ideologically aligned with how serious I took the war. So I joined their unit” (Shannon, 2024). Though he is being paid and the Kremlin calls soldiers in his position “mercenaries”, Smith assures that he is not in it for the money; many do not “understand how ideologically motivated the foreign fighters in Ukraine are.” (Shannon, 2024). Partaking in trench warfare, the cold and snow are manageable but Smith finds his largest barrier is not language. It’s mud: “The mud in Ukraine defies physics. It gets everywhere. It’s on everything” (Shannon, 2024). On a more somber note, he recalls attending seven or eight funerals of his fellow soldiers and is now on break (Shannon, 2024). He quit the armed forces to spend time with his family but plans on rejoining later in the year. Smith calls on Western governments and the need for increased involvement, “They’re behaving quite cowardly – and they need to recognize that they need to fight, to defend themselves, if they don’t want to be defeated by people like Putin” (MacKinnon, 2023).

Overall, one might wonder what would urge these veterans to travel across the world and offer their services knowing that they are placing themselves in a potentially dangerous situation. As well as why this phenomenon is being seen for this specific conflict but not others. Also, the ability to “take a break” from the conflict is an interesting notion. Those living in the conflict zone have no such ability. With November 2023 being “the deadliest month so far for Canadians fighting in Ukraine, with three volunteers killed in action, adding to the six previously killed over the first 20 months of the war”, it is certainly a delicate environment (MacKinnon, 2023). However, these volunteer fighters are putting themselves in a dangerous situation of their own volition to fight for liberty and justice.

Works Cited

Brewster, M. (2022, March 5). Under a foreign flag: Canadian veterans explain why they’re fighting for Ukraine | CBC news. CBCnews. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ukraine-russia-putin-canadian-forces-1.6372259

Burke, A. (2022, March 11). Ukraine looking for foreign volunteers with military, medical experience, Embassy says | CBC News. CBCnews. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ukrainian-fighter-foreign-legion-medics-vets-1.638165 0

MacKinnon, M. (2023, December 18). Canadian fighters in Ukraine feel effects of West’s waning interest first-hand. The Globe and Mail. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-stakes-rise-for-ukraine-and-its-canadian -volunteers-as-world-interest/

Shannon, R. (2024, January 6). Canadian soldier explains why he’s returning to Ukraine’s eastern trenches. Global News. https://globalnews.ca/news/10204233/canadian-soldier-return-ukraine-eastern-trenches /

Tunney, J. (2022, June 14). “Can’t sit back and watch”: Former Canadian soldier joins fight in Ukraine | CBC news. CBCnews. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ukraine-ottawa-resident-ex-solider-1.6395798

The Ship Cemetery: A Violation of Workers Rights and Environmental Regulations in Bangladesh

by Peter Xaiver Rossetti

Massive cargo transport ships are something many tend not to think of. Despite the fact that the world is connected by these massive metal vessels traversing the world’s vast oceans and seas, transporting goods to and from ports all over the world, they remain nearly non-existent in the public imagination. Therefore it is fair to say that not much thought is ever given to what happens to these colossal steel beasts when they have reached the end of their life. This article aims to fix that. By shedding light on the industry of shipbreaking, specifically in Bangladesh, this article will present the brutal reality of what the ship cemetery is like – where ships go to die.

Shipbreaking, that is the work of dismantling old, end-of-life transport ships, has grown as an industry in the country of Bangladesh. On paper, it is a good deal for all involved. Wealthy European and North American transport companies ditch their unusable ships in Bangladesh and, in return, Bangladeshis receive wages and work and their government uses the industry to derive nearly 90% of the country’s steel supply (Rabbi & Rahman, 2017). Since 2020, the Bangladeshi shipbreaking industry has ripped apart more than 520 ships, far more than any other country (Human Rights Watch, 2023). However, in reality, shipbreaking is an industry fraught with workers’ rights violations and has terrible effects on the physical environment.

For context, the International Labour Organization has designated shipbreaking as one of the most dangerous jobs a human being can perform (Human Rights Watch, 2023). In the Bangladeshi shipbreaking industry, this bleak reality is coupled with the fact that workers are not at all well protected from or well informed about any potential dangers while working. This means that many Bangladeshi workers simply pick up a job as a shipbreaker and are given little to no training or education on safe procedures as well as no safety equipment such as hard-hats, tools or gloves (Human Rights Watch, 2023). The result is depressingly, but predictably, disaster. For example, as the shipbreaking industry was just beginning in Bangladesh in 2000, 50 workers died in an explosion while dismantling an old tanker (Rabbi & Rahman, 2023). Many other causes of work-related deaths include falling from extremely tall heights, lack of ventilation while working amongst leftover fumes and gasses as well as getting crushed by the massive, metal parts cut out from the ship (Rabbi & Rahman, 2023).

The effects these deaths have on the families of the workers are devastating. Many of these shipbreaking companies do not provide adequate compensation for a lost loved one, leaving these families not only emotionally distraught but financially struggling (Rabbi & Rahman, 2023). Since it is such a dangerous workplace there are always positions open in a shipbreaking yard, with many of these roles left by deceased adult workers being filled by children. Roughly 13% of those working in the shipbreaking industry are children; a number that jumps to 20% once those working the illegal night shifts are counted as well (Human Rights Watch, 2023).

The environmental cost of the shipbreaking industry is just as terrible. Instead of taking in these old ships at a proper dock or harbor, most of the time these ships simply run up onto the shore, “beaching” the vessel (Human Rights Watch, 2023). As soon as these ships have made it onto the beach, the process of shipbreaking begins right then and there. Meaning that all the leftover toxic chemicals and waste left in the ship run into the sand and are taken back out into the ocean with the tide (Human Rights Watch, 2023). An example of one of these destructive chemicals is asbestos, as many of these older ships used it as insulating material. As these ships are being taken apart, the asbestos makes its way into the beach environment, affecting local communities and marine wildlife by causing adverse health effects such as lung cancer (Rabbi & Rahman, 2017). And without any dedicated areas for shipbreaking, there is nothing preventing these chemicals from spreading.

Ultimately, the shipbreaking industry in Bangladesh is absolutely destructive. It has destroyed many individual lives, families, and local beach environments and will continue to do so unchecked unless real change is made. Though as of right now, there are two reasons why this change seems unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future. Firstly, although Western governments have made it illegal to send end-of-life ships to Bangladesh, these wealthy companies based in Europe and North America have found a loophole. By using middle men from other countries not subject to these same laws, these companies have found a way to still send their ships to the shipbreaking industry in Bangladesh (Human Rights Watch, 2023). The second reason lies in why these companies choose Bangladesh in the first place, namely, the fact that it is inexpensive to do so. Shipbreakers in Bangladesh are paid a fraction of the national legal minimum wage there, keeping operating costs low and hence attractive to foreign companies looking for a place to dump their old ships (Human Rights Watch, 2023).

Both of these reasons are what have allowed the shipbreaking industry to prosper in Bangladesh. And until these loopholes are patched and shipbreakers receive fair wages in Bangladesh, this stark reality will continue. The long-term adverse effects of the industry in the country are yet to be seen but further ecological degradation and lower wages for future generations can surely be speculated based on the current state of affairs discussed above. Meaning, that if things continue as they have, this ship cemetery will become the resting place for more than just transport vessels.

Works Cited

Human Rights Watch. (2023, September 28). Bangladesh: Shipping firms profit from Labor abuse. https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/09/27/bangladesh-shipping-firms-profit-labor-abuse

Rabbi, H. R., & Rahman, A. (2017). Ship Breaking and Recycling Industry of Bangladesh; Issues and Challenges. Procedia Engineering, 194, 254–259. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.proeng.2017.08.143

The Danger of Privatizing Climate Data

by Elsa Rollier

Climate change has become a daily topic of discussion. Whether it is to address a new climate catastrophe, new alarming scientific reports, or to debate its causes and solutions, climate change is constantly being covered in the media, and one could therefore think that access to climate information and data is rather easy. In other words, climate data could be regarded as some kind of public good, accessible to anyone willing to do their research. While it is true that a huge amount of information about climate change is public and easily accessible, climate data is also undergoing a process of privatization. This situation has given rise to debates about the potential benefits or dangers of this process concerning climate change assessment, adaptation and mitigation. In other words: how dangerous is the privatization of climate data?

As climate scientist Justin S. Mankin points out in a recent article, climate science and information are facing a process of “commodification” (Mankin, 2024). Indeed, the business of “climate services” or “climate analytics”- i.e. the data, analyses and models (such as weather forecasts, heat warnings or flood alerts) needed to comprehend and react to climate issues – is experiencing a significant growth, leading a to lot of capital being invested in that field (Mankin, 2024; Teirstein, 2023). For instance, the market of climate risk analytics is expected to experience a growth of “more than $4 billion globally by 2027” (Mankin, 2024). Indeed, the demand for climate data by investors or companies wishing to learn how and to what extent climate change will affect them financially is effectively expanding, creating massive potential for profits that climate services companies clearly sense (Dembecki, 2019). The commodification of climate science has therefore created a “market where climate data and risk models are treated as products to be bought and sold “ (Verhulst, 2024). This shift has deeply changed our way of creating and using science, for climate services providers to focus on specific local data customized for particular actors, instead of focusing on more national or global impacts of climate risks (Dembecki, 2019).

Some private actors defend this profit-oriented approach by arguing that having a more narrow and local risk assessment is an effective way for cities, companies and states to be better prepared for climate risks (Dembecki, 2019). For instance, climate services company Jupiter executive Rich Sorkin argues that companies like his are innovative, whereas government and academic institutions can be too cautious: “We’re years ahead of what the public sector is doing” (Dembecki, 2019). For him, the competition of companies in the private sector for profit can actually lead to the adoption of new technologies (Dembecki, 2019). Also, some of these private actors nuance the idea that the growth of the climate services market replaces traditional academic research (Dembecki, 2019). However, as Mankin points out, numerous members of the scientific community choose to work in high-revenue consulting or start-up jobs, instead of national labs or academic jobs; seen as too “slow-moving” regarding the acceleration of climate change and the urgency of the issue (Mankin, 2024).

In addition, some private actors also point out that public research and data about climate change, as well as the multiple warnings climate scientists have issued, have not triggered the global action necessary to avoid climate dangers (Dembecki, 2019). Another argument advanced by some private actors is that if private investors and corporations learn about the specific local climate risks and dangers they face that could have negative financial consequences for them; they will be incentivized not only to protect their individual goods, but also to push for larger scale climate solutions (Dembecki, 2019). As CEO of climate services company Four Twenty Seven Emilie Mazzacurati argues: “We need both global policy action, and we need corporations to prepare for specific impacts, […] The realization of how complex [and costly] those impacts are … should help motivate greater policy engagement.” (Dembecki, 2019). Indeed, some argue that: “When you change the narrative and you start discussing the impact that climate change will have on them rather than how evil they are … then you have a completely different conversation,”, which is “likely to trigger action” (Dembecki, 2019). But how much action does this dynamic actually trigger? Probably not as much as these actors would like. To illustrate this, Dembecki takes the example of the oil company Royal Dutch Shell, which in 2017, after learning about the negative financial consequences a shift towards lower-carbon energy could have on their business, chose to divest $7.25 billion from Canada’s oil sands. However, this action did not stop the company from spending $53 billion to buy fossil fuel company BG Group, while still making most of its profit through the fossil fuel industry (Dembecki, 2019).

Therefore, it is wise to question who actually gains from the development of this private climate services market, and whether the self-interest of powerful private actors actually aligns with society’s general interest. As Svenja Keele, a researcher at the University of Melbourne, affirms: “We need to be alert to the possibility that [climate] service delivery models — couched in the language of entrepreneurialism, efficiency, utility, customization, and flexibilization — merely entrench the status quo … rather than support transformational and equitable responses to climate change” (Dembecki, 2019). This reality is even acknowledged by private actors such as Sorkin: “We don’t really see underdeveloped communities or countries as profit generators for us”, admitting that the approach of the private sector isn’t likely to help most vulnerable communities (Dembecki, 2019). Accordingly, the risk of privatizing climate data is to render information about climate risks inaccessible to disadvantaged communities – who are also the most affected by climate change (Mankin, 2024). Indeed, in this situation, only people who have the resources to pay for expensive private risk analyses and assessment will have access to the necessary information to prepare themselves, or to navigate through the complex public data already available (Mankin, 2024). On the other hand, people who do not have the money to afford such analyses will remain exposed to climate risks without having the right tools to prepare for them (Mankin, 2024). This could indeed have very serious consequences, as Mankin illustrates through the example of “AccuWeather”, a weather data company offering public and free weather forecasts, as well as premium “customized” forecasts for clients paying a fee (Mankin, 2024). One of the company’s clients, a railroad company called “Union Pacific”, used AccuWeather’s customized service and was warned of an approaching tornado, which it was, therefore, able to avoid (Mankin, 2024). However, that same tornado caused the death of a dozen people in a town that did not pay for AccuWeather’s customized data and did not, therefore, have access to the proper information to prepare themselves for this climate danger (Mankin, 2024). In addition, another risk of depending on the private sector to access climate data is that information coming from private companies does not face the same “scrutiny” as public science, which could lead to a lack of transparency concerning the efficacy and risks of their models (Mankin, 2024).

The importance of having access to climate data led Mankin to evoke the concept of a “right to science” (Mankin, 2024). Indeed, as he points out, the UN Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, which was adopted by almost 200 countries, aims to strengthen “the global response to climate change by increasing the ability of all to adapt and build resilience, and reduce vulnerability.”(Mankin, 2024). This includes the right to access the information necessary to adapt to climate change, which could be considered a fundamental right for humanity (Mankin, 2024). Providing such access would demand various efforts from private and public actors. Some, like Verhulst, introduced the concept of “data collaboratives”, where private and public actors create innovative partnerships in order to make data more accessible to serve public interest goals (Verhulst, 2024). Another solution to provide publicly available climate information could be websites where people would “quickly access a clear climate risk assessment for where they live based on validated, transparent and reproducible science without entering their credit card information to pay for it” (Mankin 2024). Universities could also “develop and make available customized information on local climate threats and how to best manage them” while building connections with their communities (Mankin 2024). In other words “The goal should be to create an ecosystem where data is not just a commodity to be traded but a resource to empower communities and science and foster a more informed, equitable world” (Verhulst, 2024).

The private sector will obviously very likely continue to produce data and services relating to climate. But it is important that it is not the only or the primary actor to do so. Climate data serves multiple purposes and its accessibility is essential for communities to be able to assess their exposure to climate risks, prepare for and manage it. Providing public access to understandable climate risk data and assessments to everyone regardless of resources is therefore necessary. As Mankin points out: “Global warming is a collective tragedy, and so its solutions, especially around information for adapting to the risks it portends, must be a public good” (Mankin, 2024).

Works Cited

Mankin, J. S. (2024, January 20). The people have a right to climate data. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/20/opinion/climate-risk-disasters-data.html

Hardoon, D. (n.d.). To leave no one behind, we must use data to address climate inequalities. Development Initiatives. https://devinit.org/blog/leave-no-one-behind-data-climate-inequalities/

Teirstein, Z. (2023, November 27). Climate data saves lives. most countries can’t access it. Canada’s National Observer. https://www.nationalobserver.com/2023/11/27/news/climate-data-saves-lives-most-countries-can t-access-it

Verhulst, S. G. (2024, January 23). Are we entering a “Data winter”? Medium. https://sverhulst.medium.com/are-we-entering-a-data-winter-f654eb8e8663

Dembicki, G. (2019, September 30). Climate data is being privatized. will the public lose out?. Undark Magazine. https://undark.org/2019/08/20/climate-services-private-data-public-good/

they’ll forget anyways

by Cedric Pak

The authoritarian lockdowns that drove the trapped mad
The invasion that shook geopolitics (the advent of WW3, some called it)
The swift collapse of a 20 year-long stability
And now, the reignition of a bloody feud

These things are nothing new, you and I both know
The tyranny of the strong, and
(The fleeing of homes, the destruction of cities, the loss of loved ones)
The suffering of the powerless
Tales taught to us by history, the stories with a thousand faces

But weren’t things supposed to be different?
New orders, new values, new generation
Not to mention our
Eyes all over the world, voices that echoed across countries,
hearts and minds that were meant to be interconnected

Why has nothing changed?
The academics, the politicians, and the opinionated can tell you, no doubt
Rattling off the list, reiterating what went wrong
But the obvious answer always remains the same

From most who stay in Omelas, unperturbed in their day-to-days
That unmentioned given the comforts the oppressor’s unease
And soothes their aching conscience
That no matter how bad it gets, sooner or later
they’ll forget anyway

Celebrity Activism: Helpful or Harmful?

by Laura Moldoveanu

Who has the power to change the world? Oftentimes, fans put pressure on celebrities to speak out against or in support of global issues. But this does not take into account whether celebrities have an obligation to get involved or what exactly is expected of them. Does fame equal power? On one hand, simply spreading awareness to their large audiences can be helpful. However, celebrity activism can also come across as tone-deaf at best and actively harmful at worst.

Celebrities are public-facing; people idolize them. This comes with certain expectations from their fans which manifest as parasocial relationships. A parasocial relationship is characterized by close relationships between celebrities and their fans, with the fans closely following the celebrity’s media persona. The fans then develop a “sense of intimacy, perceived friendship, and identification with the celebrity” (Chung and Cho, 2017). It sounds innocent enough, but viewing a celebrity as your “comfort person” can lead to mass disappointment when the celebrity does something that does not align with their fanbase. For example, the rise of “cancel culture.” Through social media, “public figures adopt a sense of authenticity that often allows them to act as surrogates for real-life friends and mentors” and the fans feel very real betrayal when their carefully constructed perception of the celebrity is shattered (Schacter-Brodie, 2021).

Cancel culture often dredges up old controversies, with current events like activism, the risk of “cancellation” is heightened. If celebrities speak out, then their statement is picked apart. They can be seen as butting in where they don’t belong or getting involved in something they don’t understand. If they stay silent, then they “don’t care” and fans are disappointed. It seems to be a lose-lose situation. However, this does not mean that there are no good examples of celebrity activism that had a positive impact.

In 2021, singer and businesswoman Rhianna spoke out against Asian hate to her over 150 million Instagram followers. She attended protests and partnered with Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s #StartSmall initiative through her Clara Lionel Foundation to donate $3 million to Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations (Nakamura, 2021). Other examples from different social issues include singer Alicia Keys, who frequently speaks out about political concerns and police brutality, and actor Elliot Page, who advocates for LGBTQ+ rights (Compendio, 2023). These are just a few examples of celebrities who use their platforms to educate and advocate.

But speaking out is not always taken positively. Accusations of performative activism, promoting misinformation, and taking attention away from actual activists are common critiques against celebrity activism. For example, in 2017 when the #MeToo movement, which was coined by Tarana Burke, a Black woman, in 2006, gained mass popularity only after the hashtag was used by actress Alyssa Milano, a White woman (Ohlheiser, 2017). This led to criticism that the movement was commandeered to amplify the voices of privileged, wealthier, cisgender, white women and left other identities behind. It’s a complicated situation. While the #MeToo movement still spread awareness about sexual assault and allowed people to share their stories, it drifted away from one of its original intentions of supporting marginalized groups in favour of supporting celebrities.

Apart from this, celebrity activism can certainly do more harm than good in some cases. For example, actress Jenny McCarthy who, in the process of speaking up for medical autonomy, is spreading the disproven notion that vaccines cause autism (Specter, 2013). Or in March 2020, when Gal Gadot and multiple other celebrities banded together to put out a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” to support people during the COVID-19 lockdown, which was labelled as tone-deaf, performative, and generally useless (Caramanica, 2020). Lastly, in September 2023 when Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher (who is a long-time fighter against human trafficking) provided a character witness for convicted rapist Danny Masterson describing him as “an outstanding role model and friend” (Associated Press, 2023).

For many fans, staying silent is not acceptable either. This leads to public pressure to speak up. Take Selena Gomez who, in response to backlash about not speaking up regarding the Israel-Palestine war, wrote via an Instagram story: “I wish I could change the world. But a post won’t.” (Gomez, 2023). Her statement is an interesting take, considering her 430 million Instagram followers. It brings up the meaningful question of whether celebrities have to involve themselves in social issues. Getting involved just to save themselves from backlash isn’t exactly a worthy reason.

But why do people target celebrities instead of those who create or have the most power to affect such issues, like lawmakers? In a way, celebrities are accessible. It’s easy to leave a comment on an Instagram post or make a TikTok “calling out” their actions. It also goes back to the idea of parasocial relationships. Fans feel like their idols have the responsibility to support the same issues they do. There are more worthwhile people to target for support. The question becomes how to find them and how to contact them. Aside from key figures, many government representatives are faceless and even nameless. It’s difficult to involve lawmakers when you don’t know where to look for them. Look up the representative for your constituency online. For example, the federal governments of the United States and Canada have lists of representatives along with their contact info. So people shouldn’t waste their time and energy harassing celebrities on social media (unless they are calling out actively harmful information).

That’s not to say celebrities should be doing nothing. They have huge platforms that can be put to use to spread awareness. Education and involving people who are actually involved in the issue avoids some of the controversies outlined above and allows celebrities to get involved in a meaningful way. However, celebrities are not the be-all and end-all of powerful figures. What about putting pressure on lawmakers instead? Use your voice, or your keyboard, to make a difference in your own right.



Works Cited

Caramanica, Jon. “This ‘imagine’ Cover Is No Heaven.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Mar. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/arts/music/coronavirus-gal-gadot-imagine.html.

Chung, Siyoung, and Hichang Cho. “Fostering Parasocial Relationships with Celebrities on Social Media: Implications for Celebrity Endorsement.” Psychology & Marketing, vol. 34, no. 4, 2017, pp. 481–95, https://doi.org/10.1002/mar.21001.

Compendio, Chris. “50 Celebrity Activists with a History of Protesting Injustice.” Good Good Good, Good Good Good, 25 Mar. 2023, www.goodgoodgood.co/articles/celebrity-activists.

Gomez, Selena. @selenagomez. Instagram, October 30.

“Kutcher, Kunis Apologize after Penning Character Letters for Former Co-Star Convicted of Rape | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 9 Sept. 2023, www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/ashton-kutcher-mila-kunis-danny-masterson-letters-rap e-trial-apology-1.6962093.

Nakamura, Kate. “10 Inspiring Moments of Celebrity Activism in 2021.” Global Citizen, Global Citizen, 8 Dec. 2021, www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/celebrity-activism-2021/.

Ohlheiser, Abby. “The Woman behind ‘Me Too’ Knew the Power of the Phrase When She Created IT – 10 Years Ago.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 19 Oct. 2017,

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2017/10/19/the-woman-behi nd-me-too-knew-the-power-of-the-phrase-when-she-created-it-10-years-ago/.

Schacter-Brodie, Zoe. “Celebrities Are Not Your Friends: The Danger of Parasocial Relationships.” University Wire, Uloop, Inc, 2021. http://myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2 Fwire-feeds%2Fcelebrities-are-not-your-friends-danger%2Fdocview%2F2522426307%2F se-2%3Faccountid%3D14771

Specter, Michael. “Jenny McCarthy’s Dangerous Views.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 16 July 2013, www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/jenny-mccarthys-dangerous-views.

Upholding Human Rights: Safeguarding Public Service Workers Amidst Civil Unrest

by Viana Sadeghi

A bus engulfed in flames on Dublin’s O’Connell Street illustrates the chaotic disruption of civil unrest (Malone, 2023).

The recent harrowing incident involving Sailesh Tupsy, a bus driver caught in the chaos of civil unrest in Dublin, lays bare the terrifying reality faced by essential workers amidst societal upheaval (Malone, 2023). This report delves into the profound political issue of safeguarding public service workers during such tumultuous times, stressing the dire need for robust measures to protect their rights and safety. The distressing attack on Sailesh Tupsy serves as a chilling reminder of the immediate necessity to fortify policies and mechanisms that shield these workers during civil unrest, demanding stringent action, training, and unwavering advocacy to safeguard their rights.

Public service workers are the backbone of our society, thrust onto the frontlines during crises to ensure the continuity of essential services. However, their visibility exposes them to heightened risks amid civil disturbances, as witnessed in the recent violence in Dublin (BBC, 2023). Tupsy’s terrifying ordeal epitomizes this vulnerability, subjecting him to intimidation and violence that not only jeopardizes his safety but also disrupts crucial services. This distressing reality emphasizes the immediate need for robust protective measures to shield these workers.

The incident involving Tupsy glaringly highlights systemic shortcomings in safeguarding public service workers during civil unrest. It underscores the urgency for proactive measures, including specialized training and stringent security protocols, to equip these workers with essential support and resources necessary to navigate volatile situations effectively.

At the heart of this discussion lies the flagrant violation of fundamental human rights experienced by public service workers (Malone, 2023). The appalling attack on Tupsy and similar incidents blatantly disregard their right to a safe working environment, free from intimidation and violence. Governments and stakeholders are duty-bound to implement policies aligned with international human rights standards, prioritizing the protection of these workers.

Collaboration between civil society organizations and authorities, notably Amnesty International, is pivotal in advocating for policy changes that bolster safety measures and rights protections. This collaboration is essential in enforcing policies that ensure the safety of workers and monitoring their effective implementation during periods of unrest.

Sailesh Tupsy’s traumatic experience underscores the immediate need for fortified protective measures for public service workers amid civil unrest. It unequivocally signifies the urgency for immediate action to strengthen rights protections, training, and collaborative advocacy efforts. Upholding the rights of these workers transcends mere political obligation; it is an urgent moral imperative to preserve human rights standards and societal resilience in times of crisis. Amnesty International’s proactive involvement will be indispensable in spearheading policy reforms that guarantee the safety and rights of public service workers, creating an environment where they can fulfill their duties without fear or threat.

Works Cited

Dublin violence: Vehicles set alight and fireworks thrown at police. (2023). Bbc.com.

Malone, E. (2023, November 24). Dublin riots: Bus drivers “in fear” after events on Thursday

night, says union. The Irish Times; The Irish Times. https://www.irishtimes.com/crime-law/2023/11/24/bus-drivers-in-fear-after-events-on-thursday-night-says-union/#:~:text=Members%20of%20public%20intervened%20to,hijacked%20near%20O’Connell%20Street&text=The%20driver%20forced%20from%20his,up%20to%20him%20being%20targeted

The Femicide of Giulia Cecchettin and the Fight Against Gender-Based Violence

by Elsa Rollier

On November 18, 2023, the body of Giulia Cecchettin, a 22-year-old Italian engineering student at the University of Padua, was found with multiple stab wounds in a ditch around a lake in the north of Venice (Kassam, 2023). This discovery occurred after one week of search following the disappearance of Giulia and her ex-boyfriend, Filippo Torretta, a 21-year-old engineering student at the University of Padua, on November 11, 2023 (Kassam, 2023). Torretta, whom Giulia had recently broken up with, is allegedly responsible for her murder (Kassam, 2023). This has been backed by evidence of roadside cameras which captured Giulia’s ex-partner hitting her (Kassam, 2023). Torretta was arrested in Germany, on November 19, 2023, and was later extradited to Italy (Kassam, 2023). He arrived back in Venice on November 25th, 2023, and was due to be transferred to a prison in Verona for further investigation (Kassam, 2023). According to his family and some friends of Giulia Cecchettin, Torretta allegedly did not accept Giulia’s decision to break up their relationship (Kassam, 2023). He was also said to be jealous and possessive (Camilli, 2023).

This recent femicide has sparked a wave of outrage and anger across the country (Kassam, 2023). The murder of Giulia also contributed to bringing attention back to gender-based violence in Italy, where one woman is killed every three days on average (Kassam, 2023). A femicide “specifically refers to the intentional killing of women or girls because they are female” (Camilli, 2023). Following Giulia’s death, Italy’s prime minister Giorgia Meloni herself reacted by expressing her grief, as well as denouncing gender-based crimes: “We all hoped in recent days that Giulia was alive. Unfortunately, our greatest fears have come true…Every single woman killed because she is ‘guilty’ of being free is an aberration that cannot be tolerated and that pushes me to continue on the path taken to stop this barbarity” (Kassam, 2023). Also, the Italian Senate approved on November 22, multiple measures to expand protections for women vulnerable to gender-based violence (Kassam, 2023). These include “stricter restraining orders and heightened surveillance on men found guilty of gender-based violence” (Bettiza, 2023). Giuseppe Valditara, the Italian minister of education, promised a campaign addressing gender-based violence in schools (Kassam, 2023).

However, feminist group “D.i.Re, the Women Against Violence Network” member Silvia Menecali points out that instead of working with anti-violence centres and feminist associations, this project is being coordinated by a psychologist known for having previously “negated the existence of gender-based violence”(Kassam, 2023). Furthermore, many critics were quick to highlight that despite Meloni’’s apparent voluntarism to help women’s cause, her party was one of those who abstained when the EU voted to ratify an international treaty aiming to prevent violence against women earlier this year (Kassam, 2023). Moreover, according to NGO ActionAid Prevenzione Sottocosto’s latest report presented on November 13: “Despite the increase in funds recorded in the last decade, the number of women killed by men within the family has remained essentially stable over time”, suggesting “the inadequacy of the anti-violence policies adopted” (Camilli, 2023).

As University of Bologna researcher Cristina Gamberi notes, Giulia’s murder is a scenario that feels familiar, “This is a script that we know very well” (Kassam, 2023). Indeed, 106 women have been killed in Italy since the beginning of the year, and the majority of them (55), were killed by their partners or former partners (Kassam, 2023). However, although cases of femicides are unfortunately common in Italy, Giulia’s death seems to have pushed for a different framing and consideration of gender-based violence and crimes compared to the traditional media coverage of such violence. This is due particularly to her older sister, Elena Cecchettin (Kassam, 2023). Indeed, as Gamberi notes, Elena has been “fighting back with a very strong determination and anger”, going as far as to say Giulia’s sister could be “giving voice to a new collective awareness that is really widespread among the younger generation.” (Kassam, 2023). Giulia’s sister has expressed herself through interviews and social media, highlighting the responsibility of the normalization of toxic male behavior, in Giulia’s death (Kassam, 2023). Elena exposed the roots of femicides and gender-based violence, roots that some officials and some people seem to (willingly?) ignore or disregard. She affirmed, “Femicide is not a crime of passion, it is a crime of power” (Kassam, 2023).

She also clearly highlighted men’s responsibility in fighting patriarchal standards and calls for their direct action to end gender-based violence: “No man is good if he does nothing to dismantle the society that privileges them so much”, and “It is the responsibility of men in this patriarchal society to call out friends and colleagues. Say something to that friend who controls his girlfriend, say something to that colleague who catcalls passers-by. These behaviors are accepted by society, and can be the prelude to femicide” (Kassam, 2023). As she puts it: “It is often said ‘not all men’. But they are always men”. She explicitly denounces the state’s responsibility in femicides and gender-based violence: “Femicide is a state murder because the state does not protect us.” (Kassam, 2023). Elena also opposed the idea that such crimes are exceptional acts of violence, being perpetuated by “monsters”: “Filippo is not a monster; a monster is an exception, someone external to society, someone society should not take responsibility for. But here that responsibility exists” (Camilli, 2023). As Camilli notes, Elena “turned private grief into a political movement” (2023). This is not insignificant, for it shows that gender-based violence and femicide do not come from nowhere, and do not arise from passion or “sudden outbursts”. Rather, they are “preceded by a crescendo of physical and psychological abuse, manipulation attempts, blackmail, stalking, gaslighting, obsessive and controlling behaviors that can go on for months or years, mostly tolerated by society” (Camilli, 2023).

Elena adds that violence is a way to “restore the hierarchy that some women have dared to question” and that “it is an expression of a millennia-old power system in crisis but still deeply rooted in everyday behavior.” (Camilli, 2023). Indeed, as feminist writer Lea Melandri notes in her book Amore E Violenza, Il Fattore Molesto Della Civiltà (Love and Violence, the Annoying Factor of Civilization): “This is why even the most independent of women can become victims of heinous violence: it is their “no” that triggers anger, breaking a pact of submission that has lasted for millennia.” (Camilli, 2023). Many Italian women agreed with and relayed Elena’s words. But Giulia’s sister also faced critics, accusing her of being “ideological”, for instance by League councilor in the Veneto region Stefano Valdegamberi (Camilli, 2023).

This reframing and reconsideration of the way gender-based violence is perceived is essential, for it influences the measures to be taken against them. In this case, by emphasizing and exposing the roots of gender-based violence, Elena Cecchettin highlights the need to implement preventive measures instead of only relying on punitive actions like has been the case for years. Indeed, according to ActionAid, between 2020 and 2023, only 12% of the 248.8 million euros allocated to resources against gender violence were dedicated to prevention (Camilli, 2023). But funds are not the only issue. Indeed, it is the whole system of patriarchal norms that harms women, and that needs to be dismantled. These patriarchal standards are symbolized for instance by the idea, very present amongst Italy’s judiciary and law enforcement that “survivors of violence are somehow to blame or not to be believed” (Kassam, 2023). Menecali also adds that Italian media needs to stop “emphasizing the point of view of the murderer, explaining what motivated him to kill a woman,” for that “carries on legitimizing femicide as a reaction to a woman’s behaviour” (Kassam, 2023). ActionAid’s report asserts that “Only cultural work that counters customs and patterns of violence against women and girls can reverse the trend,” (Camilli, 2023). It is not enough to reform or amend things; change has to be radical (Camilli, 2023). Giulia’s sister again illustrates this necessity: “We need widespread sexual and emotional education; we need to teach that love is not possession. We must fund anti-violence centers and provide opportunities for those in need to seek help. For Giulia, don’t take a minute of silence. For Giulia, burn everything,” (Camilli, 2023). This refusal to stay silent was followed by students of the University of Padua, who, instead of observing a minute of silence, spent that time singing, reading poetry, and clapping; to make their voices heard (Bettiza, 2023).

As Zampano notes: “Violence against women and girls remains one of the most pervasive human rights violations in the world” (2023). Giulia Cecchettin’s recent femicide illustrates the traditional ways of considering and dealing with gender-based violence, i.e. often not tackling the origins of sexist violence and focusing on posteriori measures. Therefore, Giulia’s death also pushes us to reconsider the efficiency of current measures aiming to protect women and prevent gender-based violence. It illustrates the need to adopt different strategies and measures. We cannot continue to pretend we do not know where this violence comes from and what it is rooted in. The reframing of gender-based violence and femicides as acts entrenched in patriarchy and rape culture, illustrated here by Giulia’s sister Elena Cecchettin, needs to be more universally recognized. This starts by recognizing and institutionalizing the term “femicide”. Indeed, as Camilli notes: “This term is essential in highlighting the gender-specific nature of such crimes and advocating for awareness, prevention, and legal measures to address the underlying societal issues that contribute to violence against women” (2023).

Other measures that could be taken to better fight against and prevent gender-based violence and other femicides could and should take place on the institutional, educational and societal levels through the collaboration of governments with communities and non-profit organizations; in order to “challenge and transform cultural norms that perpetuate gender-based violence”, “hold perpetrators accountable while providing support and protection for survivors” and “create a society that actively rejects gender violence, ensuring that everyone can live free from the threat of harm and discrimination” (Camilli, 2023).

Works Cited

Bettiza, S. (2023, November 24). Giulia Cecchettin’s killing sparks Italian reckoning over

femicide. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-67514334

Camilli, A. (2023, November 27). Murder of Giulia Cecchettin: why Italy is finally saying ‘basta’ to violence against women. Worldcrunch. https://worldcrunch.com/culture-society/giulia-cecchettin-femicide-basta

Kassam, A. (2023, November 25). Anger across Italy as killing of student highlights country’s femicide rate. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/nov/25/anger-across-italy-as-killing-of-student-highlig hts-countrys-femicide-rate

Zampano, G. (2023, November 25). Tens of thousands rally in Italy over violence against women. AP. https://apnews.com/article/italy-women-violence-demonstrations-protest-d89c05325c37ee4d802 14700533761c8

Is the Privatization of Public Transport Incoming?

by Peter Xavier Rossetti

In case you took a double-take, no, the title is not a typo. Despite the fact that the privatization of public transport is an obvious oxymoron, it is seemingly a real possibility that may eventually take our cities and towns by storm. Some may even be inclined to welcome the development, as just a rudimentary inspection of public transportation, especially in Toronto, reveals that the systems in place are in desperate need of change. The TTC’s subway lines are unpredictable at best and inoperative at worst, while the buses and trams can be slow, crowded and just as susceptible to traffic, stalls and accidents as any other vehicle on the road. However, the “solutions” being provided by private companies are simply not the answers we need to solve our transit problems.

Zoox, a subsidiary of Amazon, has come forward with a new idea for transport called the robotaxi. Zoox’s robotaxi is a fully automated, self-driving taxi that can seat up to four passengers and, once fully operational, can take said passengers anywhere they want to go (Ludlow, 2023). It is essentially a 24/7 taxi service that can be summoned on demand and can take you wherever you want to go whenever you need to go there. And in the words of those at Zoox all, “the rider has to do is simply pay for the service” (Zoox). Simple enough, until you realize that this will not be like tapping your Presto card to enter the subway platform or bus.

The great thing about public transportation is that it is public, meaning it is subsidized by and held accountable to taxpayers. This ensures that no matter what, riders will never be priced-out from accessing their local transportation. In the private sector, however, no such insurance exists. Although Amazon may present Zoox and its robotaxi as a benign alternative to failing public transportation systems, at the end of the day it is a private company and its one and only goal is to make money. Neither Amazon nor Zoox is subsidized by the people and therefore not accountable to them either.

The implications of this privatization of public transportation could be huge. If Zoox was to ever grow big enough to corner the market to the point where city transportation services were no longer needed, many, many people would be in dire straits. There would be nothing preventing Zoox from pricing-out underprivileged areas from accessing its services, essentially trapping those who live there without a mode of transportation. Poorer communities, without access to their own reliable means of individual transportation, could see a massive loss of their freedom of movement – negatively impacting those living in the impacted areas’ ability to travel to work or school. Ergo preventing them from ever bettering their lives and the welfare of their community. Poor communities then stay poor and out-priced by privately run transportation. The negative feedback loop continues over and over again.

And this is why public transportation is so important. For all its faults it ensures that those who need it most will always, eventually, make it from point A to B. We have already seen the privatization of transportation gain its footing through companies such as Lyft and Uber. Their inception and the promotion of Zoox’s robotaxi could be troubling signs of what to come. We are to be ever vigilant. Or else our freedoms and rights to travel, our ability to move and live, could quickly be found to be under attack from a faceless, corporate, enemy. An enemy that does not care for you or I and the places we need to go to live our lives and better our situations. For this is an enemy that cares for one and one thing only – its bottom line.

Works Cited

Ludlow, E. (2023, February 13). Amazon’s self-driving car shuttles people on public roads for the first time. BNN Bloomberg. https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/amazon-s-self-driving-car-shuttles-people-on-public-roads-for-the- first-time-1.1883271

Zoox. (n.d). Company overview. https://zoox.com/about/

Outlawing LGBTQ+ Rights in 2023: The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda

by Shiva Ivaturi

Image: Sally Hayden/ZUMA/imago images


“Of course, homosexuals are disgusting”, said President Yoweri Musaveni of Uganda to a CNN correspondent in 2016. The subject of much controversy, at the time individuals simply thought of this as an incredibly disparaging and blatantly homophobic remark. Yet, it has culminated into a law today that is believed to be the most oppressive modern-day law against LGBTQ+ individuals in the world.

The proposed 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in Uganda, that would have criminalized homosexuality with sentences of life imprisonment. The bill also targeted those who promote homosexuality or fail to report homosexual activities to the authorities, including medical professionals and human rights advocates. The bill generated widespread international condemnation, with many countries, including the United States, threatening to cut off aid to Uganda if the bill was passed (Al Jazeera, 2014).

On March 9, 2023, Asuman Basalirwa, a member of parliament, introduced the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Parliament (Atuhaire, 2023). This bill is a revised and more extreme version of the 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act. The 2023 bill, however, expands on the criminalization of same-sex acts and is considered one of the most extreme anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the world (Human Rights Watch, 2023). Its provisions include criminalizing people for holding out as a lesbian, gay, transgender, or any other sexual or gender identity that is not in line with the binary categories of male and female (BBC News, 2023).

The 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill follows months of hostile rhetoric against sexual and gender minorities by public figures in Uganda, as well as government crackdowns on LGBTQ+ rights groups, human rights groups, government critics, and civil society (Human Rights Watch, 2023). Uganda’s penal code already punishes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” which is interpreted to mean homosexual relations, with a punishment of life in prison, although the provision is rarely enforced (Shaw, 2023). In introducing the bill, Basaliriwa said its purpose was to “look at this colonial law and have it in tandem with the current situation” (BBC News, 2023).

What is the law?

The maximum penalty for homosexual acts is life imprisonment, while the maximum penalty for attempted homosexual acts is imprisonment for 10 years. Furthermore, people convicted of homosexuality or attempted homosexuality cannot be employed in childcare facilities even after their release. Knowingly renting premises to people who wish to engage in homosexual acts on such premises is punishable by imprisonment for 10 years. The maximum penalty for promoting homosexuality is imprisonment for 10 years. Purporting to contract a same-sex marriage, as well as knowingly attending a purported same-sex marriage ceremony, would also result in imprisonment for up to 10 years (Atuhaire, 2023).

Moreover, the bill would make it a crime to “promote” homosexuality, which could include anything from expressing support for LGBTQ+ rights to providing health care services to members of the community. This provision would have far-reaching implications, as it would effectively criminalize the work of LGBTQ+ organizations and healthcare providers who offer critical services to a marginalized community (Human Rights Watch, 2023).

The bill also contains a provision that would require individuals to report any knowledge of homosexual activity or risk facing imprisonment for up to six months. This requirement would apply to a wide range of individuals, including doctors, teachers, and parents, and could create a culture of suspicion and fear that would make it even more difficult for LGBTQ+ individuals to seek out support and care (Shaw, 2023).

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, has called the bill “devastating and deeply disturbing” and urged President Museveni not to sign it into law. In a statement, Türk said that the adoption of such a discriminatory bill was a “deeply troubling development” and warned that it would have far-reaching consequences for human rights and the rule of law in Uganda (Muhumuza, 2023; Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2023).

What is the law based on?

The 2023 Anti Homosexuality Bill in Uganda aims to “protect the traditional family” through measures that, according to the bill, strengthen the nation’s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the traditional, heterosexual family (Human Rights Watch, 2023). Literature evaluating the effects of changes in legal recognition of same-sex couples on heterosexual marriage in the U.S. found that same-sex marriage had no meaningful effect on individuals in different-sex households (Shaw, 2023). Additionally, studies from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and the Netherlands have shown that extending relationship recognition to same-sex couples had no obvious impact on the marriage rates or divorce rates of different-sex couples (Shaw, 2023).

In Uganda, there has often been a notion that homosexuality makes children and youth vulnerable to sexual abuse. Research suggests that most pedophiles who prey upon young people identify as heterosexual, and their victims are more likely to be female (BBC News, 2023). Moreover, research has found that children raised by gay or lesbian parents are as well-adjusted psychologically, emotionally, and socially as children raised by heterosexual parents (Human Rights Watch, 2023; Shaw, 2023). The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Sociological Association both agree that children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well as children raised by different-sex parents (Shaw, 2023).

Another major notion fundamentally assumed by the bill is that same-sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic. While there is little consensus on the exact reasons why an individual has a heterosexual or homosexual orientation, current scientific and professional consensus reflects the understanding that homosexuality is not a choice, but rather a complex interplay of genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural factors (Shaw, 2023). Therefore, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s recognition that same-sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic is not supported by scientific research.

The 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a deeply concerning piece of legislation that represents a significant setback for human rights and the rule of law in Uganda (Human Rights Watch, 2023). Its provisions have now criminalized same-sex relationships and identities, stigmatized LGBTQ+ individuals, and created a culture of fear and suspicion that are already making it difficult for individuals across the country to seek out care.

International condemnation of the bill has been swift and unequivocal, with human rights organizations and governments around the world calling on Uganda to abandon the legislation (Al Jazeera, 2014; Muhumuza, 2023; Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2023; Stout, 2023). Ultimately, these efforts were not successful as the bill was signed into law.


The anti-homosexuality law in Uganda will have devastating effects on the LGBTQ+ community, with individuals facing persecution, violence, and even death (Human Rights Watch, 2023). Frank Mugisha, Uganda’s most prominent LGBTQ+ rights activist, has experienced firsthand the dangers of being openly gay in Uganda. He explains, “The Ugandan population has been radicalised to fear and hate homosexuals” (Reuters, 2023). This anti-gay sentiment has been fanned by politicians and religious organizations, culminating in the passage of a bill that would criminalize even identifying as LGBTQ+ (Atuhaire, 2023). The bill, which Mugisha fears will be signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni, would punish the “promotion” of homosexuality with up to 20 years in prison and impose the death penalty for so-called aggravated homosexuality, including having gay sex while HIV-positive (Atuhaire, 2023; Human Rights Watch, 2023).

Mugisha has received numerous death threats and has even had a colleague and friend, David Kato, bludgeoned to death in 2011 (Al Jazeera, 2014). Mugisha refuses to back down despite the dangers he faces, saying, “I guess I am going to be in trouble a lot because I am not going to stop” (Reuters, 2023). He feels a sense of obligation to fight for the rights of LGBTQ+ Ugandans, many of whom have fled the country or their homes for safe houses since the bill was passed (Reuters, 2023). Mugisha believes that the anti-gay sentiment is not Ugandan but is Western in nature, citing that homosexuality was first outlawed under British colonial rule and that Ugandan individuals were initially wary of homosexuality but did not have the intent to harm homosexual individuals under the full force of the law (Reuters, 2023).

Mugisha’s story highlights the immense bravery and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda, who continue to fight for their rights despite facing immense persecution. As he explains, “Looking at this legislation, I do not think it will survive” (Reuters, 2023). We must support the efforts of activists like Mugisha and stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda and around the world, fighting against discrimination and hate.

Works Cited

Uganda: New anti-gay bill further threatens rights. Human Rights Watch. (2023, March 9). Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/03/09/uganda-new-anti-gay-bill-further-threatens-rights

Al Jazeera. (2014, June 20). Uganda Aid Cut over anti-gay law. News | Al Jazeera. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2014/6/20/us-cuts-aid-to-uganda-over-anti-gay-law

Atuhaire, P. (2023, March 22). Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill: Life in prison for saying you’re gay. BBC News. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-65034343

Muhumuza, R. (2023, March 22). Un rights chief calls Uganda anti-gay Bill ‘deeply troubling’. PBS. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/un-rights-chief-calls-uganda-anti-gay-bill-deeply-troubling

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. (2023, March 22). Uganda: Türk urges president not to sign shocking anti-homosexuality Bill. United Nations. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/03/uganda-turk-urges president-not-sign-shocking-anti-homosexuality-bill

Reuters. (2023, April 13). Ugandan LGBTQ activist readies for the fight of his life. Reuters. Retrieved April 16, 2023, from https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/ugandan-lgbtq-activist-readies-fight-his-life-2023-04-13/

Stout, N. (2023, March 22). White House threatens to pull aid to Uganda over anti-LGBTQ bill. Courthouse News Service. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://www.courthousenews.com/white-house-threatens-to-pull-aid-to-uganda-over-anti-lgbtq-bill/

Shaw, A. (2023, April 5). Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2023. Williams Institute. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/uganda-anti-homosexuality-2023/

Dehumanization: Archaic Immigration Policies Against Individuals with Disabilities

by Shiva Ivaturi


Discrimination against individuals with disabilities is one of the most invisible forms of discrimination and takes place across societies, particularly countries that have publicly advocated for how open and transparent their immigration policies are. When learning about cruel injustices where families have been torn apart and individuals that are valuable, contributing members of society have faced the threat of deportation based on health, the same countries that are touted as progressive emblems for healthcare equity have significant room to
improve. I have highlighted cases in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to outline not only how outdated these immigration policies are, but how they fundamentally digress from the more equitable path that society is emphasizing in healthcare today yet are still being implemented.

New Zealand

Just last year in 2022, in New Zealand, a 12-year-old autistic girl from the Philippines was barred from moving to the country with her parents because of immigration policies that reject people with disabilities or illnesses that may present a high cost to the health system (McClure, 2022). The country sets a limit on an immigrant’s cost to the health system and excludes people with a number of “high-cost” conditions, including physical disability, intellectual disability, autistic spectrum disorders, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, and cancers (McClure, 2022). Arianna’s applications to come to New Zealand have been denied thus far, leaving her in the Philippines for the past six years while her parents have lived in New Zealand (McClure, 2022). The case is one of hundreds rejected under New Zealand’s rules. Juliana Carvalho was initially rejected on similar grounds in New Zealand, citing her lupus and paraplegia as concerns to the health care system (McClure, 2022). Carvalho spent seven years challenging the decision, and while the government granted her an exception to be able to stay in the country, there was no fundamental decision to eradicate the policy that resulted in this discrimination taking place to begin with.


In Canada, a policy known as “medical inadmissibility” due to excessive demand allows the government to deny residency to an entire family if even one person in the group has a disability or medical condition that could place “excessive demand” on Canada’s publicly funded health
and social service systems (Blackwell, 2015). In 2015, Asmeeta Burra, a physician in South Africa, and her architect husband had applied to be permanent residents in Canada, planning to settle in British Columbia. However, her son’s autism triggered a medical assessment that concluded the cost of special education for the boy would total about $16,000 a year, which exceeds the annually adjusted average social and medical cost for Canadians, currently about $6,300 (Blackwell, 2015). Immigration officials rejected Dr. Burra’s submission, which led to the denial of the family’s application (Blackwell, 2015). The Canadian government has since made some changes to its immigration rules in 2018, including amending the definition of social services and increasing the cost threshold at which an application for permanent residency can be denied on medical grounds (Fries, 2019). The Council of Canadians with Disabilities has called for the full repeal of the medical inadmissibility regulations, which it sees as discriminatory (Fries, 2019). Moreover, the revised rules have been labeled as only “timid moves” by some activists, such as James Hicks, the national director of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (Fries, 2019).

Seongjae was born in Australia and has lived there his whole life, but his family’s application for permanent residency under the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme was rejected in July 2021 due to Seongjae’s medical issues (Chapman, 2022). He lost his hearing when he was two years
old and was diagnosed with autism at two-and-a-half. Although he regained his hearing after ear surgery at age four, the government still deemed him a burden on taxpayers and a threat to public health and safety (Chapman, 2022). Unfortunately, the case of Seongjae is not unique. In 2015,
Maria Sevilla, a nurse who had lived in Townsville, Queensland for eight years, had her skilled visa rejected because her ten-year-old son Tyrone was diagnosed with autism. The government eventually intervened to grant her son a permanent visa, but the migration regulations remained in place (Chapman, 2022). The National Ethnic Disability Alliance reported in 2018 that it saw 10 to 15 cases of families facing deportation every year due to these health requirements, but there are potentially many more (Chapman, 2022). A 2010 parliamentary inquiry that found the health requirement discriminatory to people with disabilities and in need of urgent reform (Truu, 2019). Dr Abdi, an officer at the Ethnic Disability Advocacy Centre in Western Australia, believes the health requirement is a “punishment for a person with a disability” and their family. The health requirement does not consider an applicant’s potential contributions to society (Truu, 2019).


These cases demonstrate the discriminatory policies and practices of countries that prioritize cost savings over the lives and wellbeing of people with disabilities and medical conditions. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognizes the inherent dignity of all persons with disabilities and promotes their full and equal participation in society. It also emphasizes that persons with disabilities should not be discriminated against based on their disability, including in the provision of healthcare and social services. Countries like New Zealand, Canada, and Australia are obligated to uphold the principles of the CRPD and ensure that individuals with disabilities and medical conditions are not discriminated against in the immigration process. The policies and practices of these countries must be reformed to remove the discriminatory barriers that prevent individuals with disabilities and medical conditions from accessing care as well as the right to work and live in a place.

In conclusion, the cases of Arianna, Juliana, Asmeeta, Seongjae, and others highlight the urgent need for reform in immigration policies that discriminate against individuals with disabilities and medical conditions. These policies and practices violate the principles of the CRPD and
perpetuate systemic discrimination against people with disabilities. It is imperative that governments take action to reform their immigration policies and ensure that all individuals are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Works Cited

Blackwell, T. (2015, January 12). South African doctor’s immigration bid rejected because her autistic … National Post. Retrieved April 1, 2023, from

Chapman, E. (2022, December 29). Australia: Korean family threatened with deportation because son has autism. World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved April 1, 2023, from https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2022/12/30/azkd-d30.html

Fries, K. (2019, April 19). How we can make the world a better place for immigrants with disabilities. Quartz. Retrieved April 1, 2023, from https://qz.com/1600200/why-disabled-

McClure, T. (2022, April 26). New Zealand denies entry to autistic daughter of immigrant couple. The Guardian. Retrieved April 1, 2023, from

Truu, M. (2019, May 16). More than 15 families a year face deportation because of one relative’s disabilities. SBS News. Retrieved April 1, 2023, from

FAST-TRACKING DISASTER: Industry Regulation and Environmental Disaster-Making in East Palestine, Ohio

by Emma Celeste Thornley

On February 3rd, 2023, a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed by East Palestine, Ohio (Ebrahimji and Yan, 2023). 38 of its cargo-hauling cars jumped the rails, scattering its hazardous contents into the earth, air and groundwater. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would respond within a day; the Ohio National Guard would mobilize a day after that. By February 8th, the initial evacuation order issued to East Palestine and the immediate area would be lifted (Ebrahimji and Yan, 2023). As of March 17th, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine maintains that East Palestine is safe for inhabitation (Keller, 2023). Locals and EPA representatives disagree. Carcinogenic dioxides still permeate the earth by the initial spill sites at a density 100 times the legal limit (Perkins, 2023); 4.85 million gallons of toxic wastewater have been extracted from broader East Palestine in the month since the initial spill (Government of Ohio, 2023). Activists like Erin Brockovich, who previously uncovered a massive corporate coverup of water poisoning during her tenure as a paralegal at a law firm (Brokovich, 2023), warned that coverups and late-blooming dangers are likely to threaten the health of locals for years (Flesher, 2023).

Disasters like these are far from uncommon in the United States. The first seven weeks of 2023 saw 30 incidents reported by the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters. The EPA performs, on average, 235 individual emergency responses to chemical spills a year (Gillam, 2023). Averaged out, across the United States, a chemical spill occurs once every two days (Bennett, 2023). Every spill, regardless of size or chemical composition, is dangerous. Injury and illness resulting from exposure can incite chronic or acute consequences (Gillam, 2023). In East Palestine, residents were flooded with vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, isobutylene ethylene glycol and ethylhexyl acrylate (Chow and Abou-Sabe). Vinyl Chloride is a colourless, flammable, carcinogenic gas that causes a range of neurological symptoms in those exposed. Butyl acrylate is similarly irritating, and triggers rashes and respiratory complications. The effects of long-term exposure to any one of these chemicals is unknown, let alone multiple (Chow and Abou-Sade, 2023). The issues emerging from this chemical spill will be further compounded by the EPA’s recent performance decrease, triggered in large part by budget slashes (Beitsch and Frazin, 2023).

Amnesty International has held that humans have a right to a safe environment (Amnesty International 2022). While often couched in climate change rhetoric, it is equally applicable to toxic exposure. It is well established that racialized and impoverished communities are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards (Johnston and Cushing, 2020) akin to the East Palestine spill. In recent memory, the predominantly Black communities of Flint, Michigan (Almasy and Ly, 2017) and Hayneville, Alabama (Alcindor, 2022) were respectively victimized by gross state misconduct in the wake of environmental contamination. In both cases, the contamination was preventable. Flint’s water-pipes were a known lead hazard (Almasy and Ly, 2017); Hayneville’s sewage systems were improperly operated (Alcindor, 2022). The case of East Palestine may seem, on its face, equally tragic but comparatively less insidious. Train derailments are accidents, not state failures. East Palestine is predominately white and conservative. As the state’s failures to respond to the EasPalestine crisis mounted, Trump’s campaign utilized East Palestine’s demographics to accuse the present administration of “woke” virtue signalling (Pilkington, 2023).

In reality, Trump’s administration tabled policy exposing countless locales to industrial disaster, and all American citizens in marginalized social groups are resultantly at risk of similar disasters. The EPA’s 2020 budget reduction was executed by Trump; the already overwhelmed federal branch lost about half of its funding (Beitsch and Frazin, 2023). This drastic rollback on government funding to emergency response and toxic waste management research was further compounded by the former administration’s proverbial derailing of train safety regulations (Levin, 2023). The federal regulations expunged from practice included reducing braking system standards and safety audits of railroads (Levin, 2023). While preliminary reports suggest the East Palestine derailment was not a direct result of Trump’s regulation policy (Kessler, 2023), it is a warning as to what disasters may loom on the American horizon. In cases where the disaster releases toxic chemicals into the environment, as was the case in East Palestine, the legacy of Trump’s rollbacks may have catastrophic consequences. A grand total of 100 environmental rules were repealed, designed to protect American air, drinking water, wildlife and urban infrastructure (Popovich, Albeck-Ripka and Pierre-Louis, 2021). The EPA is subsequently facing stacking disasters with only a fraction of its resources.

Political science scholarship has long held that natural disasters are made by the state (O’Lear, 2022). Food shortages are exacerbated by global food systems into famines (International Rescue Committee, 2022); storms like Hurricane Katrina turn to deadly floods when institutions fail to maintain storm levees (Pruitt, 2020). Our human rights to life, security of person and adequate standard of living are increasingly consolidating with labour and environmental rights. When states fail to recognize the overlap between these spheres of human life, or otherwise ignore them for profit margins, disastrous consequences emerge. The circumstances surrounding East Palestine’s spill are a stark reminder that attaining any one of these rights is contingent upon pursuit of the others.

Works Cited

Alcindor, Y. (n.d.) In rural Alabama, raw sewage spurs investigation into racial inequality. NBC. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/rural-alabama-raw-sewage-spurs-investigation-racial-inequality-rcna25475

Almasy, S. and Ly, L. (2017, February 18) Flint water crisis: Report says ‘systemic racism’ played role. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2017/02/18/politics/flint-water-report-systemic-racism/index.html

Amnesty International (2022, July 27) Time to recognize that a safe environment is a human right. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/07/time-to-recognize-that-a-safe-environment-is-a-human-right/

Bennett, P. (2023, February 28) U.S. Averages One Chemical Accident Every Two Days, Analysis Finds. Eco Watch. https://www.ecowatch.com/chemical-accident-frequency-us.html

Brokovich, E. (2022) My Story. https://www.brockovich.com/my-story/

Ibrahimji, A. And Yan, H. (2023, March 10) It’s been more than a month since a freight train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in Ohio. Here’s what’s happened since. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/23/us/east-palestine-ohio-train-derailment-timeline/index.html

Flesher, J. (2023, March 11) ‘We don’t feel safe anymore.’ Trauma, health concerns remain after Ohio derailment. PBS. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/we-dont-feel-safe-anymore-trauma-health-concerns-remain-after-ohio-derailment

Governor of Ohio (2023, March 10) East Palestine Update – 3/10/23. https://

International Rescue Committee (2022, August 24) What is famine? How it’s caused and how to stop it. https://www.rescue.org/article/what-famine-how-its-caused-and-how-stop-it#:~:text=Famines%20are%20caused%20by%20multiple,of%20action%20to%20prevent%20it.

Johnston J, Cushing L. Chemical Exposures, Health, and Environmental Justice in Communities Living on the Fenceline of Industry. Curr Environ Health Rep. 2020 Mar;7(1):48-57. doi: 10.1007/s40572-020-00263-8. PMID: 31970715; PMCID: PMC7035204.

Keller, A. (2023, February 18) Gov. DeWine reiterates air and water are safe in East Palestine. Spectrum News.https://spectrumnews1.com/oh/columbus/news/2023/02/18/the-ohio-department-of-health-helps-east-palestine-move-forward-with-clinic

Kessler, G. (2023, February 27) So far, Trump’s rollback of regulations can’t be blamed for Ohio train wreck. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/02/27/so-far-trumps-rollback-regulations-cant-be-blamed-ohio-train-wreck/

Levin, B. (2023, February 22) TRUMP FORGETS TO MENTION THE TRAIN SAFETY REGULATIONS HE GUTTED DURING VISIT TO EAST PALESTINE, OHIO. Vanity Fair. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/02/donald-trump-east-palestine-ohio-train

O’Lear, S., Masse, F., Dickinson, H., & Duffy, R. (2022). Disaster making in the
Capitalocene. Global Environmental Politics, 22(3), 2-11. https://muse-jhu-

Perkins, T. (2023, March 17) Levels of carcinogenic chemical near Ohio derailment site far above safe limit. TheGuardian.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/mar/17/norfolk-southern-derailment-east-palestine-ohio-carcinogenic-chemical-levels

Pruitt, S. (2020, August 27) How Levee Failures Made Hurricane Katrina a Bigger Disaster. History. https://www.history.com/news/hurricane-katrina-levee-failures

Megan Thee Stallion v Tory Lanez: Dehumanizing Black Women to Justify Violence and Victim-Blaming

by Jasmin L.K. Smith

Black women are the least protected group, I would argue, in the world. They are expected to be strong caretakers, and many view them through a lens of strength and survival through hardship. The latter, however positive, is more regressive than progressive, since it creates an idea that Black women should be viewed as a one-dimensional monolith. 

Black women have been discriminated against for centuries, not only by the misogynistic and racist outsiders within society, but in their own community, suffering at the hands of Black men and those that have more privileges than them due to lighter complexions. Black women are less likely to be attended to in hospitals, they are more likely to be viewed as aggressive and angry, and, most pressingly, they are less likely to be believed when they come out as victims.

On the night of the shooting between Tory Lanez and Megan Thee Stallion, I was involved in a groupchat of nearly 100 black women that were attending the same university as I had been. Within minutes the groupchat had gone from a simmer to a full-on kitchen fire, everyone sending details of what had happened and what the news had been saying. Over the following weeks, when discussing the case, our topics strayed away from Megan herself in favour of addressing the responses to her victimhood. Megan, a dark-skin Black woman, was called a cockroach, online personalities began to speculate that she was a man, and others simply said that she had made it all up. The responses were disgusting and abundant, and many of us in the groupchat were exposed to the true colours of our peers and loved ones; nobody was defending Megan like they had when white women cried ‘MeToo’, nobody was sympathizing with the pain that she must have felt, and she had been stripped of her identity in favour of people referring to her as a caricature. 

Black Women as Caricatures

In slavery-era minstrel shows, white people would portray Black women as one of two stereotypes: the Mammy, or the Jezebel. The Mammy is a character that possesses no personal life of her own, sacrificing everything to take care of a white family’s home or children, and she was supposed to be grateful for the space and privileges granted to her by the family that she ‘worked for’. A modern example of this caricature would be Viola Davis’ role in The Help, a film that, rather than focusing on the complex relationships of Black caretakers and the children that they watched over in the early 20th century, told the story of a white savior that ‘felt terrible’ for what she had to witness. The image of Aunt Jemima is also an example of the Mammy in popular culture, an image, and a false story, that was only changed after outrage in 2021 (Diaz).

During slavery, it was not rare for white women to express jealousy towards the slave women that would be sexually assaulted at the hand of white slave masters. This was not romance, yet it was interpreted as such by wives that longed for the attention of their husbands. The caricature of the Jezebel originated from such circumstances as these. White women believed that their husbands had been seduced by Black women and their sexuality, thus leading them to be victims of sexual assault. This, of course, is not the truth, and Black women suffered overwhelming abuses from slave owners, which is not reflected in the Jezebel stereotype. The Jezebel’s only influence is her body, which she offers in exchange for something that she desires, and though it is no longer common in media, the Jezebel caricature has left lasting traces in Hollywood films and series.

In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, the caricature of the Sapphire rose to prominence, and the public believed this to be a true representation of Black women. The sapphire is the stereotypical ‘sassy Black woman’, she is loud, overbeating, hard-headed, and rude, and has directly contributed to the stereotype of Black women being angry and aggressive. The Sapphire is the ‘Angry Black Women’ that the public is regularly exposed to, and she is masculinized by portraying her as the dominant person in her relationships. The most common caricature of Black women in modern media is the Strong Black Women, also a product of the usage of the Sapphire stereotype. The Strong Black Women is a two-dimensional, emotionally incompetent character that very rarely gets to express an emotion aside from determination.

With a handful of ways to portray Black women, “the audience, and the creators alike, are going to constantly think that [they] have represented Black women in the way they are. When really, they have represented the same racist caricature over and over” (3:38 Al Jazeera). Having played the role of another Black woman stereotype, the Welfare Queen, Babirye Bukilwa sees herself as having been complicit in propaganda targeting Black women (Al Jazeera 6:40). 

These stereotypes, even when put together, do not create a real character with personality and understandable motivations. None of these stereotypes or caricatures will ever be honest to the experience of Black women, because they lack depth and dimensionality. While there have been a few shows in recent years that have come out with honest stories about Black women, like Scandal, Insecure, and The Photograph, the startling lack of colour in media production has kept century-old stereotypes and caricatures alive, and these caricatures and stereotypes continue to thrive and work themselves into public opinions. 

Defeminizing Black Women

Michelle Obama is successful, her birth name must be Michael; Francine Niyonsaba has a hormonal disorder, she must be competing as a woman to cheat her way to a gold medal; Megan Thee Stallion has taken agency and embraced her own sexuality, she must be .Marcus Thee Stallion’. Do you recognize a pattern? Successful, dominant Black women are constantly torn down and defeminized, and Black women that identify with traditionally masculine traits are rumored by the masses to be men themselves.

The defeminization of Black women began, again, with minstrel shows and slavery. When Black women were stripped of their agency, or when they were only portrayed as being voiceless, or mothering, their ability to embrace their own sexualities ceased to exist. Black women, in the sense of the Mammy trope, were seen as being nurturing, without desire for anything themselves. At the same time, the only sexual experiences of Black women in slavery were those defined by their slave masters, creating a culture that connected victimhood and sexuality when examining relationships of Black women. 

Non-Black society has attributed masculinity as a whole to Black communities. They attribute perceived hypermasculine traits, such as violence and likelihood to commit a crime, to Black men, and both Black men and Women suffer as a result. Black men are more likely to be targeted by police violence, while Black women must suffer as they must prove themselves as being feminine beings to those around them. The default for femininity is the white damsel in distress, a character like Snow White, thus assuming Black women to lack femininity since they lack a light complexion (Blake). Even men in the Black community portray and discuss Black women as if they are lesser than because they have dark skin or because they have been brainwashed by the stereotypes of white society. 


During the Womanism Movement in the 60s and 70s, Black women coined the word ‘misogynoir’ to encompass the extremely specific circumstances of which they are discriminated against. ‘Misogynoir’ is a word that not only captures the racism and misogyny that Black women endure at the hands of society as a whole, but also addresses, arguably, the biggest perpetrating group of stereotypes against Black women, Black men. 

Issues faced by Black women are usually not as bothersome to Black men as they should be. In Why Are Black Men So Quiet About the Things That Matter to Black Women?, Allison Wiltz talks about Black conservatism and how it directly affects Black women. Black conservative men have, for decades, described abortion as being a tool for Black genocide, however, they do not speak on the fact that Black women are more than three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women (Wiltz). Often times, these same men claim that Black women are living off of welfare or cheating the system, but they never bother to comment on wage disparities between Black men and Black women, or even Black women and White women. 

In recent years, books like Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall have addressed the way that ‘ratchet’/’hood’ women are viewed as ‘ghetto’ or ‘uneducated’. Books such as these suggest that Black men view Black women as being less than white women because they have chosen to use AAVE, or because they wear certain clothes. These mentalities and styles invented by Black women often end up in mainstream media, by which point they are deemed as being socially acceptable while Black women are still being labeled as ‘ghetto’ for trendsetting. 

Black men have, in the past, picked up many of the stereotypes towards Black women that have been created by non-Black communities. Rather than speaking out against them, many Black men have, instead, chosen disbelief or complacency in order to advance in life.

In one apology addressed to Megan, a Black man said that he initially could not believe it, and that is why he chose to be hateful towards her. The “everyday violence that [Black women] deal with“sounds so crazy”as to be met with incredulity,” but this is the type of violence that they are faced with everyday of their lives, including from their very own community (Lane 295).


The Oxford English Dictionary defines parasociality as “Designating a relationship characterized by the one-sided, unreciprocated sense of intimacy felt by a viewer, fan, or follower for a well-known or prominent figure” (“Parasocial” O.E.D). In other words, a parasocial relationship is one in which a fan believes that they have a realistic, everyday relationship with a celebrity or creator because of the accessibility of their content. 

Parasocial relationships can be dangerous, as the person that perceives a parasocial relationship may defend the celebrity, creator, or character, as if they are a friend, and they are unable to decipher that their relationship is one-sided. In a study published in Psychology and Marketing, Siyoung Chung and her team discovered that, the more a celebrity tweeted or interacted with fans online, the more likely they were to be endorsed by their audience (Chung). Not only is this excellent branding, creating falsified, and seemingly personal connections with an audience, allowing for significantly more successful marketing, but it is also a wonderful PR tool.

When celebrities with large, parasocial audiences get into scandals, any bad publicity can be easily overshadowed by their fanbase spreading other information, or simply polluting related hashtags with unrelated events/media. For Tory Lanez, his parasocial audience mixed with racism, misogyny, and misogynoir from members of the Black community, created a perfect storm to distract from Megan’s retelling of the events. Rather than finding conversations about what happened on the night of the shooting, or seeing evidence on your timeline, it is much more common to come across tweets calling Megan a liar, or claiming her to be a man.

So What?

In the midst of her trauma, Megan Thee Stallion was forced to relentlessly explain herself, blame and insults being spewed on every platform. At the time of the shooting, it is reported that she lied to a police officer regarding what had happened. Many ridiculed her for this decision, overlooking the historic relationship between Black men and police departments, especially in the United States. Others called her a snitch for saying anything at all, “as if she were involved with some crime ring with Tory Lanez” (The Takeaway 4:45). Megan, like other Black women, could not win, and this trial has grown to be as much of a minstrel show as the ones that took place 100 years ago. If Megan is a Sapphire, she can’t feel pain, right? If she is a Strong Black Woman, then she must not be a victim. 

If you have gotten this far, and you feel anger towards my defense of Megan Thee Stallion, towards my defense of Black women as a whole, let me remind you: Tory Lanez is not your friend. Why are you defending him? Why are Black women stripped of any talents and education, viewed as even subhuman, once they reach fame? Why must Black women suffer no matter their position in life?

This trial is about Megan Thee Stallion and Tory Lanez, but it has never been solely about Megan Thee Stallion and Tory Lanez. This trial is about society and Black women, about Black men and Black women, this trial is about Black Women and pain. Nobody believes Black women, because society, including Black men, do not view them as people. If Black women are supposed to be protectors, who will protect them?

Works Cited

Al Jazeera. “Mammy, Jezebel and Sapphire: Stereotyping Black women in media | The Listening Post (Feature).” Youtube, uploaded by Al Jazeera English, 26 July 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2teqoyPe3TU&ab_channel=AlJazeeraEnglish.

Blake, Arana. The Masculinization of Black Women. Nubian Message, 14 April 2022, https://www.thenubianmessage.com/2022/04/14/the-masculinization-of-black-women/.

Chung, Sarah., & Cho, Hichang. “Fostering Parasocial Relationships with Celebrities on Social Media: Implications for Celebrity Endorsement.” Psychology and Marketing, 34(4), 481-495,  https://doi.org/10.1002/mar.21001.

.Diaz, Jaclyn. Aunt Jemima No More; Pancake Brand Renamed Pearl Milling Company. NPR, 10 February 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/02/10/966166648/aunt-jemima-no-more-pancake-brand-renamed-pearl-milling-company.

Jim Crow Museum. The Sapphire Caricature. Ferris State University, 2023, https://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/news/jimcrow/antiblack/sapphire.htm.

Lane, Nikki. “Ratchet Black Lives Matter: Megan Thee Stallion, Intra-Racial Violence, and the Elusion of Grief.” Linguistic Anthropology, 31, 293-297, August 2021, https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jola.12323.

“Parasocial, adj.” OED Online, Oxford UP, 30 March 2022, https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/99961331?redirectedFrom=parasocial#eid.

Wiltz, Allison. Why Are Black Men So Quiet About the Things That Matter to Black Women?. Zora, 3 March 2022, https://zora.medium.com/why-are-black-men-so-quiet-about-the-things-that-matter-to-black-women-a8a5a865ec35.

Vega, Tanzia. “Megan Thee Stallion and Misogynoir in the Music Industry.” New York Public Radio, uploaded by The Takeaway, 31 August 2020, https://www.proquest.com/docview/2731268096?accountid=14771&parentSessionId=2YDtk50apX1Ex6Vp%2BiEgCQaImk5TT6JR8lJQanuITJQ%3D&parentSessionId=Q4gzv5f48uqTqetjiEQTYWS5JbSyG3BbLCKXgUIib0k%3D.

“Humanitarian Exceptionalism” and the Failure of Imagination in the Progress of Human Rights in Canada

by Hero Aiken

In their book, Refugee States: Critical Refugee Studies in Canada, Vinh Nguyen and Thy Phu describe the concept of Canadian “humanitarian exceptionalism” in some detail. They describe it as “a belief that what sets Canada apart from the US and other nation-states is its distinct benevolence and commitment to human rights” (Nguyen and Phu, 3). As a result of this belief, Canadians may think themselves morally superior to inhabitants of other nations, especially the United States. In fact, a 2016 survey from the Angus Reid institute found that only 15% of Canadians considered the United States to be a “caring society” (Canada Guide). In other words, it seems clear that Canadian society both prides itself on its perceived humanitarian excellence, while also defining itself through its ethical superiority in comparison to other nations. This means that Canadian society, as well as individual Canadians, may feel less pressure or duty to investigate the human rights conditions in our own country and brought about by our government’s policies. “As long as we aren’t as ‘bad’ as the United States”, we reason, “can we really be all that ‘bad’”?

I would argue that this is not only lazy but an irresponsible and dangerous view to take on the protection of human rights in Canada. Why, if we view the United States to be so thoroughly disrespectful of human rights, can we not imagine an instance in which we might surpass their moral standards, but still fail to demonstrate humanitarian efforts of which we can be proud? Surely, if Canadians can so unanimously condemn the human rights violations which we have recently witnessed in the United States, we can muster a more rigorous and objective scale with which to measure our own actions. Unfortunately, the abdication of moral appraisal in favour of an assumed humanitarian supremacy over a handful of conveniently placed international rivals cannot be seen as anything other than a failure in the advancement of universal human rights.

Last year, while writing for Amnesty International U of T’s Candlelight blog, I submitted a piece highlighting the discrepancies between Canada’s benevolent image on the international scene and the difficult realities faced by its unhoused population. This year, I’d like to elaborate on this same theme while turning my attention towards the plight of refugees seeking asylum in Canada. This in the context of the trap set by the idea of “humanitarian exceptionalism”.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s infamous policies regarding the treatment of refugees or migrants seeking entrance into the United States, it perhaps became easier in recent years for Canadians to ignore the mistreatment of refugees by our own government. In a joint report released on World Refugee Day in 2021, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch declared that “Canada incarcerates thousands of people, including those with disabilities, on immigration-related ground every year in often abusive conditions” (Human Rights Watch). However, when
compared to the more conspicuous abuses carried out by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) agents during President Trump’s tenure, Canada’s mistreatment of immigrants and refugees has tended to fade into the background of our national consciousness. In 2017, Reuters reported that the Trump administration was considering the separation of Mexican children from their mothers upon “illegally” crossing the border into the United States (Reuters). The following year, the United States Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.) publicly admitted for the first time to having separated 2 000 children from their parents as they
crossed the border into the United States from Mexico (CNN). Faced with this abhorrent example of human rights abuse, it became easy for Canadians to cease the examination of our own systemic mistreatment of immigrants and refugees. I would argue that much of the energy which would have previously been spent on the promotion of the amelioration of Canada’s humanitarian measures in these areas instead became focused on the derision of the United States’ methods. This is clearly detrimental to the progress of human rights in Canada, and is also only one example among many. As long as Canada continues to measure the morality of our humanitarian efforts in relation to the often gross human rights abuses levied by American institutions, we will be wasting energy and resources which could be better spent on the questioning and bettering of our own systems.

Finally, I would indicate that this is not an outright condemnation of Canada’s efforts in the realm of human rights. According to the Fraser Institute’s 2022 Human Rights Index, Canada ranks 13th highest among the nations of the world (Fraser Institute). This is above the United States, and other wealthy nations such as the United Kingdom and France. Instead, this article is meant to denounce the idea that human rights efforts can be reduced to the ways in which they compare to each other. Human rights efforts, whether they concern the treatment of vulnerable populations such as the unhoused and those seeking asylum as refugees, or whether they concern the status of marginalized populations such as racial or sexual
minorities, are inherently indicative of the ways in which we value the lives of our fellow humans. Is this pursuit not worthy of being measured in ways which transcend the petty temptation to comparison? If Canada wants to build a nation truly worthy of being deemed “exceptional” for its humanitarian pursuits, we ought to create an independent standard by which to measure our human rights efforts. If we seek “humanitarian exceptionalism” in the truest sense of the word, why do we lower ourselves to the standards of those nations we so readily condemn? The myth of “humanitarian exceptionalism” in Canada not only spells disaster for the progress of human rights in Canada, it also demonstrates a lack of imagination and belief in the true humanitarian potential of our nation.

Works Cited

Ainsley, Julia Edwards. “Exclusive: Trump Administration Considering
Separating Women, Children at Mexico Border.” Reuters, Thomson
Reuters, 3 Mar. 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-children-idUSKBN16A2ES.

“Anti-Americanism.” The Canada Guide, 17 Nov. 2020, https://thecanadaguide.com/culture/anti-americanism/.

“Canada: Abuse, Discrimination in Immigration Detention.” Human Rights
, 20 July 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/06/17/canada-abuse-

“Family Separation – a Timeline.” Southern Poverty Law Center, 23 Mar. 2022, https://www.splcenter.org/news/2022/03/23/family-separation-timeline#2017.

“Human Freedom Index 2022.” Fraser Institute, 26 Jan. 2023,

Kopan, Tal. “DHS: 2,000 Children Separated from Parents at Border | CNN
Politics.” CNN, Cable News Network, 16 June 2018,

Nguyen, Vinh and Thy Phu. Refugee States: Critical Refugee Studies in
. University of Toronto Press, 2021.

Refoulement: Europe Funds Migrant Capture and Detention in Libya

by Jenna Barhoush

The supposed synonymity of the word migration with mobility could not be more incorrectly reflected in the realities of 21st century migration. Instead, with migration come threats of humiliating immobility. People escape their unsafe conditions of oppression, war, and poverty and undergo a treacherous path with the hopes of reaching Europe’s promises of safety, opportunity, and equality. Yet, while European countries provide such promises for their citizens, their securities are not extended to migrants and asylum seekers from outside the continent. Instead, the European Union is involved in the process of refoulement – the return of migrants to unsafe places – by funding migration detention centres and surveillance in Libya, and by convicting volunteer refugee rescuers for crimes of human trafficking.

The refugee ‘problem’ develops from situations of nation-wide violence or oppression that make a country uninhabitable for most people. This has been the case in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Eritrea in the past two decades, as the countries’ growing insecurities and oppression contributed to a large exodus of refugees. One Syrian claimed that leaving the house to go to school in the morning was preceded with a daily farewell to family members as survival until the end of the day was not guaranteed (Mardini, 2020). While the rate of lives lost accelerate, those who survive the daily onslaught of war are faced with unending insecurities and oppressive conditions. Basic necessities become scarce and incomes nonexistent for many as facilities are destroyed, and production and import halted (McCarthy, 2022). Seeking refuge in other countries thus becomes the only escape for many. Jordan became a popular asylum for many refugees due to its close proximity to the war-stricken countries and its open borders. Yet the country’s own deteriorating economic conditions meant that minimal securities were all it had to offer to the refugees (Francis, 2015). Its structural stresses and overpopulation of refugees led Jordan to increase regularization which in turn led potential migrants to seek other countries for refuge.

Thus, in 2015, refugees from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Iraq headed towards Europe. Europe’s migration policy was based on the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Protection of the Refugees, and it stipulated a distributed responsibility for the protection of refugees upon entry to European territory (European Commission). This meant that once an individual seeking asylum enters European land or water, their human rights should be met and protection secured.

However, following the 2015 refugee influx, also known as the Europe Migrant Crisis, the policy proved to be more strenuous than not. Countries that had recently opened their doors to refugees, such as Italy in its 2014 search-and-rescue program Operation Mare Nostrum, took a different turn following the migrant crisis (Urbina, 2021). Poland and Hungary completely shut off their doors to migrants, and shoreline countries such as Italy, Spain, Greece, and Malta began turning away migrant boats. Yet as public protest became global with the uncovering of the conditions refugees underwent on their way to Europe, governments could not be as blatant with their policies. Rather than contributing to direct refoulement, Europe began seeking ways to prevent migrants from even getting near to its shores. Two strategies were pursued: funding the capture of migrants in international waters, and ending the process of rescuing migrants from sea.

The former strategy was assisted by the European Union Trust Fund of Africa. Under the guise of addressing the root causes of political instability and displacement in Africa, the Trust Fund allocated 6 billion dollars to migration control (European Commission). Libya alone received half a billion dollars to capture illegal migrants heading to European shores. The year also highlighted the works of Frontex, the EU’s border agency responsible for coastal surveillance. Frontex was provided with resources that included surveillance drones to track migrant boats in both domestic and international waters in the Mediterranean (Urbina, 2021). Upon discovering migrant boats and dinghies, surveillance footage would be sent to Italy which would then signal Libyan coast guards to intercept the migrants. According to an Amnesty International report, around 15,000 people were intercepted at sea and taken to Libya in the first few months of 2021 (2021). European money taints the entire procedure starting with its funding of Frontex’s surveillance, to the training of the Libyan Coast Guard in migrant capture, and ending with the vehicles used to transport migrants from the seas to detention camps in Libya. In addition, a 2008 Treaty of Friendship between Libya and Italy formalized their cooperation in the containment and capture of migrants (Amnesty International, 2021). Italy would return those crossing central Mediterranean, and Libya would punish and detain them.

Upon capture, migrants are taken to detention camps in Ghout al-Shaal where gross human rights violations are carried out. People lie in overcrowded warehouses with poor ventilation and no sanitation (Urbina, 2021). Reports indicate the constant threat of individuals being singled out for physical torture and/or sexual assault (Amnesty International, 2021). Migrants are punished for assumed treachery and espionage, and their lack of cooperation with their oppressors leads to their assault. In the rare scenario where rebellions are successful, the authorities have been reported to conduct raids in shelters used by escaped migrants. HRW reports that on October 1, 5,152 people were arrested, 1 man killed and 15 injured (Roth, 2021). Reporters who attempt to contact prisoners are themselves detained and sometimes tortured under convictions of espionage.

Libyan law also allows for the indefinite detainment of unauthorized foreigners and their use for unpaid labor (Amnesty International, 2021). The migrants are stripped of their human rights as they enter an unending cycle of dehumanizing torture and enslavement with little to no hope for escape. Disappeared individuals are forced to work in factories or in the military indefinitely. Enforced disappearances allow for human rights violations to be conducted in detention centres with no accountability as individuals are erased, detention centres hidden, and violators protected from identification.

The second strategy of indirect refoulement adopted by Europe is the prevention of rescue operations in European waters. When migrants do escape Libyan Coast Guard and manage to enter European waters, calls for help are unheard. Migrants attempting to signal the coast guard are either ignored or are told to turn back. EU states withdrew naval assets from the central Mediterranean to avoid any chance encounters with migrant boats (Urbina, 2021). In the rare scenario where such an encounter does occur, migrants report to being passed by.

Non-state search-and-rescue operations and organizations have been continuously targeted by European states and reduced to powerless existence as they lose their abilities to actually help boats in distress. In 2018, volunteers working on the shores of Greece to provide blankets and water bottles to oncoming migrants were detained and persecuted under the false convictions of human trafficking and espionage (Cossé and Esveld, 2023). Sarah Mardini, a former Syrian refugee of whom the new Netflix movie Swimmers is partly based on, was held and detained in a Greek prison for over 100 days and is currently awaiting trial. Mardini, alongside fellow volunteer Sean Binder, face a sentence of up to 25 years for volunteering in the aid of migrants. In a Ted Talk interview with Odedre Mardini recounted the mental abuse and trauma she encountered in prison (2020). The conviction of volunteers and search-and-rescue organizations prevents any potential for migrant rescue whether that be in the sea or on the shores of Greece. It insinuates in potential volunteers and donors the fear of similar prosecution. Migrants have also become more vulnerable to the heinous consequences of refoulement as there is no longer anyone that can protect them.

The resentment of migrants is becoming more vocalized in Europe with growing accusations of migrants stealing jobs, threatening the safety of individuals, and tainting the European national and ethnic identities. It is thus necessary to point out here that Europe’s current prosperous conditions are tied to the juxtaposed insecurities in the war stricken countries. Firstly, the legacies of European colonialism that have created a perpetual cycle of detriment and exploitation in the global South have funded the parallel wealth and ‘development’ of Europe itself (Tusalem, 2016). Secondly, as indicated by the Treaty of Friendship and the African Fund, current European ties to the global South support oppression. After contributing to the dangerous conditions forcing people to migrate, the least European countries can now do is to protect refugees.

Accordingly, Europe should take responsibility for refoulement and provide compensation for its colonial legacies. This requires the deterring of ties with Libya and creating a more robust system of accountability and transparency for search-and-rescue operations. Only then will migration return to its synonymous equivalent of mobility and movement and be rid of its inappropriate association with life-threatening immobility.

Write for Rights – Sarah Mardini and Sean Binder: https://takeaction.amnesty.ca/page/50419/action/1?locale=en-US

Works Cited

Amnesty International. (2021). Libya: Horrific violations in detention highlight Europe’s shameful role in forced returns. Amnesty International. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/press-release/ 2021/07/libya-horrific-violations-in-detention-highlight-europes-shameful-role-in-forced-returns/

Cossé, E., Esveld, B.V. (2023). Sea Rescuers Still Waiting for Justice in Greece. Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/01/16/sea-rescuers-still-waiting-justice-greece

European Commission. Common European Asylum System. Migration and Home Affairs. European Commission. https://home-affairs.ec.europa.eu/policies/migration-and-asylum/ common-european-asylum-system_en

Francis, A. (2015). Jordan’s Refugee Crisis. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. https://carnegieendowment.org/2015/09/21/jordan-s-refugee-crisis-pub-61338

Mardini, S. Interviewed by Odedre, K. (2020). How I was arrested for handing out blankets to refugees | Sarah Mardini. TEDxLondonWomen.

McCarthy, J. (2022). How War Fuels Poverty. Global Citizen.

Roth, K. (2021). Libya. Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2022/country-chapters/ libya#13d8c3

Spindler, W. (2015). 2015: The year of Europe’s refugee crisis. The UN Refugee Agency. https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2015/12/56ec1ebde/2015-year-europes-refugee-crisis.html

Tusalem, R. F. (2016). The Colonial Foundations of State Fragility and Failure. Polity, 48(4), 445–495. http://www.jstor.org/stable/26358277

United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951). https://www.unhcr.org/ 4ca34be29.pdf

Urbina, I. (2021). The Secretive Prisons That Keep Migrants Out of Europe. The New Yorker. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/12/06/the-secretive-libyan-prisons-that-keep-migrantsout-of-europe 

The former strategy was assisted by the European Union Trust Fund of Africa. Under the
guise of addressing the root causes of political instability and displacement in Africa, the Trust
Fund allocated 6 billion dollars to migration control (European Commission). Libya alone
received half a billion dollars to capture illegal migrants heading to European shores. The year
also highlighted the works of Frontex, the EU’s border agency responsible for coastal
surveillance. Frontex was provided with resources that included surveillance drones to track
migrant boats in both domestic and international waters in the Mediterranean (Urbina, 2021).
Upon discovering migrant boats and dinghies, surveillance footage would be sent to Italy which
would then signal Libyan coast guards to intercept the migrants. According to an Amnesty
International report, around 15,000 people were intercepted at sea and taken to Libya in the first
few months of 2021 (2021). European money taints the entire procedure starting with its funding
of Frontex’s surveillance, to the training of the Libyan Coast Guard in migrant capture, and
ending with the vehicles used to transport migrants from the seas to detention camps in Libya. In
addition, a 2008 Treaty of Friendship between Libya and Italy formalized their cooperation in the
containment and capture of migrants (Amnesty International, 2021). Italy would return those
crossing central Mediterranean, and Libya would punish and detain them.
Upon capture, migrants are taken to detention camps in Ghout al-Shaal where gross
human rights violations are carried out. People lie in overcrowded warehouses with poor
ventilation and no sanitation (Urbina, 2021). Reports indicate the constant threat of individuals
being singled out for physical torture and/or sexual assault (Amnesty International, 2021).
Migrants are punished for assumed treachery and espionage, and their lack of cooperation with
their oppressors leads to their assault. In the rare scenario where rebellions are successful, the
authorities have been reported to conduct raids in shelters used by escaped migrants. HRW
reports that on October 1, 5,152 people were arrested, 1 man killed and 15 injured (Roth, 2021).
Reporters who attempt to contact prisoners are themselves detained and sometimes tortured
under convictions of espionage.
Libyan law also allows for the indefinite detainment of unauthorized foreigners and their
use for unpaid labor (Amnesty International, 2021). The migrants are stripped of their human
rights as they enter an unending cycle of dehumanizing torture and enslavement with little to no
hope for escape. Disappeared individuals are forced to work in factories or in the military
indefinitely. Enforced disappearances allow for human rights violations to be conducted in
detention centres with no accountability as individuals are erased, detention centres hidden, and
violators protected from identification.
The second strategy of indirect refoulement adopted by Europe is the prevention of
rescue operations in European waters. When migrants do escape Libyan Coast Guard and
manage to enter European waters, calls for help are unheard. Migrants attempting to signal the
coast guard are either ignored or are told to turn back. EU states withdrew naval assets from the
central Mediterranean to avoid any chance encounters with migrant boats (Urbina, 2021). In the
rare scenario where such an encounter does occur, migrants report to being passed by.
Non-state search-and-rescue operations and organizations have been continuously
targeted by European states and reduced to powerless existence as they lose their abilities to
actually help boats in distress. In 2018, volunteers working on the shores of Greece to provide blankets and water bottles to oncoming migrants were detained and persecuted under the false
convictions of human trafficking and espionage (Cossé and Esveld, 2023). Sarah Mardini, a
former Syrian refugee of whom the new Netflix movie Swimmers is partly based on, was held
and detained in a Greek prison for over 100 days and is currently awaiting trial. Mardini,
alongside fellow volunteer Sean Binder, face a sentence of up to 25 years for volunteering in the
aid of migrants. In a Ted Talk interview with Odedre Mardini recounted the mental abuse and
trauma she encountered in prison (2020). The conviction of volunteers and search-and-rescue
organizations prevents any potential for migrant rescue whether that be in the sea or on the
shores of Greece. It insinuates in potential volunteers and donors the fear of similar prosecution.
Migrants have also become more vulnerable to the heinous consequences of refoulement as there
is no longer anyone that can protect them.
The resentment of migrants is becoming more vocalized in Europe with growing
accusations of migrants stealing jobs, threatening the safety of individuals, and tainting the
European national and ethnic identities. It is thus necessary to point out here that Europe’s
current prosperous conditions are tied to the juxtaposed insecurities in the war stricken countries.
Firstly, the legacies of European colonialism that have created a perpetual cycle of detriment and
exploitation in the global South have funded the parallel wealth and ‘development’ of Europe
itself (Tusalem, 2016). Secondly, as indicated by the Treaty of Friendship and the African Fund,
current European ties to the global South support oppression. After contributing to the dangerous
conditions forcing people to migrate, the least European countries can now do is to protect
Accordingly, Europe should take responsibility for refoulement and provide
compensation for its colonial legacies. This requires the deterring of ties with Libya and creating
a more robust system of accountability and transparency for search-and-rescue operations. Only
then will migration return to its synonymous equivalent of mobility and movement and be rid of
its inappropriate association with life-threatening immobility.
Write for Rights – Sarah Mardini and Sean Binder:
https://takeaction.amnesty.ca/page/50419/action/1?locale=en-US Works cited:
Amnesty International. (2021). Libya: Horrific violations in detention highlight Europe’s
shameful role in forced returns. Amnesty International. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/press-
Cossé, E., Esveld, B.V. (2023). Sea Rescuers Still Waiting for Justice in Greece. Human Rights
Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/01/16/sea-rescuers-still-waiting-justice-greece
European Commission. Common European Asylum System. Migration and Home Affairs.
European Commission. https://home-affairs.ec.europa.eu/policies/migration-and-asylum/
Francis, A. (2015). Jordan’s Refugee Crisis. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Mardini, S. Interviewed by Odedre, K. (2020). How I was arrested for handing out blankets to
refugees | Sarah Mardini. TEDxLondonWomen.
McCarthy, J. (2022). How War Fuels Poverty. Global Citizen.
Roth, K. (2021). Libya. Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2022/country-
Spindler, W. (2015). 2015: The year of Europe’s refugee crisis. The UN Refugee Agency. https://
Tusalem, R. F. (2016). The Colonial Foundations of State Fragility and Failure. Polity, 48(4),
445–495. http://www.jstor.org/stable/26358277
United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951). https://www.unhcr.org/
Urbina, I. (2021). The Secretive Prisons That Keep Migrants Out of Europe. The New Yorker.

Crimes of Humanity

by Saba Brittain

On the 10th of January of 2023, the trial of 24 individuals involved in volunteering humanitarian assistance to migrants on the shores of Greece began (Kennedy 2023). This trial appears to follow the trend of European authorities targeting humanitarian workers to discourage solidarity with migrants and deter the arrival of refugees to Europe (Kennedy 2023).

The defendants face serious charges for their work at the Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI), a Greek non-profit organisation that provides emergency aid in dangerous environments. Operating on the Greek island of Lesbos, the “crimes” committed at the ERCI include assisting people whose lives are at risk, searching and rescuing migrant boats in distress, assisting migrant boats on the shoreline (Kitsantonis 2023).

The defendants are accused of facilitating illegal migration to Europe, these accusations have drawn widespread criticism among international human rights organizations. Their charges include espionage, forgery, involvement in a criminal organization, people-smuggling, money laundering and other “farcical” accusations according to Amnesty International (Kitsantonis 2023).

The accusations of espionage condemn the defendants’ initiatives of monitoring local radio channels to learn the whereabouts of migrant boats in distress. (Smith, 2023). The money-laundering allegations incriminate fundraising efforts for the ERCI organization (Smith 2023).

“I am not a people smuggler”, says Sarah Mardini during an interview with BBC, a human rights activist accused of criminal activity and people smuggling following her lifesaving work at the Emergency Response Centre International (BBC 2018). She is one of the 24 defendants on trial and is herself a refugee from Syria (BBC 2018).

A European Parliament report has described this trial as the “largest case of criminalization of solidarity in Europe” (Aljazeera 2023). Many other critiques have suggested this trial is indicative of the efforts to discourage the work of migrant rights defenders and organizations, and deter refugees from coming to Europe (Amnesty International 2022). Simply put, the compassion and solidarity driving the action of the volunteers has been weaponized and criminalized (Amnesty International 2022).

In addition to creating a hostile and insecure environment for human rights volunteers showing solidarity to migrants, this trial delays the work of the ERCI organization. A UN human rights expert suggested that a guilty verdict for the defendants could lead to more migrant deaths at sea (OHCHR 2021). Along with this trial in Greece, several other prosecutions have been set in motion across Europe against NGOs and individuals. Considering the thousands of migrant deaths at sea every year, the effects of these sorts of trials must not be overlooked. Many are calling upon Greek prosecutors to drop all charges against the 24 individuals. (Amnesty International 2022).

Works Cited

“Greece: Guilty Verdict for Migrant Rights Defenders Could Mean More Deaths at Sea – UN Expert.” OHCHR, 18 Nov. 2021, www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/01/greece-guilty-verdict-migrant-rights-defenders-could-mean-more-deaths-sea-un.

“Greece: Migrant Rescue Trial to Begin.” Human Rights Watch, 22 Dec. 2022, www.hrw.org/news/2022/12/22/greece-migrant-rescue-trial-begin.

“Solidarity on Trial in Europe.” Amnesty International, 6 May 2022, www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2020/03/free-to-help/.

Al Jazeera. “Drop All Charges against Refugee Aid Workers, UN Tells Greece.” Migration News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 13 Jan. 2023, www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/1/13/un-asks-greece-drop-charges-in-syrian-migrant-rescuer-trial.

Kennedy, Niamh. “They Saved Refugees Stranded at Sea. Now They’re on Trial.” CNN, Cable News Network, 10 Jan. 2023, www.cnn.com/2023/01/10/europe/migrant-aid-workers-mardini-binder-trial-intl/index.html.

Kitsantonis, Niki. “Greece Opens Espionage Trial of Aid Workers Who Helped Migrants.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Jan. 2023, www.nytimes.com/2023/01/10/world/europe/greece-trial-migrants.html?searchResultPosition=1.

Smith, Helen. “Long-Awaited Trial of 24 Aid Workers Accused of Espionage Starts in Lesbos.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 13 Jan. 2023, www.theguardian.com/global-development/2023/jan/13/long-awaited-trial-of-24-aid-workers-accused-of-espionage-starts-in-lesbos.

The Crisis of MAID and the Argument for Social Reform

by Shivahn Garvie

In early February, the Canadian government deferred the expansion of medical assistance in dying (MAID) to individuals suffering solely from mental illness by one year (Zimonjic 2023). Justice Minister David Lametti requested a delay for Bill C-39 to further investigate the potential risks of this new legislation (Zimonjic 2023). An interim report released in June 2022 concluded that “more remains to be done to ensure the necessary steps have been taken” before the March 2023 deadline (Zimonjic 2023).

According to the new bill, “mental illness” encompasses psychiatric conditions like depression and personality disorders, and excludes neurodevelopmental or neurocognitive disorders (Zimonjic 2023). Euthanasia was introduced to Canada in 2015 when the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting assisted death stripped citizens of dignity and autonomy (Cheng 2022). Assisted suicide was approved in Canada for individuals 18 and older with terminal illness in 2016, and was extended to those with non-threatening severe and chronic physical conditions in 2021 (Honderich 2023). Since 2016, the number of people receiving medical assistance in dying has increased each year, constituting 3.3% of all deaths in Canada in 2021 (Honderich 2023). The planned expansion to those suffering solely from mental illness has raised concerns about the MAID program as a whole.

Recent reports have indicated that vulnerable individuals are requesting and receiving assisted death due to poverty, loneliness, or lack of housing rather than failing health (Honderich 2023). Some argue that this indicates a crisis of Canada’s social safety net. In May 2022, Marie-Claud Landry, chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, stated that giving people the option of assisted death because the government is, “failing to fulfill their fundamental human rights is unacceptable.” (Honderich 2023).

Bill C-39 attracted further criticism from three United Nations human rights experts in 2021 who warned that the expanded law will denigrate Canada’s disabled community, sending a message that serious disability is worse than death (Cheng 2022). Critics point to the story of Alan Nichols as evidence that MAID lacks sufficient safeguards. Nichols was a 61-year-old Canadian with a history of depression and concurrent mental health issues who was hospitalized in June 2019 following concerns that he was suicidal (Cheng 2022). The next month, Nichols requested euthanasia through MAID and was killed despite objections from his family and nurse practitioner (Cheng 2022). After his death, it was revealed that Nichols’ MAID application listed hearing loss as the reason for his request to die (Cheng 2022). Nichols’ family brought this case to the police, claiming that he had not been suffering unbearably, but was confused as he had been refusing to take necessary medication and wear a cochlear implant that helped him hear (Cheng 2022).

Most of the controversy surrounding this expansion is centered on assessing the “irremediability” of mental illness (Honderich 2023). Individuals only qualify for MAID in Canada if their

condition is considered incurable (Honderich 2023). However, the Canadian Mental Health Association cautions that it is “not possible” to classify any mental illness as irremediable, and thus disapproves of the upcoming expansion (Honderich 2023).

Despite fears from the public and professionals, Mr. Lametti assures that this legislation is not being taken lightly, claiming, “We are listening to what we are hearing and being responsive” (Honderich 2023). The federal government promises that Bill-C-39 will respect individuals’ autonomy but prioritize their safety (Honderich 2023). While the expansion of MAID may intimidate many Canadians, this delay should bolster their faith in the governments’ commitment and responsiveness to its people’s concerns.

Works Cited

Cheng, Maria. “‘Disturbing’: Experts troubled by Canada’s euthanasia laws.” AP International News, Associated Press, 11 August 2022, https://apnews.com/article/covid-science-heaalth-toronto-7c631558a457188d2bd2b5cfd360a867.

France-Presse, Agence. “Canada seeks to delay euthanasia for mentally ill.” SCMP, South China Morning Post, 3 February 2023, https://www.scmp.com/news/world/united-states-canada/article/3208926/canada-seeks-delay-euthanasia-mentally-ill.

Honderich, Holly. “Who can die? Canada wrestles with euthanasia for the mentally ill.” BBC News, British Broadcasting Corporation, 14 January 2023. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-64004329.

Zimonjic, Peter. “Federal government moves to delay MAID for people suffering solely from mental illness.” CBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2 February 2023. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/maid-delay-solely-mental-illness-1.6734686.

Inhibiting or Protecting? – Questioning the Politics of the Notwithstanding Clause

by Tia DeRuiter

In November of 2022, as negotiations over wages and contracts stalled with Ontario education workers, Premier Doug Ford elected to invoke Section 33 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Zimonjic & Chevalier, 2022). Also known as the notwithstanding clause, this section of the Charter allows for parliamentary powers in Canada to negate other Charter rights when legislating, for a five-year period (Zimonjic & Chevalier, 2022). In addition, once utilized, this clause eliminates the potential for, and dismisses any objections to the legislation brought forth at the judicial level (Zimonjic & Chevalier, 2022). In Ford’s most recent use of Section 33, he sought to prevent the strike of educational workers, after bargaining with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) failed to reach a mutual agreement (Zimonjic & Chevalier, 2022). By invoking this clause, Ford, in effect, restricted the right of peaceful assembly, as codified in Section 2 of the Charter (Government of Canada, n.d.b).

Originally intended to distribute power equally among the federal and provincial levels, in recent years, the use of the notwithstanding clause has been questioned by human and civil rights organizations in Canada (Zimonjic & Chevalier, 2022). Though this Section is meant to be invoked in challenging times, many provincial assemblies have begun to utilize this clause more frequently, and often not for its intended circumstances (Zimonjic & Chevalier, 2022). As this clause is ultimately a violation of the rights of Canadians, many scholars and activists have called for its abrogation, and identified its overuse by provincial parliaments (Serebrin, 2022; Zimonjic & Chevalier, 2022).

In Ontario, this clause has been called on three times by Doug Ford and his government, though was only enacted twice (Zimonjic & Chevalier, 2022). The first of which was in June of 2021, when Ford utilized Section 33 to limit election funding by third party sources, after his original implementation of the legislation was overruled by an Ontarian judge (Zimonjic & Chevalier, 2022). Though it was argued that this restriction of funding sought to eliminate outside influence in the provincial election, some argued it was ultimately a restriction of free speech (The Canadian Press, 2021).

Though Ford’s use of Section 33 is certainly troubling for the rights it restricts, it also is not the most blatant nor severe use of this policy to date. Many other provincial governments have utilized this clause to rescind Charter rights, such as the right to freedom of religion (Government of Canada, n.d.a). In 2019, the Government of Quebec passed the controversial and highly opposed Bill 21, that bans public employees from donning religious symbols while at work (Rukavina, 2022). Including hijabs, turbans, and any other religious wear, this bill, in effect, has targeted many of Quebec’s minority groups, and accordingly, has had horrific consequences (Rukavina, 2022). Not only has this legislation passed under the notwithstanding clause taken a large step backwards in religious and personal autonomy, but has, according to the Association for Canadian Studies, led to steep increases in hate speech and violence against these communities (Rukavina, 2022). Though in violation of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Charter, the Quebec government’s discriminatory and exclusive policy may persist with the protection Section 33 confers. Further, in 2000, the notwithstanding clause was also invoked in Alberta, to make changes to the province’s Marriage Act, and lay out a definition that saw marriage as an act that should only occur between a man and a woman (Mckay-Panos, 2018). Though not renewed after the clause’s five-year period, this too posed severe limitations on Albertan’s rights guaranteed by the Charter at that time (Mckay-Panos, 2018).

Though established with good intentions, the notwithstanding clause appears to have evolved as a weapon wielded by provincial governments to restrict the rights of Canadian citizens. Alongside concerns over the use of Section 33 comes calls to eliminate its existence from the Charter, for the injustices it has both enabled, and has the power to permit. Human and civil rights groups alike have begun these calls, such as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, believing that this policy must be reversed to protect the very rights upon which the clause infringes (Zimonjic & Chevalier, 2022). While the repeal of this clause is highly improbable, it is nevertheless important to direct attention to, and call into question the invocation of a Charter section being used to inhibit rights, as opposed to protecting them. Ultimately, as Wherry elucidates, this clause allows the rights and freedoms of the majority to be dictated and controlled by the majority and those in power, which is contrary to the nature of the human rights Canada claims to defend (2022).

Works Cited

Government of Canada. (n.d.a). Section 2(a) – Freedom of religion. Government of Canada. https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/csj-sjc/rfc-dlc/ccrf-ccdl/check/art2a.html

Government of Canada. (n.d.b). Section 2(c) – Freedom of peaceful assembly. Government of Canada. https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/csj-sjc/rfc-dlc/ccrf-ccdl/check/art2c.html

Mckay-Panos, L. (2018, November 2). Effects of the notwithstanding clause on human rights. LawNow. https://www.lawnow.org/effects-of-the-notwithstanding-clause-on-human-rights/

Rukavina, S. (2022, August 4). New research shows Bill 21 having ‘devastating’ impact on religious minorities in Quebec. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/bill-21-impact-religious-minorities-survey-1.6541241

Serebrin, J. (2022, May 29). Quebec’s use of notwithstanding clause in language law opens constitutional debate. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-notwithstanding-clause-constitutional-debate-1.6470091

The Canadian Press. (2021, June 14). Ford government pushes through controversial election spending bill with notwithstanding clause. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/notwithstanding-clause-vote-ontario-1.6064952

Wherry, A. (2022, June 1). The case for making the notwithstanding clause politically awkward again. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/charter-rights-notwithstanding-clause-constitution-1.6472317#content

Zimonjic, P., & Chevalier, J. (2022, November 6). The notwithstanding clause – what it is, why it was used and what happens next. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/notwithstanding-clause-explained-ford-1.6641293

A Glimpse of Russia’s North: Indigenous Resistance and the Rise of the Voice of the Tundra

by Pengyu Chen

The Voice of the Tundra (Golos tundry) is an activist community on Russia’s media platform, “V Kontakte,” which represents the voices of Arctic Indigenous peoples in Russia’s Northwest Yamal Peninsula. Organized by and under the leadership of Nenets reindeer breeder Eiko Sérotétto, this local activism emerged in response to the state’s ongoing and intensifying industrialization in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (YaNAO). Specifically, Golos tundry is concerned about environmental degradation, loss of land to extractivist industries, impoverishment of traditional Indigenous lifestyle, and state curtailment of Indigenous political organization.

As political scientist Arbakhan K. Magomedov recently noted, as a result of the state’s push for accelerated industrial development in YaNAO, the social tension between the Indigenous peoples of this region, the Nenets tundra aborigines, and the state and businesses have been “pushed to the limit” (Magomedov 220). The Russian government has turned the YaNAO into its “new oil-and-gas province” at the expense of the habitat and Indigenous way of life (Magomedov 216). Relying on Magomedov’s research, this article brings to light some of the material and political challenges the Indigenous peoples of this intensely industrialized region face.

Similar to Indigenous struggles against settler colonial states in Canada, the United States, and elsewhere, Indigenous peoples of the Nenets tundra perceive themselves as struggling against the Kremlin’s extensive encroachment of their land and aggressive deprivation of the Indigenous way of life. This social change and tension were triggered by the state’s industrial development plans as early as 2009. The Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug has been experiencing extraordinary transformative changes in its resource-extraction capacity compared to other regions in the last decade (Magomedov 220). In September 2009, the then-premier of the Russian government, Vladimir Putin, declared during a conference in Salekhard that “The fields discovered on the peninsula can and must become our new oil-and-gas province” (Magomedov 220). Numerous industrial large-scale development projects soon followed. For example, the massive gas project Bovanenkovskoe was launched in 2012, and it was followed in 2013 by the construction of the USD$27 billion “Yamal LNG” (Liquefied Natural Gas) project, which consists of the production, liquefaction, and delivery of gas at the Yuzhno-Tambeiskii field. Additionally, the “Arctic LNG-2” project is set to launch this year. As of 2019, there were about sixty oil-and-gas companies (Magomedov 226).

These industrial development projects of the past decade have altered the natural landscape within Indigenous communities. For example, large areas previously used by Nenets for breeding and grazing reindeer are now occupied by oil-and-gas companies to extract, store, and transport natural resources. At least 6 percent of the land previously used by the locals for grazing is in the grip of the “Yamal LNG” project in Sabett (Magomedov 226-227). Eleven million hectares of land are in the hands of “Gazprom,” the partially state-owned multinational energy corporation (Magomedov 227). Infrastructure of all sorts, from gas pipelines to airfields and highways to settlements, had led to “the further contamination and degeneration of tundra expanses” (Magomedov 227). A significant amount of water surface area has been siphoned for the port of Sabetta, and a large amount of the Gulf of Ob’s aquatic area has been claimed for oil-and-gas industries (Magomedov 277). All of these industrial developments contribute to making the resources and land scarce for Nenets, contributing to the emergence of the Golos tundry.

Moreover, Indigenous peoples’ material well-being is at stake. Because economic actors are unwilling to give up these oil-and-gas industries, which contribute to the region’s economic growth and revenue, it is impossible for oil-and-gas companies to return former Indigenous kin-group land. Nenets, therefore, cannot access their land for breeding and grazing their reindeer. Many Yamal reindeer breeders expressed that they will face a depletion of land for reindeer husbandry, the threatened starvation and malnutrition of reindeer, and, as a result, loss of income (Magomedov 224).

In fact, the acute social tension between the Nenets and oil-and-gas companies is exacerbated by the disruptive intersection between the large-scale industrial complex and the largest reindeer herd in Russia (Magomedov 226). Natural disasters further exacerbate this predicament. For example, in the winter of 2013-14, about 90,000 reindeer perished due to a severe ice storm, and, in the spring of 2018, many more perished from a cold spring and an ice storm in addition to the shortage of grazing lands (Magomedov 232). Neither the state nor industrial enterprises compensate for these losses, although they are responsible for excluding reindeer breeders from using the land. Many reindeer breeders indicated to Magomedov that “an atmosphere of living on the edge, frequent environmental and natural cataclysms, and persistent risks have created an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear for tomorrow” (233-234).

Another pressing concern of the Indigenous peoples is the absence of leadership and formal representation in the system. There is a lack of statistical representation of Indigenous concerns. According to Magomedov, because the social interests of the Indigenous peoples and organizations are inherently contradictory from the alliance between the state and the capital, “the authorities are not going to support such research, as this threatens the reputation and status of the official Indigenous organizations supported by the state” (231).

In his interview with many Nenets, Magomedov notes that the“existing official Indigenous organizations and leaders are not defending the rights and interests of aborigines” (231). Seventy percent of the respondents expressed that they would “count only on themselves, friends, and relatives,” while 17 percent of them responded that they could rely on the help of “organizations and civic movements representing the interests of the region’s Indigenous peoples,” and only 13 percent of the respondents believe they can rely on “local, okrug, and federal organs of power (Magomedov 231).

This reality reflects the severity of the state’s curtailment of Indigenous organizations. While its activity was suspended in late 2012 by the Russian government, the Association of Indigenous Numerically Small Peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Far East (RAIPON), which represents the interests of about 300,000 Indigenous peoples, was reinstated in March 2013 with government pressures to reorganize its leadership in a new direction (Magomedov 221). The current elected president, Grigorii Ledkov, is a pro-government United Russia member and State Duma deputy (Magomedov 221). According to Magomedov, this change of leadership seemed forced. The loyal president Sergei Khariuchi was removed, and so were two brothers, Rodion and Pavel Suliandziga, who acted as vice presidents. The latter, Pavel Suliandziga, emigrated to the United States in 2017 because he was subjected to state persecution (Magomedov 241).

The Nenets ethnographer and anthropologist Galina Khariuchi remarked on the Kremlin’s encroachment of Indigenous organizations and Indigenous lands: “I compare the current situation with the 1990s. Then we were deciding our fate ourselves. We freely spoke out and argued at congresses. These days everything is written out for us. Now only delegates can be present at congresses of organizations of Indigenous peoples; they don’t allow ordinary people” (Magomedov 222). For Sergei Khariuchi, this change was not only a “new extensive turn towards industrialization of northern territories” but also the reflection that “[Indigenous peoples] are one of the last barriers standing in the way of companies and states in the extraction of these resources” (Magomedov 222).

Worse, according to Magomedov, the state has double-downed on Indigenous activism in the Okrug. In response to increasing Indigenous activism—the politicization of Indigenous and environmental issues—the authorities of the Okrug perceived it as a “subversive activity” and accused the reindeer breeders of “waging an information war” (Magomedov 235). They also declare Golos tundry as “foreign agents” (Magomedov 235). Furthermore, the director of the YaNAO department of internal policy, Sergei Kliment’ev, declared in the regional parliament that “a stress point is being artificially created in the region, to create a new political reality,” indicating that the concerns of Indigenous peoples are falsely exaggerated (Magomedov 235).

Despite the state’s effort to curtail its movement, Golos tundry continues to raise awareness of its predicament on social media platforms (https://vk.com/golos_tundry) in tandem with the region’s Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF). The leader, Eiko Sérotétto, established a political alliance with CPRF to contend with the Kremlin, becoming the authorized representative of Pavel Grudinin (Putin’s political opponent in the 2018 presidential elections) and, in 2018, a candidate for deputy to the regional parliament as a member of the CPRF (Magomedov 237). Sérotétto expressed his motivation for becoming a deputy: “I am troubled by the poverty and lack of protection of the Yamal’s Indigenous population, the reduction in the size of the reindeer herds and fishery resources. I am worried by the issue of preserving the nature of the tundra. This is our home, we must safeguard it for future generations.”

All of the above is but a glimpse of Russia’s North. As Magomedov’s research shows, political contestation and negotiation between the alliance of the state and capital and local Indigenous peoples have been “pushed to the limit.” And here in this article, I invite the reader to take a step back (but not look away) from the well-covered and hotly discussed ongoing Russo-Ukraine war and learn about the less-talked-about state intervention and capital accumulation in Russia’s peninsula.

Work Cited

Magomedov, Arbakhan. “How the Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Arctic Defend Their Interests: The Social, Economic, and Political Foundations of Indigenous Resistance.” Anthropology & Archeology of Eurasia, vol. 58, no. 4, 16 Nov. 2019, pp. 215–245., https://doi.org/10.1080/10611959.2020.1811560.

See also:
Kharyuchi, Galina. “Sacred Places in the Nenets Traditional Culture.” Sibirica, vol. 17, no. 3, Dec. 2018, p. 116–137., https://doi.org/10.3167/sib.2018.170310.

Liarskaya, Elena V. “Settlement Nenets on the Yamal Peninsula: Who Are They?” Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore, vol. 41, Apr. 2009, pp. 33–46., https://doi.org/10.7592/fejf2009.41.liarskaya.

Magomedov, Arbakhan K. “Oil Derricks or Reindeer? A Clash of Economics and Traditional Lifeway in Russia’s Far North.” Wilson Center, 22 Feb. 2019, https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/oil-derricks-or-reindeer-clash-economics-and-traditional-lifeway-russias-far-north.

Mirovalev, Mansur. “In Russia, Indigenous Land Defenders Face Intimidation and Exile.” Indigenous Rights | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 23 Jan. 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2022/1/23/in-russia-indigenous-land-defenders-face-intimidation-and-exile.

Staalesen, Atle. “In Russian Tundra Tragedy, up to 80,000 Reindeer Might Have Starved to Death.” The Independent Barents Observer, 3 Mar. 2021, https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/climate-crisis/2021/03/russian-tundra-tragedy-80000-reindeer-might-have-starved-death.

Indian Prime Minister Modi Bans BBC Documentary While Allegations of Human Rights Violations Still Mount

by Nesane Nakanthiran

On January 17, the BBC aired a documentary detailing the rise of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and it closely connected the political figure to the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the Western state of Gujarat, which constituted one of the worst outbreaks of religious violence in recent Indian history.  Subsequently, the Indian government imposed an emergency law which banned the documentary and any of its screenings—even in universities. Unsurprisingly, heavy policing and brutal arrests took place across several campuses as students began protesting against the ban.

As leader of the Hindu nationalist, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s largest right-wing party, PM Modi has been haunted for decades due to his inaction and complicity throughout the riots, although he still refuses to take proportionate accountability.

In fact, this was not his first time using the emergency law, nor his first time facing allegations of violating human rights. International human rights organizations and advocates have long been calling upon European leaders to address Modi’s “growing abuses and discriminatory policies” (Molander 2022). For example, BJP-led states have seen increasing illegal demolitions of Muslim properties, while Indian authorities have seen a heavy crackdown on students, journalists, civil society, human rights activists, and others who prove either critical towards the state or work to defend human rights amongst vulnerable communities (Molander 2022). Indeed, PM Modi even sanctions the increased use of intrusive technologies, such as Israeli-produced spyware, to curtail human rights and freedom of expression —a decision which proves unsurprising from the BJP leader.

The 2002 anti-Muslim riots took place in response to the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. Local citizens had blamed the 59 deaths on Gujarat’s Muslims, which led to instances of religious violence claiming over 1,000 lives. At the time, Modi was the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat, and thus, Muslim criticisms against the current Indian PM are substantial. Furthermore, police are accused of standing by while Modi faced such criticisms, perhaps even supporting Hindu extremists throughout the riots. Specifically, the documentary highlights an “unpublished report from the U.K. Foreign Office that claims Modi was ‘directly responsible’ for the ‘climate of impunity’ that enabled the violence” (Syed 2023), despite the leader’s supporters citing a 2013 Supreme Court ruling “insufficient evidence to prosecute.”

PM Modi is not alone in facing immense backlash for his use of censorship. By invoking emergency laws on Twitter and YouTube, Twitter CEO and self-proclaimed saviour of free speech, Elon Musk, has come under criticism for carrying out acts which proved contradictory to his public campaign against censorship throughout his Twitter takeover. To be clear, emergency laws extend government censorship over social media companies, which would explain how Twitter and YouTube had their hands tied. Yet, this does not diminish the Indian government’s violations against democracy, free speech, and human rights—rather, it only further substantiates the dangers of granting unchecked authority over media to a powerful few.

Currently, the emergency law remains enforced across Twitter and YouTube, and Indian police continue to crack down on illegal screenings of the documentary.

Works Cited

Ellis-Petersen, Hannah. 2023. “India invokes emergency laws to ban BBC Modi documentary.” The Guardian, January 23, 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/23/india-emergency-laws-to-ban-bbc-narendra-modi-documentary

Hussain, Murtaza and Ryan Grim. 2023. “Elon Musk Caves to Pressure from India to Remove BBC Doc Critical of Modi.” The Intercept, January 24, 2023. https://theintercept.com/2023/01/24/twitter-elon-musk-modi-india-bbc/

Molander, Måns. 2022. “European Leaders Should Raise Human Rights Concerns with Modi.” Human Rights Watch, May 3, 2022. https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/05/03/european-leaders-should-raise-human-rights-concerns-modi

Syed, Armani. 2023. “India Banned a BBC Documentary Critical of Modi. Here’s How People Are Watching Anyway.” Time, January 26, 2023. https://time.com/6250480/bbc-modi-documentary-skirting-censors/

Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy

By Laura Moldoveanu

Canada has had a nearly six-year commitment to feminist foreign policy, with the Feminist International Assistance Policy (FAIP) announced on June 9th, 2017 as a means of rendering Canada into a global leader in women’s empowerment. Though it is a somewhat overlooked and forgotten development, the FAIP substantiates the importance of women’s rights in the international system, thus warranting this article’s assessment of the policy’s context, intent, implementation, success, and issues.

In Canadian society, women face unique adversities to equality, including forced marriage, gender-based violence, fewer education opportunities, legal barriers to work, more familial responsibilities than men, and limited control over reproductive health (Global Affairs Canada, 2021). Essential to Canada’s FAIP is the belief that, by promoting gender equality, the nation may effectively decrease poverty rates. In theory, allowing women greater participation in the economy would increase economic growth in the targeted nation(s), thus concerning Canada as such an investment in assistance would enhance national prosperity. The FAIP was announced after a year of consultation with over fifteen thousand people in sixty-five countries, including several women’s rights groups (Lamensch, 2020). Furthermore, the policy referenced a 2015 plan to reduce poverty and build peace, entitled the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

Six key areas of the policy include gender equality, human dignity, inclusive governance, climate action, peace and security, and “growth that works for everyone” (Global Affairs Canada, 2021). Gender equality involves a sexual violence initiative and engages with differing levels of government to deliver programs supporting women’s rights; human dignity pertains to health and education; governance stresses the importance of political participation; climate action covers loss of resources, such as clean drinking water and renewable energy; peace and security involves women in post-conflict nation-building and peace negotiations; lastly, growth engages with economic and ownership rights. Overall, it is clear that the policy covers a huge range of issues. In one sense, this is beneficial because the policy is not limited, however, it also indicates that the policy lacks a cohesive vision.

Implementation involves investment, innovation, and partnerships. Canada vowed to put fifteen percent of its bilateral international development assistance investments towards gender equality. The policy abandons Canada’s previous “countries-of-focus” approach that concentrated assistance on a small list of countries and, instead, involves a broader range of countries, with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. Involvement with multilateral groups such as the UN, G7, and G20—as well as the private sector, for financial assistance—is also a key part of the policy. Finally, civil society organizations such as women’s rights groups are expected to receive one hundred and fifty million dollars to develop programs to help promote gender equality (Global Affairs Canada, 2021).

Turning to real-world results, the official policy website boasts a list of success stories under the subheading “our policy in action.” From setting up community centres in Iraq refugee camps to clearing landmines out of Colombia, the policy seems to live up to its many goals in terms of both mission diversity and cross-global span.

With that being said, however, the policy must also be looked at through a more critical lens. There are contradictions and issues associated with Canadian foreign policy, and feminist foreign policy in particular. Scholars and policy analysts argue that the policy does not include definitions of gender or feminism, leaving out marginalized groups such as intersex or transgender persons (Tiessen, 2019), while also lacking inclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals who may face added discrimination beyond gender. Furthermore, the efficacy of the policy is inhibited by other Canadian foreign policy objectives; for example, while the FAIP promotes the empowerment of female peacekeepers, the Canadian government nonetheless continues in concurrently selling weapons to Saudi Arabia (Bouka, 2021). As for more technical problems, the policy has no clear measures of success or ways to monitor long-term impact.

So, is the policy just performative activism? Canada has made it clear that the government views women’s empowerment as an important area to focus on, with a long-term goal of reducing poverty around the world. With that being said, the current impact and efficacy of the FAIP is a mixed bag. In the coming years, perhaps a revaluation will be needed to judge whether the policy is making any substantial long-term impact on gender equality.

Works Cited

Bouka, Yolande, et al. “Is Canada’s Foreign Policy Really Feminist?” Network for Strategic Analysis , Network for Strategic Analysis , 7 Oct. 2021, https://ras-nsa.ca/publication/is-canadas-foreign-policy-really-feminist-analysis-and-recommend ations/.

“Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy.” Global Affairs Canada. Government of Canada, August 24, 2021. https://www.international.gc.ca/world-monde/issues_development-enjeux_developpement/priorit ies-priorites/policy-politique.aspx?lang=eng.

Lamensch, Marie. “Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada, July 31, 2020. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canada-s-feminist-foreign-policy.

Tiessen, Rebecca. “What’s New About Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy.” Canadian Global Affairs Institute, Canadian Global Affairs Institute , Dec. 2019, https://www.cgai.ca/whats_new_about_canadas_feminist_international_assistance_policy_the_ problem_and_possibilities_of_more_of_the_same.

‘Are you sure? I think you might just be overreacting’: The “Nothingness” of Microaggressions and Brandon Taylor’s ‘Real Life’

by Jasmin L.K. Smith

Courtesy of Riverhead Books

Brandon Taylor’s Real Life is a beautiful, silent, creeping story of Black sexuality and the hidden anti-Black aggressions of academia. When I finished this novel, I was at Old Mill Station, sitting on the TTC on my way home from class on a chilly September night, not quite a flashbulb memory, but very close given the impact this story had on me. This is a novel that I will always recommend, and, having faced racism in an academic setting on multiple crushing occasions, it is a novel that brought me to tears. Brandon Taylor’s Real Life is a love letter to every Black academic, acknowledging the frustrating microaggressions deeply embedded into academic structures that often go ignored by our peers, but, more importantly, it is also a love letter to himself.

Brandon Taylor’s debut novel is a novel, seemingly, about nothing. When I had first read the climax, I had to go back and read it over again to confirm that it was, in fact, the climax. I easily fell in love with Taylor’s ability to accurately portray such a multi-dimensional situation, a life being lived; the ‘nothingness’ of the novel was not like watching paint dry, or waiting for water to boil, it was like a walk through the woods at night, hoping and praying for nothing to jump out. It was beautiful and tragic and redeeming, and it felt like, for the first time, I had the words and the stories that I had always been in search of.

Real Life begins with Wallace, the only Black student in his PhD program at a university in Alabama, going to the lake to meet his friends. The scene introduces his group of five, all of which are white PhD students that attend the same school. Throughout the novel, Taylor builds characters that anybody could encounter in their academic career, with the honesty of portraying Wallace as someone that often feels like an outsider within the cliquey dynamic of his friends. 

In the laboratory where he spends much of his time, Wallace is subjected to impatience, frustration, and thinly veiled racism from the other scientists around him. Out of the lab’s characters, Brigit is the only redeemable personality, being a loyal and compassionate friend to Wallace. Much of his time in the lab portrayed in the novel is spent attempting to restart research that had been ruined by Dana, a scientist in the lab that seems to hate Wallace for no reason. Of course, the explanation for Dana’s behavior is much less simple, and her constant attempts to alienate and typecast Wallace make it very obvious that her behaviors are microaggressions. To outsiders, or non-Black people that have never had to see a woman’s knuckles turn white around her purse strap the moment you walk into a room, microaggressions often seem absurd, and they are often dismissed as being a figment of Black imaginations. Being Black, particularly in academia where faculty and peers refuse to acknowledge the elephant in the room, it is unimaginably frustrating to experience the same daily patterns of small, racist acts and get told that they are being imagined. Taylor doesn’t beat around the bush with his depiction of microaggressions, he does not shy away from the frequency of them, nor does he create a magical solution to them for the sake of narrative. As is the nature of microaggressions in real life, nobody believes Wallace when he tries to speak up. Rather than someone recognizing Dana’s behavior as stemming from racism, Wallace is blamed for creating a toxic environment in their lab. 

The microaggressions don’t end at Dana, who non-Black readers could dismiss as being raised in a racist environment or simply hateful of Wallace’s success, but it continues into Wallace’s own friend group. At a dinner party with every single one of his friends– save for Brigit– in attendance, Wallace’s thoughts of leaving his program are openly shut down because of what Roman, a friend of a friend, calls his “deficiencies” (Taylor 109). Prior to using this term, Roman describes how, without his doctorate, Wallace would suffer because of “the prospects for . . . black people” (108). He continues to describe Wallace’s thoughts of leaving as selfish and ungrateful, because Wallace apparently owes his department for even being so gracious as to let him in. The entire table is privy to the conversation between the two of them, but no one says a word, nobody makes any attempt to stand up for Wallace, or address the very obvious racism from Roman. During the encounter, “Wallace can only taste ashes in his mouth,” and reading the scene, I felt much the same (109). Despite the feelings of irreverence that I had towards the characters in Taylor’s constructed world at that moment, I had been in situations entirely too similar, and just as off-putting and disharmonious. 

Wallace’s most poignant relationship is the one that he shares with Miller, a friend of his that swears to be straight in spite of his ongoing affair with Wallace. Miller often downplays the situation between him and Wallace, hiding it away from the world. Wallace is made, as he was in his childhood, to feel dirty, to feel like he is the one to be blamed. Despite the constant, underlying pulse of wanting Miller to do and be better, Miller never changes, he is always the wolf of the fable. What’s worse is Wallace’s easy acceptance of the way he is treated by Miller, and even their other friends; he cannot see himself ever being in the right, he is alway on the offering end of an unneeded apology. 

We, as readers, get to earnestly consider the complexities of Wallace’s grief, having been a victim of his father’s cruelty in the past, and presently refusing to acknowledge that he is even experiencing grief for someone that had cared for him so little. Wallace must reconcile with the fact that he may not fit in at his university, but he may not have fit in during his childhood either. So what does that leave him with? What kind of place can he make for himself with what he has left? Though Wallace may seem like a pushover at some points, throughout the story he allows himself to think the thoughts that scare us too much to examine ourselves. He has spent years of his life in a scientific field, and he has gotten as far as being in a doctorate program, but he is now doubting whether it is something he really wants. After losing so many years of his life on his program, even entertaining the thought of leaving is brave, and it’s not something that many people would consider doing themselves. Wallace is not thinking of quitting because of the difficult dynamics of his program, but because maybe he has spent his entire academic career being driven by the opposite; maybe his academic career wasn’t in spite of others, but to prove that he could survive their spite.

Wallace’s story is painfully relatable and uncompromisingly truthful, and much of that is because it is semi-autobiographical to Taylor’s own life. Taylor himself had been born and raised in Alabama, and he dropped out of his own PhD program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to pursue writing (Wheeler). His own university experiences were often filled with microaggressions and dissonance, well reflected in the progression of Wallace’s story in Real Life. Taylor “didn’t write this book for the white gaze,” he wrote it for people like his “queer, black friends” that felt as if modern campus novels didn’t “represent [them] in any sort of substantive way” (Wheeler). Though the novel does create a digestible framework for non-Black people to understand how deeply racism is embedded into academia, the novel’s purpose is not to educate, it is to show Black students, Black lovers of academia, that their experiences are real and their stories are worth being told. As a Black student, it is incredibly difficult to love an institution that will always be systemically against you, but Taylor understands it, and Wallace lives it. 

Wallace’s struggles throughout Real Life do not fall on opposite ends of a spectrum, they don’t go from a bad hair day to saving the world from an apocalypse, no, Wallace’s problems are mundane; from silent, internal mental health issues, to being on the losing end of a difficult situationship. Wallace has problems that you would hear friends talking about over coffee, or see questions on an advice blog about. In an interview with the writers at the Booker Prize Foundation, Brandon claims “close observation” to be “how [he makes sense] of the world” (Booker Prize Foundation). His concentrated, persistent scrutinization of the regular and mundane creates a story that feels so exacting and sharp that, at points, it feels almost monumental in the way that it encapsulates a life lived. I struggle to find words to describe the various complete and incomplete feelings I was left with at the book’s finish because ‘mundane’ reduces it to something unworthy of a read. Real Life is melancholic, celebratory, validating, and unrelenting, but, above all else, it is honest.

Works Cited

Booker Prize Foundation. “Brandon Taylor Q&A.” The Booker Prizes, 2020, https://thebookerprizes.com/brandon-taylor-interview-real-life.

Taylor, Brandon. (2020). Real Life. Riverhead Books.

Wheeler, André. “’I didn’t write this book for the white gaze’: black queer author Brandon Taylor on his debut novel.” The Guardian, 5 March 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/mar/05/brandon-taylor-author-real-life-interview.

Representation matters: a look into representation of the LGBTQ+ community in The Owl House

by Anonymous

Courtesy of Disney

We always say that “representation matters”, but what constitutes good representation of minorities in the media?

Disney’s animated show “The Owl House” was released in 2020 and has received much praise for the diversity in its characters. However, it was announced (not long after its release) that the show will not continue past season 3, as the show “did not fit Disney’s brand”; no official statement was ever released regarding how exactly it deviates from the usual Disney series (Anderton, J, 2021). Though it is saddening to see it end so quickly, The Owl House was truly an amazing show.

There are definitely other examples of good representation, and it is far from perfect, but I chose The Owl House as I believe that representation in children’s media is especially important. Many studies have shown that as children learn by observing their surroundings, they are impressionable and very easily influenced by the media that they consume (“Adolescents and the Media: Medical and Psychological Impact,” 1995). Positive representation of different minority groups in children’s media encourages the younger generation to learn more about different communities, subverting existing stereotypes against certain minority groups.

Therefore, to celebrate the release of the first episode of the last season a few months back, let’s take a look into why I personally believe The Owl House to be a great example of what representation in media should look like.

One of my favourite things about the representation in this show is that they are not simply putting in characters as “token minorities”. More often than not, shows nowadays tend to include minorities as side characters to appear “progressive”; some creators expect praise and credits for doing the bare minimum of having characters of diverse backgrounds. Most of the main characters in The Owl House are canonically queer, which is actually much more common in real life compared to having one “gay best friend” in a heterosexual friend group, so common that many queer people have reported that they tend to “flock together” (Jernigan, C., & Mistree, B. F., 2009). As a result, queer people in the show have different personalities, ethnicities, interests, and style, subverting the stereotypes around the community and emphasising intersectionality.

It is also important to bring up the fact that the show educates young children about different sexualities and genders. Lilith Clawthorne is canonically aromantic and asexual, and Raine Whispers is non binary. These are parts of LGBTQ+ community that is often neglected when it comes to representation in media.

In addition, the show does not focus on how the characters face judgements for being queer, unlike most western media nowadays where nine out of ten times gay characters’ character arc revolves around the fact that they are queer. While the show addresses the struggles the main character, Luz, faces for being “different” or “weird”, she was never judged for being bisexual; a scene that I remember distinctly was that the “mean girl” or bully in the show, Boscha, had always mocked Luz for everything that she does, but never the fact that she is dating another girl, Amity, to which her only comment was “they are not that cute.” (Fun fact: Boscha has two moms.) Another scene I found worthy of note was when Amity’s mother, Odalia, said Luz was unfit for her daughter, and that she would find Amity “a new girlfriend”; even though Odalia is an overall insufferable person and had a questionable parenting style, she did not hold judgement for the fact that Amity is a lesbian. In most western media, typically teen dramas, the above examples would have been a perfect moment to introduce homophobia into the show, per usual; however, The Owl House chose not to and created a world of comfort for its audience. While characters still face many problems in their lives (spoiler alert: the world ending, and all that), being queer seems to be the norm, or at least as common as being cisgender and/or heterosexual in this world.

I believe that the kind of representation in The Owl House, where diversity is celebrated, is much more effective (compared to constantly emphasising on the negativity that queer people face) in educating the younger generation and allowing queer youth feel seen. Not only was diversity in sexuality shown in a sense that there are gay characters, but it was also shown within the community, educating its audience about the “Q+”. All in all, The Owl House did a great job in being truly inclusive of different sexualities and genders, and I can not wait to watch season 3 next year.

Works Cited

1. Adolescents and the media: medical and psychological impact. (1995). Choice Reviews Online, 33(02), 33–0735a. https://doi.org/10.5860/choice.33-0735a

2. Anderton, J. (2021, October 9). Owl House boss shares real reason why Disney cancelled the show. Digital Spy. Retrieved December 3, 2022, from https://www.digitalspy.com/tv/ustv/a37915254/owl-house-disney-cancellation-reason/

3. Disney Channel’s ‘The Owl House’ Gets Season 2 Order Ahead of Series Premiere (Exclusive). (2019, November 21). Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/tv/tv-news/disney-channels-owl-house-gets-early-season-2-order-1256811/

4. Jernigan, C., & Mistree, B. F. (2009). Gaydar: Facebook friendships expose sexual orientation. First Monday. https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v14i10.2611

5. Terrance, D. (Director). (2020, January 10). The Owl House. Disney.

The Wet’suwet’en Pipeline & Canadian-Indigenous Legal Conflict

by Juliano Gaglione

Courtesy of CBrentPatterson via Twitter

           Three weeks ago, Amnesty International issued a press release regarding LNG Canada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline, criticizing the Canadian government and Coastal GasLink (CGL) for their continued policing and criminalizing of Indigenous “land defenders”, who protect their territory from pipeline development. A call-to-action pressuring the Canadian government and CGL to allow the “Wet’suwet’en people [to] exercise their rights over their traditional territories” (Amnesty International, 2023) was released, the article addresses a conflict prompting questions of whether the Wet’suwet’en community possesses legal rights to unceded land, whether such rights are acknowledged by the Canadian government, and, more importantly, whether such conflict constitutes a threat towards Canadian-Indigenous legal relations. Through investigation, we’ll find that the Wet’suwet’en do, indeed, possess legitimate claim to unceded territories and that the Canadian government’s infringement of Wet’suwet’en title proves unjustified. Furthermore, the Wet’suwet’en pipeline conflict illustrates an existing incompatibility between Indigenous and Canadian sovereignty, resulting from the Canadian government’s unsurprising exploitation of fiduciary privileges to substantiate their own economic priorities.

A brief overview of the conflict and opposing interests at hand

          The Coastal GasLink is a natural gas pipeline being developed in northern British Columbia, which partially traverses territory belonging to the Wet’suwet’en First Nation community. While all five relevant Wet’suwet’en Nation’s band councils have signed benefit agreements with CGL consenting to the use of their land for pipeline development, the nation chiefs, possessing power within a “hereditary clan system,” refuse to offer such consent. An important distinction is to be made here between an “elected band council,” the form of political leadership endowed upon First Nations communities by Canadian settlers via the Indian Act; and a “hereditary clan system,” the traditional form of political leadership within First Nations communities prior to colonial contact. Claiming to have been granted Aboriginal title (unceded land rights) in the 1997 trial, Delgamuukw v. British Columbia (Hernandez, 2020), the hereditary chiefs argue that the unconsensual yet unremitting development of the CGL pipeline is an unjustified land rights violation. As such, many Indigenous land defenders throughout the province have been protesting these proposed injustices by undermining the pipeline’s construction, and establishing roadblocks to prevent project development officials from reaching their sites (Baker, 2022). Meanwhile, standing to earn an estimated twenty-three billion CDN over the span of forty years following the pipeline’s construction, the federal government has largely endorsed the CGL pipeline ever since first commissioning the project in 2018 (Simmons, 2022)—this financial interest at least partially explains the government’s policing contributions towards the project, with RCMP officers consistently tasked with enforcing the law over supposedly criminally-behaved Indigenous protesters (Amnesty International, 2023). With that said, the pipeline is currently—as of the CGL’s latest briefing—beyond 80% complete, and will likely see full completion in the near future regardless of opposition efforts (CGL, 2023).

          Upon inspection of Delgamuukw v. British Columbia (3 SCR 1010, 1997)—a supreme court case resulting from Delgamuukw’s appeal of a previously failed trial—it’s clear that the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nations were granted Aboriginal title over their territory in 1997, resulting mainly from the chief justice’s reconsideration of the Wet’suwet’en oral tradition, “kungax,” as valid historical evidence of pre-colonial territorial occupation. In remarking upon the original trial, Chief Justice Lamer stated that “the trial judge expected too much of the oral history of the appellants,” and that “if oral history cannot conclusively establish pre-sovereignty occupation of land, it may still be relevant to demonstrate that current occupation has its origins prior to sovereignty” (3 SCR 1010, 1997). Indeed, in the following trial, such oral history would be found sufficient in illustrating a pre-sovereign origin of occupation, granting Aboriginal title to the hereditary chiefs who brought the case to the supreme court. As a result, the Wet’suwet’en chiefs, by possessing Aboriginal title, possess land rights since 1997 characterized as (1) inalienable; (2) recognized by the Royal Proclamation of 1763; (3) communally held; (4) limited in use to actions which are “reconcilable with the nature of the claimants’ attachment to those lands” (i.e., forbidding ecologically negligent land use); and (5) protected by section 35 the Constitution Act of 1982 (3 SCR 1010, 1997). Clearly, then, Wet’suwet’en protestors are correct in their assertion that hereditary chiefs are owed unceded land rights as per the result of Delgamuukw v. British Columbia.

          With this being said, there are additional details within Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, stipulating the circumstances in which Crown infringements of Aboriginal title may be justified (“constitutionally recognized aboriginal rights are not absolute and may be infringed by the federal and provincial governments…”). As such, we should consider whether the Canadian government could find justifications for the infringed use of Wet’suwet’en territory In constructing the CGL pipeline. In the document, the two tests of potential justification include: (1) furthering a compelling and substantive legislative objective; and (2) acting as is consistent with “the special fiduciary relationship” between the Crown and Indigenous peoples (e.g., “the development of agriculture, forestry, mining, and hydroelectric power,” “general economic development,” “protection of the environment,” and the “building of infrastructure and settlement of foreign populations”) (3 SCR 1010, 1997). First then, the CGL project does not stand to contribute towards any immediately notable legislative objective, and so cannot be warranted under the first test of justification. Second, while an argument might be made for the infrastructure, employment, and “economic development” produced within Indigenous communities by the CGL pipeline, the project also contributes towards ecological destruction and population displacement while providing the Indigenous communities with only a fraction of the total economic value estimated of the project (Simmons, 2022)—thus rendering any claims of the pipeline’s contributions towards a productive fiduciary relationship as tenuous and one-sided, and illustrating that the CGL pipeline is proven unjustifiable by both tests. As such, the use of the Wet’suwet’en land by federally— commissioned enterprises would rely upon the full and lawful consent of Aboriginal title holders— in this case, the hereditary chiefs.

            With the Canadian government’s infringement of Wet’suwet’en land rights thus proven unjustified, their use of police action to enforce lawful compliance within Wet’suwet’en communities while refusing to hold themselves accountable to their own legal abidance of Aboriginal title demonstrates a self-contradictory logic, which effectively undermines the legal precedent meant to support Canadian-Indigenous relations in a broader sense. The federal government’s policing, surveilling, and criminalization of the Wet’suwet’en community via RCMP police action throughout the pipeline’s construction, negligent of the community’s title rights, is indicative of whose interests are most readily maintained and whose most undermined within Canadian-Indigenous legal confrontations. In criminalizing land defence and mobilizing police action against Indigenous protestors, and thus in transgressing the principles of Aboriginal title belonging to the Wet’suwet’en as is clarified within Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, the federal government implicitly retracts the legitimacy of legal frameworks developed to render Canadian-Indigenous relations sustainable and equitable. As Queen’s University professor Michael Luoma remarks on the federal government’s legal maltreatment of Indigenous communities in “Collective Self-Determination, Territory, and the Wet’suwet’en,” “if we cannot provide a consistent [note—consistent] answer to questions, then from a moral and legal perspective, the future relationships between Canada and many other Indigenous nations are in danger of being carried out in an ad hoc or arbitrary manner” (2022). Indeed, the negligent treatment of the Wet’suwet’en community and their legal history, if persisted upon with distinct nations, could further obfuscate Indigenous relations throughout the country. As such, steps should be taken towards the increased acknowledgement of Indigenous communities and the legal rights they are owed, although doing so may, at times, be of great expense to the Canadian government.

Works Cited

Amnesty International (2023, January 6). Canada: Indigenous land defenders criminalized, surveilled and harassed as pipeline construction continues on Wet’suwet’en territory. Amnesty International. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://amnesty.ca/news/joint-press-release/canada-indigenous-land-defenders-criminalized/.

Baker, Rafferty (2022, February 26). A who’s who of the Wet’suwet’en pipeline conflict. CBC. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/wetsuweten-whos-who-guide-1.5471898.

Coastal GasLink (2023, January 12). Coastal GasLink working with Indigenous communities and regulators to cross waterways safely. Coastal GasLink. Retrieved January 20, 2023 from https://www.coastalgaslink.com/whats-new/news-stories/2023/2023-01-12-coastal-gaslink-working-with-Indigenous-communities-and-regulators-to-cross-waterways-safely/.

Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, 3 SCR 1010 (1997). https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/1569/index.do

Hernandez, Jon (2020, February 13). ‘We still have title’: How a landmark B.C. court case set the stage for Wet’suwet’en protests. CBC. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/delgamuukw-court-ruling-significance-1.5461763.

Luoma, Michael (2022, February 23). “Collective Self-Determination, Territory and the Wet’suwet’en: What Justifies the Political Authority of Historic Indigenous Governments over Land and People” in Canadian Journal of Political Science, 55(1), 19-39. Retrieved January 20, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0008423921000913.

Simmons, Matt (2022, November 24). Is B.C.’s $6 billion commitment to Coastal GasLink and LNG Canada still economically viable?. The Narwhal. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://thenarwhal.ca/bc-lng-canada-cgl-economics/.

Democracy Notwithstanding: Canada’s History of the Notwithstanding Clause and its Role in Human Rights

by Emma Celeste Thornley

Free Justice Statue photo and picture
Courtesy of William Cho via Pixabay

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms enshrines a number of individual rights considered to be essential to the preservation of human rights. Among these are freedom of religion, expression, and association; the right to life, liberty and security of the person; and freedom from unreasonable search, seizure and arbitrary detention. It is a common assumption that these rights and freedoms are absolutely inalienable and immutable. That assumption is wrong.

The notwithstanding clause, otherwise known as Section 33, was introduced to the Canadian Charter by Pierre Trudeau’s office; it was a concession to satisfy concerns that the Charter of Rights, as Trudeau’s office had initially drafted it, was “too powerful” (Zimonjic, 2022). The language of Section 33 holds that parliament, or the legislature of any given province, could temporarily disregard a provision of the Charter outlined in sections 2, or 7-15 (Government of Canada, 2022). There are, of course, limitations; any declaration made via the notwithstanding clause shall cease to be of effect five years after its implementation, though it can be renewed at the end of that 5-year term. At the time of the Charter’s drafting, Section 33 was intended as an escape-hatch (Zimonjic, 2022), evocative of the American “state’s-rights” model. The general understanding was that the notwithstanding clause ought to be a last resort, utilized only in the most unusual of circumstances. By its definition, the notwithstanding clause had the power to disrupt the execution of a number of fundamental Charter principles.

While this power may seem overwhelming on its face, the ability to disregard or supersede an established Charter right is not an unprecedented one. There is a process, called the Oakes Test, by which laws that limit a Charter right can be evaluated as justifiable or an overreach of power. It is a litigious procedure, arising from the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in R v Oakes.

This 1986 case saw the accused, Oakes, charged with possession for the purposes of trafficking after police caught Oakes with hashish oil and cash on his person. Oakes held that the drugs were his own and that he had no intent of selling them; yet, at the time, Section 8 of the Narcotics Control Act, under which he had been charged, held that anyone found with illegal drugs on them was presumed guilty of trafficking. This established a “reverse onus” in Oakes’ criminal trial. Rather than the burden being upon the state to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, Oakes had to prove his innocence (Centre for Constitutional Studies, 2019). Oakes and his lawyers challenged the constitutionality of this onus, claiming it violated his Section 11(d) Charter Right to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The Supreme Court agreed this right had been violated. The ultimate question, however, was whether the violation of this right was justifiable under Section 1 of the Charter: “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

The SCC ultimately ruled that to determine if a law’s imposition on an established Charter right was justifiable, the imposition had to pass a series of tests: first, that the law under review has a goal which is both “pressing and substantial”. Second, that the law limits the right in question only in such a way as is rationally connected to the law’s purpose. Third, the law must minimally impair the right. Fourth, the imposition upon the right is proportional to the effect of the law (Centre for Constitutional Studies, 2019). The Oakes Test is consequentially an effective, consistent measure by which to test whether a law has justifiably infringed upon a Charter right.

The notwithstanding clause’s metric of measurement is nowhere near as comprehensive nor consistent. It is typically invoked when there is a controversial court ruling (McKenzie-Sutter, 2022) and it can, in theory, provide a sanctified avenue by which provincial governments can override federal authority should a federal government overstep their jurisdictional reach (Callaghan, 2021). Supporters of the notwithstanding clause have opined that “It’s entirely possible that a judicial body will make a judgment on rights that many find abhorrent. Under a system where they wield ultimate authority over the matter, there is little recourse to challenge that judgment. The recent decision by the United States Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade is a stark example of this reality” (Callaghan 2021). While the notwithstanding clause is undoubtably conceptually admirable, its application has been controversial and, at times, in contradiction of Canadian citizens’ rights. Section 33 has been invoked some 26 times since its implementation. The majority of those invocations were tabled by Quebec. Most make it past initial invocation and into enactment. Some instances of particularly controversial uses of the notwithstanding clause in recent memory are Alberta’s 2000 case, Quebec’s 2019 case, and Ontario’s 2018, 2021 and 2022 cases.

In the first instance, Alberta invoked the notwithstanding clause in response to the federal government’s passing of Bill C-23 (CBC, 2012). Bill C-23 guaranteed same-sex couples the same benefits as heterosexual couples after a year of cohabitation. Alberta responded by passing Bill 202, which threatened to invoke the notwithstanding clause should Canada ever redefine marriage to anything other than a man and woman (CBC, 2012). The misuse of the notwithstanding clause is self-evident; the Supreme Court of Canada agreed, declaring Bill 202 and its threatened use of the notwithstanding clause ultra vires, or beyond legal authority, as of 2004 (S.C.R. 698, 2004).

In 2019, Quebec introduced the controversial Act Respecting the Laicity of the State, otherwise known as Bill 21. You may recall the furor that arose in the media after Quebec declared their intention to invoke the notwithstanding clause to support this act, which prohibited civil service employees and public teachers from wearing religious symbols, like kippahs, crosses and hijabs while working (Souissi, 2021). Quebec was successful in implementing the notwithstanding clause. Given the notwithstanding clause’s mandatory five year renewal, it may be overturned in the future; it will, regardlessly, impact the religious liberties of Quebec citizens in the meanwhile.

Ontario’s history with the notwithstanding clause is recent, and resultantly unique. In the province’s history, the notwithstanding clause has been utilized three times. First, in 2018, when the Ontario provincial government utilized Section 33 to reduce the number of wards in Toronto from 47 to 25. This reduction occurred alongside a municipal election, raising concerns that the Ford administration was severely infringing upon the democratic rights of voters (Ahmed, 2022). The second invocation occurred in 2021, when the Ford administration passed the Protecting Elections and Defending Democracy Act. In sum, the act prohibited third-party election advertising and advocacy during the election period, such as labour unions. The legislation was found to override the Charter, and was consequently struck down by Ontario Courts (Kelly, 2022). In response, Ford’s administration overrode the Court using the notwithstanding clause. More recently, Ford’s administration tabled the Keeping Students in Class Act, which utilized the notwithstanding clause to mandate striking teachers back to work. It was lambasted as an “unprecedented attack on workers’ rights” (Koskie Minsky LLP, 2022), and consequently revoked and deemed “never in force” (Legislative Assembly of Ontario, 2022).

In sum, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not the inflexible pillar it is sometimes perceived to be. In some instances, its “bending” is to the benefit of the citizenry. Section 33 could permit provincial governments to reject federal overreach, an insulation against oversteps by any prime minister’s administration. Yet like so many things, the notwithstanding clause can be invoked in ways that hinder, rather than uphold, basic rights. The “legalese” used to describe related governmental acts and resultant action can alienate most of us from the realities of what is being passed as law. That alienation may prevent us from realizing how, and when, Charter Rights and Freedoms are eroded without reasonable cause.

There is no question that we are privileged to live in a country like Canada. It is imperfect, and has a longstanding history of colonial violence, but it also has an established constitutional rights framework by which to challenge our own persisting human rights issues. Other nation-states do not necessarily have the same constitutional protections. Given our comparative privilege, it can be easy to forget that human rights are hard-won and, in some instances, easily lost. It is our civic duty to vigilantly monitor the ways in which our rights and freedoms as Canadians are in flux, to prevent government overreach at all levels. If the history of the notwithstanding clause can offer us any insights, it is that human rights are a constant practice, and not a milestone of democracy. We must constantly be mindful of how our rights adjust and flux, decade to decade, administration to administration.

Work Cited

Ahmed, H. (2022, August 8) Toronto v Ontario: Municipal Elections, Freedom of Expression, and Provincial Authority. Centre for Constitutional Studies. https://www.constitutionalstudies.ca/2022/08/toronto-v-ontario-municipal-elections-freedom-of-expression-and-provincialauthority/

Callaghan, G. (2022, July 6) In defence of the notwithstanding clause: Why Canada should hold onto it. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/in-defence-of-the-notwithstandingclause-why-canada-should-hold-onto-it-186375

CBC (2012, January 12) TIMELINE: Same-sex rights in Canada. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/timeline-same-sex-rights-in-canada-1.1147516

Kelly, Y. (2022, March 21) Ontario’s Bill 307 does more to restrict democracy than protect it. York Region News. https://www.yorkregion.com/opinion-story/10591141-ontario-s-bill-307-does-more-to-restrict-democracy-than-protect-it/

Koskie Minksky LLP (2022) The Keeping Students in Class Act. https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=e7137110-7583-4533-9f18-468074bd55c1

Legislative Assembly of Ontario (2022) Bill 35, Keeping Students in Class Repeal Act, 2022. https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/bills/parliament-43/session-1/bill-35

McKenzie-Sutter, H. (2022, Oct 31) What is the notwithstanding clause? An explainer on the rarely used provision. CTV News. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/what-is-the-notwithstandingclause-an-explainer-on-the-rarely-used-provision-1.613270

Reference re Same-Sex Marriage, [2004] 3 S.C.R. 698, 2004 SCC 79. https://scccsc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/2196/index.do

Souissi, T. (2021, December 17) Bill 21 (An Act Respecting the Laicity of the State) The
Canadian Encyclopedia. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/bill-21

Youth Identity and Hong Kong’s New National Security Education

by Shivahn Garvie

National security education was incorporated into the Hong Kong school curriculum in the 2021-22 academic year as a consequence of growing localist sentiment and anti-Beijing creed. Last year, the Hong Kong Education Bureau substituted “liberal studies” in secondary schools for a new subject called “citizenship and social development,” and this year authorities have announced that the “current life and society” subject will also be replaced within the next two years.

“Liberal studies” was offered as an optional course in Hong Kong secondary schools alongside “life and society” as of 2012. “Life and society” covered the socioeconomic development of Hong Kong and China and their distinct political systems, but saw minimal uptakes. Pending the expiration of Hong Kong’s autonomy from China approaching in 2047, many fear that the education reforms only mark the beginning of cultural and institutional change in the city. Pro-Beijing politicians accused the more popular elective, “liberal studies”, of radicalizing youth and inciting the 2019 anti-government protests. As a consequence, the Hong Kong Education Bureau replaced “liberal studies” with “citizenship and social development,” centered on lawfulness, patriotism and promoting students’ understanding of China’s national security to foster a national identity.

The core values of “life and society” included social justice and freedom, but the words, “democracy”, “integrity” and “social justice” are notably absent from the curriculum of its replacement subject, “citizenship, economics and society”. Unlike the old subject that aimed to induce political participation, the new subject has dropped content regarding government decision-making procedures, including an admonishment to communicate with the Legislative Council. Instead, “citizenship, economics and society” is oriented towards enriching students’ understanding of Beijing’s jurisdiction through outlining the primary offences under the national security law and the Hong Kong Basic Law. The Education Bureau announced that they would provide teaching materials for the new subject at the beginning of this academic year, and textbooks for 2024. The textbooks will be reviewed by a committee whose members remain undisclosed, ostensibly to protect them from external pressure and prejudice. However, many question the legitimacy of the committee and these textbooks given that the new “citizenship and social development” textbooks from earlier this year erroneously claimed that Hong Kong was never a British colony, but merely an occupied territory.

In addition to academic content reforms, Hong Kong schools are facing pressure to increase teaching time apportioned to patriotic content. The Education Bureau has asked Hong Kong schools to allocate a quarter of teaching time during primary school education to activities and discussions concerning Chinese culture and the constitution. This overhaul of Hong Kong’s primary school education is driven by a new curriculum guide that emphasizes the cultivation of a sense of belonging and identity through national security education to become responsible citizens. This is a stark contrast to the learning goals under the old guide, which stressed the importance of discriminating between right and wrong and tolerance towards diverse values.

Owing to these changes, the Education Bureau conducted an inspection of 169 out of 1,160 schools in Hong Kong in the 2021-22 academic year and deduced that efforts to incorporate national security education into the curriculum was “unsatisfactory”. This inspection was brought on by the revision of the teachers’ code of conduct which details that they must advance national education and divulge illegal activities or “morally deviant information” to authorities. The previous administration promised to revamp the code after lawmakers accused teachers of instigating students’ participation in the 2019 protests.

As the expiration of Hong Kong’s autonomy from China approaches in the year 2047, many fear that these education reforms only mark the beginning of cultural and institutional change in the city. However, the reluctant uptake of nationalist initiatives promises the retention of Hong Kong culture and values for the time being.

Works Cited

Kang-Chung, Ng. “Patriotism, national security education should make up a quarter of primary schools’ teaching time, Hong Kong Education Bureau says”, South China Morning Post, 8 September 2022. https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education/article/3191871/hong-kong-education-bureau-suggests-primary-schools-spend?module=hard_link&pgtype=article.

Yiu, William. “What you need to know about Hong Kong’s new school subject focused on national security, sense of belonging”, South China Morning Post, 16 October 2022. https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education/article/3196123/what-you-need-know-about-hong-kongs-new-school-subject.

What Does a World Cup Cost?

By Saba Brittain

Undoubtedly the most viewed, and high on the list of the world’s most unifying sporting events, the FIFA World Cup captures the attention of billions around the globe, and last year 32 nations participated, competing for the cup in Qatar. The announcement of Qatar as host of the 2022 World Cup put the country in the international spotlight, drawing criticisms against FIFA and the Qatari government concerning the unjust treatment of migrant workers, who were indispensable to carrying out the numerous construction projects.

Qatar, a country of a smaller size than the state of Connecticut, won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup in December of 2010. The scale of the event required Qatar to launch major construction projects⁠— including new roads, stadiums, hotels, and transportation⁠— in preparation for welcoming 1.5 million football fans. While the exact amount spent by the Qatari government on infrastructure since 2010 remains unclear, the estimates range from 200-300 billion dollars. (Foxman, Nair, 2022).

Let’s consider the fact that Qatar depends on a 2 million strong migrant workforce, which makes up 90% of the country’s overall workforce, and a significant portion of the country’s overall population (Dart, 2022). At the source of the systemic abuse against the millions of migrant workers in Qatar is the kafala (or sponsorship) system, an exploitative labour law system used mostly in the region of the Arab Gulf. The kafala system subjects the migrant worker to the strict control of their employer, who commands the workers’ entry or exit of the country, their ability to change jobs, the renewal of work permits, and their legal status in the country (Dumoulin, 2021). This system facilitates the exploitation of migrant workers and violation of migrant worker rights. Being subject to the will and interest of their employers, migrant workers can be trapped in working conditions that are extremely abusive without any opportunity to leave or oppose. 

While Qatar has implemented some labour law reforms⁠— notably, allowing migrant workers to change jobs without the approval of a former employer and slightly wage increases⁠— these reforms have not been sufficient to abolish the kafala system in Qatar as a whole. Indeed, migrant workers in Qatar have no protection against labour exploitation and are still closely tied to their employer, relying on them for their legal status and permission of entry/exit of the country (Human Rights Watch, 2018). The kafala system is one of many other abuses against migrant workers in Qatar: there have been numerous reports of mysterious injuries, migrant worker deaths due to “natural causes”⁠— a seemingly interchangeable term to describe extreme heat exhaustion⁠— and unpaid wages. 

Despite these reports, FIFA’s silence towards the migrant worker abuse in Qatar has been deafening. They hold responsibility in their decision of granting the right of hosting the World Cup to Qatar without imposing any conditions protecting the human rights of migrant workers employed to build their stadiums. (Human Rights Watch, 2018).

FIFA was aware of the infrastructure deficit in Qatar with regards to accommodating a World Cup and chose to benefit from the exploitation of migrant workers instead of change it. 

Works Cited

Dumoulin, Caroline. “The Kafala System: Incremental Reform Is Not Enough to Stop Abuse against Migrant Domestic Workers.” International Law and Policy Brief, https://www.theguardian.com/football/2022/nov/27/qatar-deaths-how-many-migrant-workers-died-world-cup-number-toll

Lewis, Aimee, et al. “’Our Dreams Never Came True.’ These Men Helped Build Qatar’s World Cup, Now They Are Struggling to Survive.” CNN, Cable News Network, 21 Nov. 2022, www.cnn.com/2022/11/17/football/qatar-2022-world-cup-migrant-workers-human-rights-spt-intl/index.html.

“Q&A: Migrant Worker Abuses in Qatar and FIFA World Cup 2022.” Human Rights Watch, 18 Nov. 2022, www.hrw.org/news/2021/12/18/qa-migrant-worker-abuses-qatar-and-fifa-world-cup-2022#Q11.

“Qatar: End All Migrant Worker Exit Visas.” Human Rights Watch, 28 Oct. 2020, www.hrw.org/news/2018/09/06/qatar-end-all-migrant-worker-exit-visas.

Atomic Orthodoxy: Russia and the End of the World

by Jude Lobo

Patriarch Kirill,Vladimir Putin - Religion News Service
Courtesy of Alexander Zemlianichenko via AP Photo

At a pro-war rally held in the center of Moscow on March 18th, 2022, passionate sentiments of pride on the anniversary of Russia’s reclamation of Crimea and support for the ongoing efforts of Russian soldiers fighting to “liberate” Ukraine were shared, broadcast across Russia by state sponsored networks. The crowning moment of the pro-war rally occurred during a speech given by Putin himself, who paraphrased the Bible in an effort to justify the invasion of Ukraine to over 200,000 Russians in attendance: “There is no greater love than if someone gives his soul for his friends” (John 15:13) (Quay 4). This curious mixture of religion and propaganda that has been taking a hold of Russian politics in the last two decades is explained in part by Maria Engstrom’s essay on “Contemporary Russian Messianism and New Russian Foreign Policy”, particularly through the concept of “Katechon” and its resulting effects on Russian foreign policy and security doctrine.

Engstrom brings to light the understanding of Russia as “Katechon”, a Christian Orthodox term popularized by 20th century right-wing intellectual circles to serve as the “unofficial” official ideology of post-Soviet Russia. “Russia as Katechon” portrays Russia to be the world’s ‘shield’ against the apocalyptic forces of chaos, with the Russian state itself existing to defend against the Antichrist and the resulting end of times (Engstrom 357). Engstrom points out that this neoconservative understanding of the inherent purpose of the Russian state is not an aberration paraded by a handful of fringe conservative groups. Rather, it is literally embedded into the policy goals of Russia itself. For example, Russian foreign policy and state security doctrine have regressed to an outlook of the world that is more at home with religio-medieval dogma than modern international relations theory. For example, all states beyond Moscow’s control are interpreted uniformly as in league with the “external antichrist” (i.e. the decadent “Great Sodom” that is the West), whilst those within Russia’s borders not in agreement with official state ideology are considered the “internal antichrist”, no less dangerous than its external counterpart (Engstrom 363). Thus, because the Russian state is always understood to be under attack within this framework. Seemingly contradictory statements such as the following, spoken by influential young conservative publicist Egor Kholmogorov, make perfect sense: “Russians always “defend”, even when it might seem that they attack” (Engstrom 365).

Thus, it is in such a way that one sees the doctrine of “Atomic Orthodoxy” take shape, Russia’s “double shield”, composed of Orthodoxy to secure Russia on the ideological front and the atomic military-industrial complex to secure Russia’s physical frontiers (Engstrom 368). An oxymoronic environment which produces phenomena such as Orthodox priests blessing atomic warheads, this “double shield” policy delivers one clear neoconservative message: If it means saving the world from the clutches of the Antichrist, Russians are more than ready to “remove the lid”, as it is understood to be their sacred duty (Engstrom 368). The Russians will stop at nothing to achieve their interests, because ‘they are the third empire, and there shall not be a fourth. After Russia is only the Apocalypse” (Engstrom 368).

In line with Engstrom’s 2014 analysis, one can see Russia’s “Double Shield” out in full force eight years later, with Putin pushing neoconservative Orthodox dogma on the home front whilst his army liberates Ukraine from “evil” abroad, all the while flexing Russia’s nuclear capabilities should the West ever think of interfering with Russia’s “holy” struggle (Quay, Guardian 1). Critically speaking, in an effort to extend Engstrom’s analysis, one cannot help but wonder what Russia’s approach means for the world order: Is the cultivation of a Messianic destiny, backed by nuclear weapons, all one needs to supersede the global order? As thousands of years of political history mired in religious dogma have shown, it is hard to debate against “god” or even an idea which claims to be backed by “god”; Thus, one cannot expect the Russian people to emancipate themselves from such a compelling line of propaganda, one no less backed by the threat of overwhelming military violence. The prospect of this unique “double shield” threat, in my view, warrants the development of a “double sword” doctrine to meet it, namely, one that seeks to delegitimize the Russian leadership at every level, exposing the fact that their support for Orthodoxy and Messianic destiny is a loose ploy to legitimize their own control over their state (First Sword), and further, one that dares to tread the Cold-War-era path of nuclear diplomacy, enforcing the idea that playing hard and fast with nuclear weapons does not lend one free reign over the established global order (Second Sword).

Russia’s actions warrant global action, as Putin’s eyes are not only in Ukraine, but are on the entire globe. Both his methods and his aims are global in nature: his call for fighters from around the world to join the Russian Army to expel “evil” from Ukraine are not unlike the calls put out by various Islamic terror groups, calling fighters to help in the establishment of a “Global Ummah”. The phenomenon of “Atomic Orthodoxy” in Russia is certainly unusual, but by no means is it historically unique. The West would do well to ensure that the threat of ending history (and the world) outright does not invite history to repeat itself, with religion once again being misused towards politically immoral ends.

Works Cited

Engström, Maria. “Contemporary Russian Messianism and New Russian Foreign Policy.” Contemporary Security Policy, vol. 35, no. 3, 2014, pp. 356–379., https://doi.org/10.1080/13523260.2014.965888. .

Guardian. (2022, February 28). Putin signals escalation as he puts Russia’s nuclear force on high alert. The Guardian. Retrieved March 21, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/27/vladimir-putin-puts-russia-nuclear-deterrence-forces-on-high-alert-ukraine

Quay, Grayson. “Putin Quotes Jesus to Justify Invasion of Ukraine.” Yahoo! News, Yahoo!, 2022, https://www.yahoo.com/news/putin-quotes-jesus-justify-invasion-155344994.html.

“OneLove” – Human Rights at the World Cup

By Laura Moldoveanu

What distinguishes human rights issues from celebrations of culture? Is culture a sufficient excuse or justification for the mistreatment of minority groups? Recently, these two questions have gained substantial traction within the media as the 2022 FIFA World Cup approaches, being held this year in Qatar—which is where the controversy begins.

The decision to hold this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar was deemed highly problematic by some due to Qatar’s record of human rights violations, as is demonstrated by the country’s criminalization of homosexuality, which can result in up to three years of prison in the country (Lewis 2022). In response, the “OneLove” campaign, an initative founded in the Netherlands to celebrate diversity within soccer communities, was due to take center stage (New York Post, 2022). To show their support, participants wear an armband featuring a multi-coloured heart to represent those belonging to all heritages, genders, and sexual identities. These armbands are meant to stand against discrimination and promote inclusion. The captains of seven countries competing were set to wear these armbands in solidarity, including England, Wales, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands (Ramsay and Nabbi, 2022). However, due to recent actions taken by FIFA itself, the initiative has been abandoned.

To discourage players from wearing OneLove armbands throughout the World Cup, FIFA declared that players found wearing said armbands would be given yellow cards and may face additional sanctions (Ramsay and Nabbi, 2022) as punishment. FIFA’s efforts seemingly succeeded, as all seven soccer federations backed down from the campaign. In a joint statement, they asserted that “[a]s national federations we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions, including bookings” (New York Post, 2022). Thus, the movement was quashed before it ever truly began. Even so, the situation introduces another issue regarding Qatar’s stance on LBGTQ+ rights: some fans feel unsafe travelling to Qatar, fearing for their safety (Lewis 2022).

The Secretary General of FIFA, Fatma Samoura, said in a statement, “[n]o matter your race, your religion, your social and sexual orientation, you are most welcome, and Qataris are ready to receive you with the best hospitality that you can imagine” (Lewis 2022). However, at the same time, a statement from Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) reads, “[e]veryone is welcome in Qatar, but we are a conservative country and any public display of affection, regardless of orientation, is frowned upon. We simply ask for people to respect our culture” (Lewis 2022). In this case, then, culture seems to obfuscate matters of human rights, as the line between what is to be considered a human rights abuse and what is to be considered part of a separate country’s culture becomes blurred.

Teams were reportedly asked to “keep politics off the field” (New York Post, 2022). This raises the question: are human rights a strictly political issue, or do they supersede the realm of politics and possess a more universal significance? Should there be certain criteria necessary for selecting a country to host an international event as important as the World Cup? If so, how could such criteria be implemented while balancing the line between cultural relativism and cultural imperialism?

The Football Supporters’ Association, a representative body based in England and Wales, made a poignant statement encapsulating the situation. It reads, “[t]oday we feel contempt for an organisation that has shown its true values by giving the yellow card to players and the red card to tolerance… No country which falls short on LGBT+ rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights or any other universal human right should be given the honour of hosting a World Cup” (Thorogood, 2022). It is clear that this situation is bigger than Qatar or soccer alone. Human rights are a topic of contention all around the world. Countries must figure out how to toe the line between respecting different cultures and standing up against blatant human rights transgressions.


Associated Press. “FIFA Threats Force World Cup Teams to Abandon ‘OneLove’ Armband.” New York Post. New York Post, November 21, 2022. https://nypost.com/2022/11/21/fifa-threats-force-world-cup-teams-to-abandon-onelove-armband/ .

Lewis, Aimee. “’It’s Not Safe and It’s Not Right.’ Qatar Says All Are Welcome to the World Cup but Some LGBTQ Soccer Fans Are Staying Away.” CNN. Cable News Network, November 19, 2022. https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/19/football/qatar-world-cup-2022-lgbtq-rights-spt-intl/index.html.

Ramsay, George, and Zayn Nabbi. “England’s Harry Kane and Several Other European Captains Told Not to Wear ‘Onelove’ Armband at World Cup.” CNN. Cable News Network, November 22, 2022. https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/21/football/onelove-armband-qatar-2022-world-cup-spt-intl.

Thorogood, James. “Onelove Campaign Hit by Threat of FIFA Sanctions .” dw.com. Deutsche Welle, November 21, 2022. https://www.dw.com/en/world-cup-2022-onelove-campaign-hit-by-threat-of-fifa-sanctions/a-6381 8810.

Do the Right Thing: Black People and the Problem of Police Brutality

by Cassandra Nyimbili

Do the Right Thing (1989) - IMDb
Courtesy of 40 Acres and a Mule, 1989

In 1989, famed director Spike Lee created Do the Right Thing, a film following the story of the Wall of Fame inside an Italian-American-owned pizzeria in a Black community. As tensions rise in the community due to the Wall featuring only famous Italian-Americans instead of also including famous African-Americans, due to the pizzeria being located in a predominantly African-America area, conversations are held to understand the treatment of Black people by other ethnicities, especially white people. Parallels can be drawn between 1989 and the present while keeping the messages of trailblazers Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X throughout the call to action. The main message of the movie is brought to the attention of the main character Mookie when the Mayor tells Mookie to “always do the right thing,”1 although he brushes off 1 the advice in the moment, the message becomes more apparent as the movie continues. All around the neighbourhood are conversations and actions with racial undertones and overt instances. Prevalent topics in the film include stereotypes, Black people’s influence on society, and the relationship between police and Black people.

This film creates an environment for viewers to understand the climate the characters were living in and compare it to the present day. The successes of Black people are constantly left out of the conversation when discussing people who have impacted the world we live in today. The central conflict in the film is the lack of inclusion for Black people on Sal’s wall of fame. The white characters in the movie continually disregard the importance of Black people. Pino takes away his favourite celebrities’ Blackness because they don’t fit his idea of what Black people should be like; the landlord wears a Larry Bird shirt, and when Black people don’t act according to how Sal and Pino think they should, they disregard their business and resort to using the n-word to describe them. The blatant mistreatment of the Black people in their neighbourhood directly translates into the main conflict of the hall of fame. Buggin’ Out wants people such as Malcolm x, Nelson Mandela, and Michael Jordan as people who should be on the wall, but Sal doesn’t see their importance being on the wall; he threatens his patron with violence and kicks him out as a result2. This scene is the beginning of Sal’s overt mistreatment of Black people, that catapults the movie into its following stages.

Radio Raheem’s death reflects the society where police violence against Black people is repeated. When Lee released this movie, he dedicated it to Eleanor Bumpurs, Michael Griffith, Arthur Miller, Edmund Perry, Yvonne Smallwood, and Michael Stewart. Five of these people were murdered by police while Griffth was a victim of the mob3. 36 years after this film’s release Black people are still victims of police brutality; the only difference in the headlines being the names. The names that many people today recognize are George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah Mcclain, Atatiana Jefferson, Daunte Wright. When comparing the victims of the 80s to now, it is evident that police brutality is still prevalent. Sentiments of characters in the movie reflect the opinions of people today when similar events to Radio Raheem’s death occur, such as, “They didn’t have to kill the boy,” “They did it again,” and “He died because of a radio.”4 This repetition of death within the Black community shows society’s disregard and disrespect for Black life. Black people are seen as less than their white counterparts and less deserving of their rights.

Spike Lee immerses viewers into a world similar to ours with the community, the personalities, and the heartbreak. Getting to know the characters who ultimately end up hurt by the events that play out reflects the real lives that are being affected every time the police murder a Black person. As a society, it is our job to fight the powers working against Black people. Through advocacy, action, and doing the right thing, the trajectory of Black lives can be changed.

Works Cited

1,4Do the Right Thing (Universal Pictures, 1989).

2 Ibid

3 Richard Brody, “The Enduring Urgency of Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing’ at Thirty,” The New Yorker, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-front-row/the-enduring-urgency-ofspike-lees-do-the-right-thing-at- thirty.

A Review of Russia, by Dmitri Trenin

by Pengyu Chen

           Dmitri Trenin declares in his preface that Russia is a book intended for readers who are unfamiliar with Russia’s history. As such, Trenin aims to present Russian history in a way which differs from the West’s understanding of Russia as “negative and controversial” (vii). In doing so, Russia takes the reader on a 200-page excursion of 120 years of Russian history, detailing the historical and political development, which explains much of Russia’s contemporary behaviour. Trenin treats Russia as having its own “version of exceptionalism,” which makes it distinct from other nations (8). He suggests that there is a “bedrock” underneath Russia that continues to strengthen the “core features of the nation’s existence, its self-image, and its worldview” and that the reader can only understand these changes by examining the “collective experience” of the Russian people (3). The book’s central thesis holds that, while Russia has experienced changes to its ruler and government, it nonetheless remains a “succession of states and represents the continuity of a country” precisely because Russian society has retained the core features which make it exceptional (9). Trenin presents two momentous and recurring features which have shaped the last 120 years of Russia’s political development. First, Russia’s strong rejection of foreign domination persists alongside her acquiescence toward domestic authoritarianism (9). Second, Russia’s “essentially lonely” nature (despite having a high degree of contact with other countries) (9). And Russia’s frequent contact with foreign countries is often the source of external threats and modernization (9). While his analysis of Russia’s ‘loneliness’ is a noteworthy observation, the reader should pay more attention to how Trenin imagines the boundary of Russia, as well as what he means by being Russian.

            Russia gives the reader a quick survey of Russia’s 20th century, presenting important themes such as culture, economy, society, and ideology. The reader will learn about the ‘Silver Age’ of Russian arts, the New Soviet Man, refugees escaping Communist Russia, the GULAG, economic developments and policies, protest movements, state-society relations, and much more. Trenin’s discussion of the state and its leaders, foreign relations, and elite politics is the most emphasized component. By giving a brief historical account of Russian history—from the 1917 Russian civil war to Putin’s 21st-century ascension—through which he illuminates the causes of critical events, Trenin highlights the persistent and significant role of a strong state and authoritarian leader in providing stability during times of upheaval in Russia’s history. Further, Trenin asserts that evil consequences often ensue after state collapse (179).

            Tracing the collective experience of the Russian people, Trenin makes the case that while leaders of Russia had extraordinary agency in shaping the country’s political trajectory, it is the enduring feature of the people’s will to reject foreign domination of Russia at the expense of their “own domestic sovereignty vis-a-vis [the state]” that prevented the breakdown of Russia in challenging times (9). Trenin believes that this forfeiture of individual autonomy to the authoritarian rule at home is the “supreme national value” and is deeply embedded in the “Russian psyche” (7, 9). However, while there is much evidence one can point to, such as the 1812 Napoleonic War, or the Great Patriotic War, there is also ample evidence that challenges the reading that Russians see their submission to authority as a “supreme national value.” Notably, Trenin himself remarks that the 1905 and 1917 peasant revolutions in Tsarist Russia were a key pretext for the rise of the Bolsheviks (26-34). Also, he notes that many Russians fled to Europe to escape Communist rule (125). Furthermore, considering Pyotr Stolypin’s implementation of martial law, Lenin’s Cheka, Stalin’s Purge, and the tradition of the Russian security agency, all to maintain social stability, fearing uprising and unrest from societal groups, the reader should seriously question the merit of Trenin’s argument that there has been a consensus, tacit or explicit, between the ruled and the ruler on the “supreme national value,” even in times of crisis (9).

            Moreover, the reader is left wondering, by the end of the book, whether Trenin’s claim about the recurring core feature of Russian’s acquiescence toward authoritarianism (and the persistent pattern of authoritarianism itself) will continue to be a ‘recurring’ feature. Indeed, Trenin himself points to the possibility that generational change and existing political conditions could lead to a state that is less authoritarian in nature (163). Even though Putin and the state are authoritarian, the establishment of democratic electoral institutions and a growing middle class in Russia could one day transform this core recurring feature.

            To be more charitable, the reader can concede that Trenin is suggesting an account that Russian exceptionalism derives from a transcendental conception of Russia as a nation that conceives an amorphous territory and a population that inheres Russia’s millennium-long history and the two core recurring features as its national mentality and traits. However, it is equally important to examine who are the “Russian people” and what Russia is as an “unbroken whole” (9, 11). While Trenin explains what Russia is not—that today’s Russia is not a different country from the USSR and the Russian Empire—he fails to give an affirmative account of what Russia is. Indeed, there is not a definitive answer to this, and expecting Trenin to answer it persuasively in a 200-page book is unreasonable. Nevertheless, this absence should make the reader (re)consider his formulation of Russia as an “unbroken whole.” The fact that Russia’s territory has been reduced substantially after the collapse of the Russian Empire and again after the dissolution of the USSR has central implications for the conception of Russia. This geopolitical decline seriously challenges his conception of Russia as a whole, given that many of the populations formerly belonging to the Russian Empire and USSR are not a part of contemporary Russia. It is also questionable to claim the population who were once within the territory of the Russian Empire and the USSR as “Russians.” According to NKVD records, “half-million Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, and Belarusians fought the Soviets in rural areas” (Colton 53). Also, anti-Soviet ethnonationalist movements during and after the Soviet rule also challenge Tenin’s reading of Russia as an “unbroken whole” (153-154).

            Trenin’s account of the second core feature is more compelling and conforms to the charitable reading of Russia as a nation that persistently embodies “a Russian psyche” In the last 120 years, Russia has been lonely and exceptional in its vain search for national security amidst an unfriendly, modernizing world. Japan challenged Russia’s presence in the Far East, leading to a major defeat in 1905 for the Russian Empire (25-26). In 1917 Russia was forced to fight against Germany but was never invited to the 1919 Versailles peace conference and the League of Nations (46). In the 1930s, Britain and France had little concern for the fate of the USSR, so Russia, relying on itself, was pressured into signing a non-aggression pact with Germany (78-79). Trenin argues that Russia had to rely on itself in challenging times and thus often finds itself isolated. Indeed, increased connectivity with China, Britain, and the U.S. in the 1940s ended soon thereafter upon the rise of the Cold War. Meaningful and friendly engagement with the West since then never occurred, despite the disintegration of the Union and the introduction of capitalism and electoral democracy in the 1990s (145-146). Confrontation with the U.S. and NATO became more real after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its intervention in Syria (173-174). However, its relationship with China grew closer (174). Russia, Trenin argues, has been estranged from the West but is “by no means isolated” (173-174). Indeed, current events support Trenin’s analysis: the ongoing Russian-Ukraine War has deteriorated US-Russia and EU-Russia relationship while Russia has become closer to China.

            The reader can strengthen Trenin’s account of Russia’s relative isolation by arguing that Russia’s geography and historical legacies played a deterministic role in shaping the political attitude and choices of the Russian elites. Russia is vast, remote, and difficult to access by sea. While this geographical limit prevented Russia from naval invasions, it also foreclosed the reach of sea merchants and the exchange of ideas (Poe 49). The centrality of Russian Orthodoxy and Russia’s closed borders also stifled any intellectual and cultural exchange with the West (Poe 41). Moreover, the relative proximity with Western Europe—and the extraordinary technological and military ascendance of the former circa 1500-1600—threatened Russia and agitated its reform process, eventually producing a distinctly Russian form of social organization (Poe 38-57).

            Even if the reader rejects the persistent “bedrock” underneath Russia, Trenin’s analysis of Russia’s political pattern—1) authoritarian rule as a persistent feature and 2) relative isolation—offers a good measure by which the reader can judge Russia’s contemporary political development. When the authoritarian state is absent, Russia will likely reverse into political instability (9). Trenin suspects that “a political crisis following Putin’s final departure is virtually pre-programmed” (162). And, while Trenin makes clear in Russia’s conclusion that post-Putin Russia might not embrace liberal capitalism and conform partially to the West, his analysis of Russia’s relative isolation gives freshness and trenchancy to his interpretation of a “Russian’s Russia” and provide the non-specialist reader with a good historical account of where “Russia is coming from.”


Colton, Timothy J. Russia: What Everyone Needs to Know. New York, Oxford University Press, 2016.

Poe, Marshall T. The Russian Moment in World History. New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 2003.

Trenin, Dmitri. Russia. Cambridge, Polity Press, 2019.

Qatar’s World Cup

“The deadliest sporting event in history”

By Muhammed Bamne

Qatar: FIFA must act on labour abuses as World Cup qualifiers kick off - Amnesty  International
Courtesy of Colin Foo via Amnesty International

           Tens of millions of football fans all over the world were rejoicing as the 2022 FIFA World Cup began. Since 2010, when Qatar won the contract to host the 2022 World Cup, it has spent upwards of $220 billion on unprecedented construction to prepare for this World Cup (Worden, 2022). Qatar has evidently spared no expense to transform its desert into a beaming hub of decadence, complete with new stadiums, buildings, hotels, and highways—that is, until one considers the migrant workers who built this infrastructure. Investigative journalism and reports from Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have found disturbing human rights abuses including the death of over 6,500 migrant workers during Qatar’s construction, making it one of the deadliest sporting events in history (Pattisson & McIntyre, 2021). The list of human rights abuses also includes expensive recruitment fees, appalling living conditions, threats from their employers, modern-slavery tactics, and lying about and delaying worker salaries (Goodman & Worden, 2022) all against a backdrop of LGBTQ+ discrimination, disregard for women’s rights and a lack of press freedom to investigate aforementioned migrant abuses (Goodman & Worden, 2022, Human Rights Watch, 2022).

            Gianni Infantino, FIFA’s president, opened a news conference in Doha, Qatar, with a surprising one-hour monologue, stating: “Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel a migrant worker.” (Goodman & Worden, 2022). Doubtful to say the least, as Qatar has some of the most repressive migrant labour policies in the world, beginning with their abusive “Kafala” labor sponsorship system which uses “modern-day slavery” tactics to provide as much cheap and dispensable labour as possible (Goodman & Worden, 2022). The “Kafala” is a debt-bondage system, in which migrant workers looking to work in Qatar must take out loans to be recruited for work. These loans can range from seven hundred to fourteen thousand USD, in some cases a financially crushing responsibility which can take years to pay off (Goodman & Worden, 2022). Migrant workers in Qatar are then tied to their employers, or “sponsors,” and cannot request or renew their residence permits without the sponsor’s permission. However, if the sponsor fails to renew the permit, it is the worker who faces punishment (Amnesty International, 2021).

            Additionally, these workers face deadly working environments, some of which possess exorbitant heat levels. There is also the systemic use of stealing and delaying wages of migrant workers. Thousands of migrant workers suffer from late or non-payment of wages (Amnesty International, 2021), thus taking out costly loans to pay the illegal recruitment fees. These have devastating impacts on workers who are providing not only for themselves but for families back home–many of these workers have had to return home with no money as a result (Amnesty International, 2022).

            Additionally, the living conditions within dorms are just as horrid as working conditions outside. Workers tend to live in dirty, cramped, unsafe accommodations (Amnesty International, 2021). Indeed, Amnesty found men sleeping in bunk beds in rooms of eight or more people, although Qatari law and the Workers’ Welfare Standards allow for a maximum of four beds per room and prohibit bed sharing and the use of bunk beds (Amnesty International, 2021).

           When workers are bold enough to complain about their conditions and human rights transgressions they are met with strong threats from their employers. One migrant worker working at the Khalifa Stadium said that they “went to the company office, telling the manager I wanted to go home [back to my country] because always my pay is late. The manager screamed at me saying ‘keep working or you will never leave!’” (Amnesty International, 2021). Mohammad, who maintains green spaces in the Aspire Zone, said, “The company has my passport. If my sponsorship status changes they will send me back and I have a lot of debt to pay…, I want my passport back… [and] the camp is no good, there are eight of us in one room – it is too many. But I cannot complain [because] they will end my job.” (Amnesty International, 2021). Couple this with the fact that migrant-worker trade unions are illegal and therefore one cannot organize, protest, nor strike against their employers’ hopeless system of control, exploitation, and abuse—migrant workers in Qatar cannot strike for their basic human rights. Workers who refuse to work because of their conditions are threatened with pay deductions, or get handed to the police for deportation without receiving the pay they are owed (Amnesty International, 2022).

           These Migrant workers overwhelmingly arrive from poorer countries such as India, Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Ghana, and Kenya (Worden, 2022), leave their country behind for years in hopes of providing a better future for their children. As Gianni Infantino once said, “Qatar is offering migrants the opportunity to provide for their families, whereas Europe has closed its borders,” adding elsewhere in the press conference that he would compensate workers and their families who faced abuse and death while building the World Cup stadiums (Goodman & Worden, 2022). However, there is no indication that the legacy fund will go to any of the thousands of families who lost their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons to Qatar’s brutal working regime. Furthermore, Qatar forbids the press freedom necessary to investigate migrant labour abuses, making it nearly impossible to document and track death and abuse as a result of the World Cup construction (Goodman & Worden, 2022). Qatar has also refused to do autopsies on workers who have died; if officials claim the deaths were “natural causes” then they are not obligated under Qatar’s labour law to compensate the families (Worden, 2022).

           Importantly, all of these violations occur against a larger backdrop of intense LGBTQ+ discrimination. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and as recently as this past September, Qatari security forces arrested and abused LGBTQ+ people in detention (Goodman & Worden, 2022). The teams of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland announced that their captains will no longer be wearing armbands in support of LGBTQ rights during the World Cup, since tournament organizer FIFA promised to sanction any players who wear the bands (Goodman & Worden, 2022).  Qatar also has a male-guardianship system which shows discrimination and a lack of rights for the women of Qatar as well.

           Some of the saddest cases that Human Rights Watch have seen regard families wherein the main breadwinner, a young man, goes to Qatar, takes out a loan to work there, works in debt bondage, gets cheated of wages, does not receive the wages he was promised, and then has his body returned home to his family in a coffin (Goodman & Worden, 2022).

           The following is a statement from former Qatar migrant worker, Hari, featured in a “report” by Human Rights Watch: “When I went to Lusail in Qatar, there was nothing. There wasn’t even a single building. Now there are towers everywhere. We built those towers. In the heat, we worked out of compulsion with face covers. We were drenched in sweat. We poured water, sweat, from our shoes. Even in that heat, we worked hard. My son did not recognize me when I first came from Qatar to Nepal…I met my son only five times in the 14 years I was away. I used to cry and feel bad that I had to stay away from children for work” (HRW, 2022).

           A following statement from Nanda Kali Nepali, whose husband was one of those deaths: “My husband used to work as a driver. He used to come for two months every two years. This time, only his dead body came, four years after he had last visited Nepal. What would he say? He used to say, “I will work here ’til I can. We have loans we need to repay.” My husband was my source of support. Without him, who do I rely on? I sit and I cry on my own. Whom can I show my tears to?” (HRW, 2022)

           Although FIFA regards themselves as “not the police of the world” (Worden, 2022), they were entirely aware of the Kafala system in Qatar along with Qatar’s position on social issues, but none the less granted them the contract while turning a blind eye to the severe human rights abuses, presenting them as a strong ally and friend to the international governing body of FIFA.


A. I. (2021, July 29). Qatar World Cup of Shame. Amnesty International. Retrieved November 27, 2022, from https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2016/03/qatar-world-cup-of-shame/

A. I. (2022, October 20). Reality check: Migrant workers’ rights in QatarA. Amnesty International. Retrieved November 27, 2022, from https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2019/02/reality-check-migrant-workers-rights-with-two-years-to-qatar-2022-world-cup/

H. R. W. (2022, November 19). Qatar: FIFA World Cup opens without remedy for migrants. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved November 27, 2022, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/11/19/qatar-fifa-world-cup-opens-without-remedy-migrants

H. R. W. (2022, November 21). Qatar: Rights abuses stain FIFA World Cup. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved November 27, 2022, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/11/14/qatar-rights-abuses-stain-fifa-world-cup

Goodman, A., & Worden, M. (2022, November 21). World Cup in Qatar is “deadliest major sporting event” in history, built on a decade of forced labor. Democracy Now! Retrieved November 27, 2022, from https://www.democracynow.org/2022/11/21/fifa_world_cup_qatar_labor_rights

Pattisson, P., & McIntyre, N. (2021, February 23). Revealed: 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since World Cup awarded. The Guardian. Retrieved November 27, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/feb/23/revealed-migrant-worker-deaths-qatar-fifa-world-cup-2022

Worden, M. (2022, August 23). The World Cup is exciting, lucrative, and deadly. Newsweek. Retrieved November 27, 2022, from https://www.newsweek.com/world-cup-exciting-lucrative-deadly-opinion-1735799.

YouTube. (2022). Fifa/Qatar: Compensate Migrant Workers for Abuses. YouTube. Retrieved November 27, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzjdQe8Ypkk.

The Right to Post, Like and Share

By: Peter Xavier Rossetti

In the twenty-first century, the internet has become a vital method of communication. Most
people use it to receive information, socialise and express personal feelings, emotions and/or
concerns on an abundance of issues to a wide audience. It is these attributes that create the
internet’s enabling nature. The idea that the internet is a place of limitless connections and we,
as its users, are limitless by extension, has helped mould it into a cornerstone in popular culture.
Ultimately, it has become a very hard thing to live without and yet that is exactly the reality many
Iranians will come to face.

The government of Iran has a complicated history with suppressing access to the internet and
consequently the freedoms of expression, association and information. From the early 1990s to
the mid 2000s Iranians enjoyed free access to the internet without much government
intervention or overreach (Alimardani, 2021). It was only until the presidential election of 2009
did the fate of free and unrestricted internet access in Iran change for the worse. After winning
re-electron through widely suspected voter fraud the returning President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad sought to crack down on all anti-government, anti-Islamic and reformist/regime
change rhetoric being spread across the internet in Iran (Alimardani, 2021). What resulted was
a decade of off-and-on again bans and restrictions placed on Western media and internet
services such as Youtube, Twitter and Facebook (Alimardani, 2021). Since 2009, there seems
to have never been a time where Iranians once again enjoyed free and uncensored access to
the internet like they had previously. Yet somehow, the situation may have further worsened.

In July 2021, the government of Iran moved forward with a certain piece of troubling legislature.
When first made public it had been officially titled by Iranian parliament as the “Cyberspace
Users Rights Protection and Regulation of Key Online Services Bill” and was seen by many
observers as another effort to further censor and control internet access in Iran (Committee to
Protect Journalists, 2021). Concerns over access to the internet, journalism and certain
individual freedoms due to this bill were presented to the government but all proved futile. This
disturbing bill, roughly half a year later, is now well on its way to being passed into formal and
official Iranian law.

As of the time of writing the bill is now called “Regulatory System of Online Services Bill” but is
commonly referred to as the “Protection Bill”. Sadly, this new name did not entail a change in
structure as the complete nature of the bill is just as terrifying as it was originally predicted to be.
Firstly, the bill will prohibit and ban any foriegn internet service that does not maintain physical
representation in Iran itself (Article 19, 2021). What this does is essentially block American
internet services which cannot have an official presence in Iran due to US sanctions. The bill
also encourages Iranians to use locally provided internet services only and criminalises the
creation, distribution and usage of VPNs (Article 19, 2021). These two parts of the bill go
hand-in-hand. By making VPNs illegal the government is forcing Iranians to strictly use
Iran-based services if they want to access the internet. Yet perhaps the most frightening
features of the bill are the last two. The government will require Iranians to use their real, legal
identity when accessing the internet and most internet infrastructure will be overseen by the
Iranian Armed Forces (Article 19, 2021). With online anonymity completely extinguished the
public will be forced to censor themselves. This is especially true if they know the army is
constantly motoring what they say and do on the internet.

The “Protection Bill” has been condemned by many organisations, namely the Office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In an official statement
published at the beginning of March 2022, the OHCHR denounced the bill. The statement
claimed that the “Protection Bill” would isolate Iran from the global internet and cited concerns
about the restrictions on the free flow of information in and out of the country the bill would
inevitably cause (OHCHR, 2022). Both cases brought up by the statement are of equal
legitimate concern yet the bill is still set to pass in mid-March 2022 and the Iranian government
is seemingly unheeding to international criticism. The future of the internet and Iran is no doubt
in trouble.

The implications of the “Protection Bill” will be detrimental not only to many of the rights and
freedoms of Iranians but also the nature of the internet itself. For a while now it has been difficult
for Iranians to advocate for change over the internet but this bill will be the final nail in the coffin.
By pacifying Iranians internet access the government is actively destroying what the internet is
supposed to do. It is ultimately a service intended to connect people and help bring ideas
together for further development. Without unrestricted access to the internet none of this is
possible. The death of free internet access in Iran is not only a disgusting betrayal of human
rights but also an attack on the internet itself.


  1. Alimardani, Masha. “New “Protection” Bill on Internet Freedom.” The Iran Primer. October 14, 2021. Updated February 23, 2022.
  2. “Iran’s parliament moves forward with troubling bill to further restrict internet.” Committee to
    Protect Journalists. November 1, 2021.
  3. “Iran: Parliament’s “Protection Bill” will hand over complete control of the Internet to authorities.”
    Article 19. August 5, 2021.
  4. “UN human rights experts urge Iran to abandon restrictive internet bill.” Office of the United
    Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. March 1, 2022.

A Call for a Stronger Response to Russian Aggression in Ukraine

By: Hero Aiken

War is evil. The consequences of war are unequivocally atrocious and
unimaginably far-reaching. Monuments are destroyed, families are torn apart,
precious human lives are lost. No one escapes war unscathed. Amnesty
International does not support war. I, like many others, am fundamentally a pacifist,
and abhor war and armed conflict in all cases. Amnesty International does, however,
support “freedom from mental and physical violence” as well as “freedom of
conscience and expression” (Candlelight U of T). My agreement with this second
tenet compels me to present my argument for the armed intervention of NATO in the
Russian invasion of Ukraine, because I feel that the war in Ukraine will not end until
Putin is forced to retreat from Ukrainian land. To this end, I will dispel a common
justification for the nonparticipation of NATO troops in the conflict.

I am against the development and continuation of the war in Ukraine. That
said, because Putin’s aggression and greed are what caused the invasion to begin, it
is impossible to achieve this aim without forcing his retreat from Ukraine’s sovereign
territory. The Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine is an all-too familiar scene. In an
unfortunate turn of events, the only way to stop the war in Ukraine is to briefly
escalate tensions by forcibly expelling Russian troops from Ukrainian territory to
restore peace in Europe and around the world. This is not Putin’s first foray into
Ukrainian sovereign territory. In 2014, he annexed and occupied the Ukrainian region
of Crimea. At the time, sanctions were launched by the United States, the European
Union, and other international organisations against individuals, businesses and
officials from Russia. Despite this, Russia maintained control of this Ukrainian region.
It is clear from this example that sanctions, while admirable and useful, are
insufficient to deter Vladimir Putin’s aggression towards Ukraine.

When Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine on February 24th 2022,
they renewed a brazen attack on the sovereignty of that country, as well as the
safety and human rights of its citizens. The European and African unions, individual
countries, NATO, as well as the United Nations have all condemned the Russian
Federation’s illegal attack on Ukraine in the strictest terms. The Canadian
Government called on the Kremlin to suspend “hostile and provocative actions”,
terming the attack “egregious” and an example of “unwarranted aggression” (Prime
Minister of Canada). There has likewise been an enormous and quasi-unanimous
push towards implementing harsh sanctions on the Kremlin and the oligarchs whose
interests it is said to privilege. These include penalties in the areas of aviation, trade,
energy, private wealth, shipping, media and technology (Reuters). This amounts to
an escalation of the tactics employed by the West following the 2014 attack on
Ukraine, but it is clear that sanctions alone have not been enough to stem the
violence which has been constant since the initial incursion.

When Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine on February 24th 2022,
they renewed a brazen attack on the sovereignty of that country, as well as the
safety and human rights of its citizens. The European and African unions, individual
countries, NATO, as well as the United Nations have all condemned the Russian
Federation’s illegal attack on Ukraine in the strictest terms. The Canadian
Government called on the Kremlin to suspend “hostile and provocative actions”,
terming the attack “egregious” and an example of “unwarranted aggression” (Prime
Minister of Canada). There has likewise been an enormous and quasi-unanimous
push towards implementing harsh sanctions on the Kremlin and the oligarchs whose
interests it is said to privilege. These include penalties in the areas of aviation, trade,
energy, private wealth, shipping, media and technology (Reuters). This amounts to
an escalation of the tactics employed by the West following the 2014 attack on
Ukraine, but it is clear that sanctions alone have not been enough to stem the
violence which has been constant since the initial incursion.

Western leaders have implicitly stated that NATO troops will not be sent into
Ukraine to oppose Russian forces out of concern for the safety of their countries, and
in order to avoid an escalation to the violence. Joe Biden opposed the presence of
American troops in Ukraine as that would be “a world war when Americans and
Russia start shooting at one another” (CNN). Unfortunately, Ukrainians don’t have
the luxury of choosing to stay uninvolved for their safety. 81% of Canadians support
the actions which Trudeau and his cabinet have already taken with regard to
Russia’s attack on Ukraine (Global News). So far, this includes assistance for
Ukrainian refugees, economic sanctions levelled at Russia and Russian oligarchs,
and the sending of lethal military equipment to aid Ukraine’s defensive efforts
(Government of Canada). Despite this, only 39% of Canadians support the direct
involvement of Canadian troops in this conflict, something which is predicated on
NATO’s involvement (Global News). Although it cannot be doubted that the above
sanctions are effective and important, they have been proven painfully unsuccessful
at avoiding war in the Ukraine. The Ukrainian people are refused military intervention
even as they suffer at the hands of the Russian invasion. Hundreds of Ukrainian
civilians are dead, including many children. In the face of this tragedy, the potential
danger posed to our Western nations cannot be enough to dismiss sending military
support to Ukraine. If the West refuses to “escalate tensions”, Putin will. And this to
the detriment of innocent Ukrainians.

If Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 has taught us anything, it is that he will
not be placated. If his troops take Kyiv, it will only be a matter of time before he
targets Moldova or Poland, or any number of neighbouring nations. Because of this,
it is not only unfair of NATO and its allies to refuse to send troops out of a concern for
their own sovereignty, it is also illogical. If Putin is allowed to continue his march on
Ukraine, it will become a march on Europe. Poland, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania,
Estonia… These are all NATO powers which border on Russia or its ally of Belarus.
NATO countries will not be spared violence by allowing Russia’s government to
occupy Ukraine. Russia will gain land, resources and momentum, and NATO will still
have to defend its member states when Putin decides he is not satisfied with
Ukraine, as he was not satisfied with Crimea in 2014.

For these two reasons, it is both unjustifiable and illogical for NATO to refrain
from sending troops into Ukraine to repel Russian forces. Doing so is not only
callous, when Ukrainians cannot choose safety through non interference, but also
useless, because it is clear that Putin will continue to threaten NATO and its allies
through his potential revised position as occupier of Ukraine. Therefore, in order to
avoid further war and in both Ukraine and neighbouring countries, it is imperative
that NATO send troops to the defence of Ukrainian sovereignty. It must be made
clear to Putin, and to all other oligarchical and authoritarian regimes, that peace in
Europe and around the world is critical to ensuring “freedom from mental and
physical violence” as well as “freedom of conscience and expression”, and that those
who seek to infringe upon it will not be given the leeway to do so. Though it may
seem oxymoronic, the above exposes the escalation of tensions in Ukraine as the
swiftest course to peace.


  1. Boynton, Sean. “Canadians Support Actions against Russia over Ukraine, but Have
    Economic Concerns: Poll – National.” Global News, Global News, 11 Mar.
    2022, globalnews.ca/news/8674701/ukraine-russia-canada-ipsos-poll/.
  2. CANDLELIGHT, amnesty.sa.utoronto.ca/about/our-chapter-2/.
  3. Canada, Global Affairs. “Government of Canada.” GAC, Government of Canada, 10
    Mar. 2022,
  4. “Statement by the Prime Minister on Russia’s Attack on Ukraine.” Prime Minister of
  5. “Tracking Sanctions against Russia.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters,
  6. Wolf, Zachary B. “Here’s What Biden Has Said about Sending US Troops to
    Ukraine.” CNN, Cable News Network, 24 Feb. 2022,

Double Standards: What the Ukrainian Refugee Crisis Reveals About Western Racism

By: Jenna Barhoush

The Russo-Ukrainian war is a localized invasion that managed to expose the global
human rights violations of refugees from around the world. In the span of the first few days of
the attacks, Europe’s acceptance of White Ukrainian refugees and the media’s overtly racist
portrayals and discrimination of non-European refugees all quickly played out to show the
blatant double standards of Western dealings with the refugee crisis.

Following the third week of the influx of 3 million Ukrainian displaced persons into
Europe, the European Union (EU) activated a renewed Temporary Protection Directive (TPD)
that aimed for the immediate integration of Ukrainian refugees into other European societies and
their protection for the span of one year. The original TPD was initially formed in 2001 to
establish the required process for hosting asylum seekers fleeing persecution or conflict. It was
renewed March of 2022 to specifically address the needs of Ukrainian citizens. The renewed
TPD’s first few articles grant Ukrainians the ability to travel without a visa for 90 days out of a
180 day span as a way to maintain autonomy over their choice of residence, and to spread the
burden of hosting refugees across Europe. The directive also provides Ukrainians the right to
medical care, employment, education and shelter.

Although the TPD was already well-established during the wars in Iraq, Syria,
Afghanistan, and Yemen, it was not extended to the refugees of these countries. During the influx
of Syrian citizens in 2015, European countries did not activate the TPD with the claim that the
refugees had not met the required criteria to put the directive into effect. Most Syrians were
placed in temporary camps and not given the necessary aid as stipulated by the directive, putting
them in a ‘state of limbo.’

In as recent as 2021, European states including Denmark, Turkey and Sweden intensified
the pressure put on Syrian refugees to return to their countries, and protection was restrained. A
report by Amnesty International identified that those who did return to Syria faced harrowing
consequences of torture, rape and disappearance. While military attacks were less frequent, the
“Coverage of Ukraine Refugee crisis is ‘racist’” – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]
instability of the region and its ongoing human rights abuses did not cease. European countries,
however, declared Syria a safe zone and enforced deportation strategies. The pressure put on
Syrians is only made worse with the hostilities held by European citizens who continue to
express blatant Islamophobia and nationalism. In Turkey, mob attacks and a public outcry against
Syrians pressured the government to deport some of the refugees in 2019. Denmark was one
step ahead and decided to not deal with the issue at all by preventing refugees from any form of
aid with its self-declared “zero-asylum policy.” It also instituted a “jewelry law” that granted
the government the right to seize refugee assets as a way to ‘pay rent’ for their stay. These laws
do not extend to Ukrainians.

Poland is another European country exhibiting striking double standards. It has been
praised for its open-door policy as it welcomes all Ukrainian refugees and encourages its citizens
to be generous hosts. Poland’s humanitarian efforts extend from the community to the federal
and military levels who, as borders open up to 1.4 million Ukrainians, offer transportation
services, shelter and healthcare upon arrival. Poland’s hypocrisy exposes itself when looking at
its past dealings with refugees that are as recent as late 2021. In the fall and winter of 2021,
between 2,000 and 4,000 Afghan, Iraqi and Syrian refugees were left stranded between the
borders of Poland and Belarus, prevented entry from either country. They were not allowed
proper shelter, food, clean water or medicine. 13 people died from hypothermia as temperatures
fell to below freezing, and 431 Iraqis were forcefully sent back to Iraq in repatriation flights. In
October of 2021, Poland adopted an amendment that denies refugees the right to seek asylum
and dismisses further applicants, an illegal violation of international refugee law of which Poland
is a signatory.

Even when looking at Ukrainian refugees today, discriminatory practices are still
prevalent as Polish generosity is only extended to White Ukrainians. African students recount the
segregation process initiated by Polish forces, where students were explicitly given second
priority to entry and forms of humanitarian aid, sometimes being charged for it. Their spots
on buses and trains were taken to make room for Ukrainians and, upon arrival in Poland,
refugees were separated into two lines: one for White Ukrainians, and the other for visible
minorities. Visual footage and personal accounts further reveal that physical and verbal abuse
was a common tactic used against African, Indian and Arab students upon entry into European

Public portrayals of the Ukrainian crisis only furthers the antagonism, while also
revealing the racist criteria of refugee admission and hypocritical nature of European
governmental intervention. A popular justification for the conflicting treatments of Ukrainian
refugees as opposed to Syrian, Afghani, and Yemeni refugees has been the different proposed
levels of civility. Undue judgements are made that accuse non-White refugees of posing a
threat to European culture, and sometimes going to the extent of claiming that refugees might be
harbouring potential terrorists. While Ukrainians are praised for their armed resistance,
Palestinian and South African struggles for freedom are simultaneously condemned and given
the label of ‘violent terrorism.’ The strategies taken by governments, corporations and media
outlets are also revealing of the double standards they inhibit. Examples include the immediate
sanctions imposed on Russia and the promotion of cultural boycotts, two tactics USA and Europe
refrained from using against Apartheid South Africa and Israel. Biden’s rash labelling of Putin
as “war criminal” – a contradictory term previously avoided until thorough investigation has
been conducted – also exposes the politically-motivated and far from righteous double standards
when dealing with oppressive regimes.

Political science assistant professor Lamis Abdelaaty points to the astounding immediacy
of labelling oncoming Ukrainians as refugees. She draws on the 1951 Refugee Convention that
defines the status of a refugee as one that is directly persecuted and unable to return to their
country of origin. Contrastingly, while not dismissing the dangerous state of Ukraine, its
citizens are fleeing generalized violence rather than persecution. They have the ability and
capacity to flee as opposed to other refugees whose treks across the world were arguably as
dangerous as their presence in their country of origin. Syrians were not initially given the status
of refugees and were subliminally portrayed as migrants, the former being a term to represent
temporary asylum seekers in need of aid, while the latter encompassing individuals seeking
permanent residence and hence ones who are in competition with the locals for employment and

The striking double standards presented by the Ukrainian crisis are attributed to two
factors: the inherent racism of European states that were built on the exploitation of the Global
South, and the political motivations of USA and Europe that jump at the chance of delegitimizing
Russia. However, such motivations are not credible enough to justify the continued racist
treatment of non-European asylum seekers. Afghans and Iraqis, who are in the situation they
currently are in due to US and Western interference, and Syrians and Yemenis, are still victims of
persecution in their origin countries and should thus be extended the protection of Europe’s TPD.
The same goes for non-European asylum seekers from Ukraine, who are fleeing from the same
threats as European Ukrainians.

The most important action we can take as individuals is to dismantle our societies’
inherently racist structures that exhibit themselves most vividly during times of crisis and to call
out the institutions and individuals who harbour such hostilities. Humanitarian efforts supporting
victims of malicious war crimes and racist refugee policy must be endorsed so they can continue
to help refugees who face physical and psychological trauma in both their home countries and
European countries alike.

Solidarity is an action that must be equally extended to all victims of oppression and its
selective use is a facade calling for deconstruction. If you stand in solidarity with Ukrainians,
you must extend the same empathy to African-Ukrainians, Indian-Ukrainians, Syrians, Iraqis,
Afghanis, Yemenis, Palestinians, Indigenous communities, Sahrawis, the Rohingya, Uyghur and
every other oppressed group around the world that you have the power of supporting.


  1. ‘European Union Council directive 2001/55/EC establishing the existence of a mass influx of displaced
    persons from Ukraine’ (2022) Official Journal of the European Union L 71
  2. Micinski, N.R. (2022). The E.U. granted Ukrainian refugees temporary protection. Why the different response from past migrant crises? The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/03/16/eu-granted-ukrainian-refugees-temporary-protection-why-different-response-past-migrantcrises/
  3. ‘European Union Council directive 2001/55/EC establishing the existence of a mass influx of displaced persons from Ukraine’ (2022) Official Journal of the European Union L 71 p. 2
  4. Micinski, N.R. (2022). The E.U. granted Ukrainian refugees temporary protection. Why the different response from past migrant crises? The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/03/16/eu-granted-ukrainian-refugees-temporary-protection-why-different-response-past-migrantcrises/
  5. Petillo, K. (2022). Stuck in limbo: How Europe can protect Syrian refugees. European Council on Foreign Relations. https://ecfr.eu/article/stuck-in-limbo-how-europe-can-protect-syrian-refugees/
  6. Amnesty International. (2021). Syria: Former refugees tortured, raped, disappeared after returning home. Amnesty International. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/09/syria-former-refugees-torturedraped-disappeared-after-returning-home/
  7. Ozduzen, O., Korkut, U., & Ozduzen, C. (2021). ‘Refugees are not welcome’: Digital racism, online place-making and the evolving categorization of Syrians in Turkey. New Media & Society, 23(11), 3349–3369. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444820956341
  8. Hardman, N. (2022). Denmark’s Mismatched Treatment of Syrian and Ukrainian Refugees: Government Should Treat All Refugees Equally. Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/16/denmarks-mismatched-treatment-syrian-and-ukrainian-refugees
  9. Rosenzweig-Ziff, D., Rauhala, E., Bearak, M. (2022). As trains of Ukrainian refugees arrive in Berlin, E.U. offers warm but ‘temporary’ welcome. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/02/ukraine-refugees-berlin-temporary-protection/
  10. International Rescue Committee. (2022). What is happening at the Belarus-Poland border? International Rescue Committee. https://www.rescue.org/article/what-happening-belarus-poland-border
  11. Amnesty International. (2022). Poland: Digital Investigation Proves Poland Violated Refugees’ Rights. Amnesty International.
  12. International Rescue Committee. (2022). What is happening at the Belarus-Poland border? International Rescue Committee. https://www.rescue.org/article/what-happening-belarus-poland-border
  13. Amnesty International. (2022). Poland: Digital Investigation Proves Poland Violated Refugees’ Rights. Amnesty International.
  14. Rosenzweig-Ziff, D., Rauhala, E., Bearak, M. (2022). As trains of Ukrainian refugees arrive in Berlin, E.U. offers warm but ‘temporary’ welcome. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/02/ukraine-refugees-berlin-temporary-protection/
  15. CBS News. (2022). Black Ukraine refugees allege discrimination while trying to escape Russian invasion. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/black-ukraine-refugees-racism-discriminationrussian-invasion/
  16. Dias, I. (2022). Ukrainian Refugees Are Being Embraced by Europe. Why Weren’t Syrians? MotherJones. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2022/03/ukrainian-refugees-are-being-embraced-byeurope-why-werent-syrians/
  17. The Associated Press. (2022). Europe’s different approach to Ukrainian and Syrian refugees draws accusations of racism. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/europe-racism-ukraine-refugees-1.6367932
  18. Al Jazeera Staff. (2022). ‘Double standards’: Western coverage of Ukraine war criticised. AlJazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/27/western-media-coverage-ukraine-russia-invasion-criticism
  19. Dias, I. (2022). Ukrainian Refugees Are Being Embraced by Europe. Why Weren’t Syrians? MotherJones. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2022/03/ukrainian-refugees-are-being-embraced-byeurope-why-werent-syrians/
  20. Munayyer, Y. (2022). On Watching Ukraine Through Palestinian Eyes. The Nation. https://www.thenation.com/article/world/ukraine-palestine-occupation/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%204.03.2022&utm_term=daily
  21. Long, C., Corder, M., & Tucker, E. (2022). EXPLAINER: Who’s a war criminal, and who gets to decide? AP News. https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-putin-biden-united-nations-jenpsaki-40e21508055f7ff65424afe2d8e406d8
  22. GA Res 2198 (XXI), UNHCR, UN (28 July 1951) Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
  23. Dias, I. (2022). Ukrainian Refugees Are Being Embraced by Europe. Why Weren’t Syrians? MotherJones. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2022/03/ukrainian-refugees-are-being-embraced-byeurope-why-werent-syrians/

“Rights of the People” : The Suppression of Freedom of Speech in Iran

By: Anonymous

The 1906 Constitution of Iran would only age seventy three years before the theocracy resulting from the Islamic revolution would replace it in December of 1979. The new collection of laws took influence from Islamic principles and concepts. At first glance, with the exception of the inclusion of religious ideas within a number of articles, the Constitution reads as any other. However, it is not what’s written down that matters, rather whether it is put into practice; whether reality is congruent with legislation.

Chapter 3 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran concerns itself with the “Rights of the People.(Constitute Project, 2021)” Article 27, specifically, states that, “Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam. (Constitute Project, 2021)” In short, peaceful demonstrations are permitted.

Despite this law having been in the constitution, untouched, since 1979, the Iranian regime is notorious for shutting down any form of protest, no matter how peaceful. The demonstrations of November of 2019 are a recent and tragic example.

Years of government mismanagement and corruption led to an almost 300% increase in the price of fuel; a natural resource that was supposed to have been nationalised, but never was (United States of Peace, 2021). Despite people being aware of the government’s brutally intolerant reactions to any form of opposition, the people of Iran courageously took to the streets in peaceful protest on the 15th of November (United States of Peace, 2021).. Unarmed civilians were met with riot police, tear gas, and live bullets (United States of Peace, 2021). Personal acquaintances of deceased protesters asserted that their companions died of gunshots to the head and/or to the chest (Human Rights Watch, 2020). Later, the testimony of a former security officer would assert that orders from the office of the Supreme Leader authorised the firing of bullets directly at people (Iran International, 2022). On the 16th of November, the government enacted an internet blackout, effectively cutting off the country from the international community (Human Rights Watch, 2020). This was detrimental given the fact that local news outlets are heavily censored. Social media was the primary form of communication between the average Iranian and the outside world and, for those who were unable to protest physically, it was a means of using their voice to accumulate attention from international media and other groups.

By the end of the protests, hundreds were killed, thousands were injured, and at least seven thousand people were arrested (many of whom had sustained severe wounds) (Ministry of Immigration and Integration, 2020). The specific numbers are a subject of controversy as the regime, unsurprisingly, threatened many of the victims’ families to silence. Furthermore, they were forbidden from holding funerals or hosting memorial services This attempt to supress the truth becomes increasingly abhorrent when we consider the fact that many of the victims’ families were already underprivileged, scilicet, low-income and working-class (Fassihi and Gladstone, 2019). Such systematic repression in response to a  public gathering where arms were not carried (by anyone other than the IRGC and other such security forces) and the subject matter was not in any way “detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam,” is emblematic of the regime’s efforts to subjugate the Iranian people and prevent them from seeking justice, reform, or even just closure for their loss. The “Rights of the People,” as outlined in the regime’s very own constitution have never and still do not translate into reality.

There are myriad other examples of protests that ended in public devastation including (but not limited to): the Student Protests of 1999, the 2009 Green Movement, and the 2017 Economic Protests (United States of Peace, 2021). All started peacefully, all ended in spilt blood and thousands of arbitrary arrests. Detainees have since been subject to torture, and in some cases, execution.  Furthermore, their families have been routinely threatened and gaslighted. Violence from the theocracy is not unprecedented, but that is not an excuse to overlook these atrocities. 

Every human should have the right to speak freely, especially with regards to their fundamental needs. The people of Iran have been deprived of this right for decades. They have, and continue to suffer under a regime that cannot even uphold the laws that they, themselves, wrote. It is the responsibility of the international community and human rights organisations to hold the Iranian government accountable for their infringement of human rights. Formal investigations into these crimes should not simply be ideas that are forgotten as soon as they are suggested, rather they should be seriously followed through. The regime has been a source of trauma and agony, not only for the people living on Iranian soil but also the millions of Iranians scattered across the globe. Their continuing presence in a position of authority is detrimental to both the victims of their obscenity and those who must witness it.


  1. Constitute Project. “Iran (Islamic Republic of)’s Constitution of 1979 with Amendments through 1989.” Constitute Project, 26 Aug. 2021.
  2. Fassihi, Farnaz, and Rick Gladstone. “With Brutal Crackdown, Iran Is Convulsed by Worst Unrest in 40 Years.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Dec. 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/01/world/middleeast/iran-protests-deaths.html.
  3. Human Righs Watch. “Iran: No Justice for Bloody 2019 Crackdown.” Iran: No Justice for Bloody 2019 Crackdown, 17 Nov. 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/11/17/iran-no-justice-bloody-2019-crackdown.
  4. Iran International. “IRGC Officer Says 850 Killed in Two Iranian Provinces Alone in 2019 Protests.” Iran International, Iran International, 6 Feb. 2022, https://www.iranintl.com/en/202202065630.
  5. Ministry of Immigration and Integration. “Iran November 2019 Protests.” The Danish Immigration Service, 2020.
  6. United States Institute of Peace. “Fact Sheet: Protests in Iran (1979-2020).” The Iran Primer, 21 Jan. 2021, https://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2019/dec/05/fact-sheet-protests-iran-1999-2019-0.

Protect Her Choice for Her Protection

By: Penelope Giesen

In the United States’ latest revision on placing legal restrictions for women’s access to safe reproductive care, the Florida State
Legislature voted to ban abortions for women after 15 weeks. This latest law is following a similar law
passed in Mississippi which will go to the Supreme Court sometime this summer. Florida had been a
haven for women seeking abortions throughout the south, so this ruling poses a threat to millions of
women seeking safe healthcare. Access to safe abortions is a human right and despite the religious
rationale given by conservative politicians, the reality is that abortions happen. Though sanitary and safe
abortions with legal oversight are the ones restricted, illegal and horrific procedures that are a danger to women seeking them
will continue.

The reality is that women who seek abortions, often who fall into younger age groups with comparatively less disposable income relative to their peers, are likely to seek protect their future and fear of
the situation a baby would be born into. This results in many cases where women seek abortions whether they are legal or not. The New York
Times published data on the abortions sought in Texas following a new restrictive law on abortions in that
state. This data found that though the number of abortions shrunk, its impact was severely restricted by
women seeking abortion pills and out-of-state legal abortions. In total, the New York Times estimates that
abortions fell by about 10%.

The reality is that these laws don’t stop abortions, yet they endanger women and harm
marginalized and lower income communities the most. Women who can afford to travel to another state, take time
off from work, and pay for child care and/or transportation will continue to have safe and legal abortions. Yet,
women who don’t have the ability to do so will be faced with a horrifying reality. Some effects include women carrying to term a fetus
when they are not emotionally or physically prepared for or seeking a dangerous, painful, and horrifying
illegal procedure. The Guttmacher Institute reports that in 1965, illegal abortions accounted for close to
200 deaths and 17% of pregnancy-related deaths.

The laws being introduced in Florida, Mississippi, and many others are ineffective in stopping
abortions, and will result in horrifying deaths as well as traumatizing and unwanted pregnancies that are easily avoidable. These restrictions will
further burden the most vulnerable and marginalized groups of our society.


  1. Gold, Rachel Benson. “Lessons from before Roe: Will Past Be Prologue?” Guttmacher Institute, 14 Sept.
    2018, https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2003/03/lessons-roe-will-past-be-prologue.
    2. Mazzei, Patricia, and Alexandra Glorioso. “Florida Lawmakers Vote to Ban Abortions after 15 Weeks.”
    The New York Times, The New York Times, 4 Mar. 2022,
    3. Sanger-katz, Margot, et al. “Most Women Denied Abortions by Texas Law Got Them Another Way.” The
    New York Times, The New York Times, 6 Mar. 2022,

Remain in Mexico: Human Rights Abuses on the U.S.-Mexico Border

By: Tia DeRuiter

In January of 2019, former U.S. President, Donald Trump, and his administration,
enacted the “Remain in Mexico” policy (MPP) (Abdalla, 2022). Since then, this program has
become a contentious issue, making up a key tenant in Joe Biden’s 2020 election campaign
(Abdalla, 2022). Shortly after President Biden’s inauguration, he ceased accepting new
enrollments in this program, and finalized the eradication of MPP in June of 2021 (Abdalla,
2022). While fulfilling his promises, two states, Texas and Missouri contested the removal in
court, and won, the program being reinstated in August (Abdalla, 2022). While Biden has
since asked the Supreme Court to overrule this decision, and will begin doing so in April of
2022, the program continues (Abdalla, 2022).

Former president, Donald Trump, made much of campaign and tenure, on the premise
of anti-migration and xenophobic sentiments (Abdalla, 2022). The MPP program is in
consequences of these discriminatory ideologies, looking to end “frivolous” asylum-claims
(Abdalla, 2022)). This program mandates the removal of any arriving migrants to the
U.S.-Mexico border, forcing them to, much like its namesake, remain in Mexico (Human
Rights Watch, 2022). These migrants must stay in Mexico while their claims are heard in
court, processed, and ultimately until the decision has been made to grant or deny them entry
into the U.S. (Abdalla, 2022).

Since its establishment in 2019, this program has come under heavy criticism for the
dangerous conditions and violence asylum seekers are subjected to as a result (Abdalla, 2022;
Human Rights Watch, 2022). It is estimated that over 71,000 migrants have been a part of this
program in its duration, including children, and people with disabilities and chronic health
issues (Human Rights Watch, 2022). Subsequently, many of these asylum seekers have
reported to be at risk of and experienced violence, including rape, extortion, kidnapping, and
murder (Abdalla, 2022). According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), this number reached
upwards of 1,500 as of February 2021 (Human Rights Watch, 2022). Many of these migrants
have also reported a lack of access to basic services, such as health care (Human Rights
Watch, 2022). In addition to these grave violations of human rights, these asylum seekers
have also been forced to to wait months, and even years to have their claims heard in court
(Abdalla, 2022). This program is evidently a violation of human rights law, international law,
and migration law, and yet it continues.

Since courts in Missouri and Texas ruled in favour of reinstating the program last
year, Biden and his administration has made strides to make the process safer for
asylum-seekers (Abdalla, 2022). Including providing interviews to evaluate the threat of
returning to Mexico, determining whether these asylum seekers are well-founded in their
fear, and thus not safe to return to Mexico (Abdalla, 2022). In addition to making access to
lawyers readily available, and mandating that case decisions be made within 180 days
(Abdalla, 2022). While these changes may be a step towards protecting more migrants, they
are also largely symbolic. Migrants and asylum seekers alike continue to have their rights
violated, and those who are forced back to Mexico, remain in danger.

This programs, and others like it, such as Title 42, a policy restricting asylum-claims
during Covid-19, are evidence of the United States’ failing immigration laws, and
xenophobic foundations (Human Rights Watch, 2022; Montoya-Galvez, 2022). It has been,
according to HRW (2022), fundamental to Donald Trump’s efforts to destroy the
asylum-system in the U.S., and to the exacerbation of the inadequacies of the current system.
Ultimately, creating an institution that is deleterious to immigrants, and in contradiction to
many laws. Sparking investigations into this program, and others like it; court challenges, and
appeals to previously made legislative decisions by human rights groups, and others (Human
Rights Watch, 2022).

In February of 2022, the Supreme Court answered calls-to-action by many of these
organizations, deciding to rule on the ultimate fate of the MPP program (Montoya-Galvez,
2022). Arguments will begin in April of this year, against the court decisions to restore the
policy (Montoya-Galvez, 2022). This case is a part of many other’s taken out by the Biden
administration to fight the numerous blocks the Texan government has made to President
Biden’s immigration policies (Montoya-Galvez, 2022). While there is hope that the Supreme
Court will overturn the smaller court’s decisions, effectively ending the MPP’s reign, it does
not end the atrocious conditions migrants experience when attempting to enter the United
States. The high-levels of migrant apprehensions, and later detainments, in conjunction with
other discriminatory policies, such as the aforementioned Title 42, continue to contribute to
the deplorable circumstances surrounding migration (Montoya-Galvez, 2022).


  1. Abdalla, J. (2022, January 7). ‘Remain in Mexico 2.0’: How did the Trump-era policy get
    revived? Aljazeera.
    2. Human Rights Watch. (2022, February 7). ‘Remain in Mexico’: Overview and Resources.
    Human Rights Watch.
    3. Montoya-Galvez, C. (2022, February 19). Supreme Court agrees to weigh in on legal fight
    over the ‘Remain in Mexico’ border policy . CBS News.

The Ethics of the Winter 2022 Olympics

By: Tia DeRuiter

As the Winter 2022 Olympic Games come to a close, the questions of its morality still
persist. Located in Beijing, China, this year’s Olympics came under immense criticism
throughout the media due to the numerous human’s rights abuses occurring in the country.
Despite the high levels of surveillance throughout the country, restrictions in freedom of
speec, and the persecution, detainment, and torture of Uyghur Muslims and other ethinic
groups, the Games continued (Lamney 2022; Wharton, 2022). Many human rights
organizations challenged the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) choice to hold the event
even in the country, as it has been recognized that China’s behaviours are paramount to
extreme human rights abuses, and the treatment of the Uyghur Muslims akin to genocide
(Lamney, 2022). Calling into consideration the ethics of the Olympics.

Unfortunately, the criticisms are not new, similar ones were raised prior to 2008
Summer Games in Beijing (Lamney, 2022). Many hoped these Games would prove to be
beneficial for China, encouraging them to better-position themselves in the world, as well as
improve their human rights (Lamney, 2022). Yet, these optimisms proved futile, while China
has grown influentially in the last decade, its ill-treatments of its citizens have become more
dire (Lamney, 2022).

Over the past decade, the world has seen China evolve into an authoritarian state, its
population under constant surveillance, and facing harsh punishments for speaking out
against the regime (Lamney, 2022). In 2017, numerous reports came forth, detailing the
experience of Uyghur Muslims, and other ethnic minorities, experiences in China’s Xinjiang
“re-education” camps (Amnesty International, 2022). Including arbitrary imprisonment,
torture, forced labour, forced sterilization and abortions, and the suppression of Islam
(Amnesty International, 2021). Under the guise of quelling extremism, the Chinese
Government has gone to extraordinary lengths to mask the true nature of these camps
(Amnesty International, 2021). Since then, numerous human right’s organizations, and
governments alike have called out China’s deplorable violations, such as Amnesty
International, and Human Rights Watch

When it was confirmed, in the spring of 2021, that the Winter Olympics will indeed
be held in Beijing, it sparked a wave of denouncements on the international stage. While
many columnists drew attention to the rights abuses, and the boycotts government officials,
like President Biden, have made, few called out what this piece will argue should have
happened: a complete boycott while the Games remained in China (Wharton, 2022).

A key point being made in many articles is that a total boycott of the Olympics would
be harmful, taking away chances the athletes have worked their whole lives for (Lamney,
2022; Wharton, 2022). While it is difficult to not sympathize with this viewpoint, and the
athletes potential loss, it is, in my opinion, inappropriate to dismiss the situation in China for
this reason. Yes, athletes work hard, devote their lives, and give up a lot for their sport, but
people in China are being persecuted for their religion, tortured for basic beliefs, and
imprisoned for speaking out against these injustices (Amnesty International, 2021). The stage
may be the largest in the world, the exposure and competition like no other for the athletes,
but that is not justification for complicity in this treatment. Like many human rights
organizations, this excusal of China’s violations is akin to sports-washing (Regencia, 2022).
That being, “the practice of an individual, group, corporation, or nation-state using a major or
prestigious international sport to improve its reputation, through hosting a sporting event, the
purchase or sponsorship of sporting teams, or by participation in the sport itself’ (Wikipedia).
Much like the Summer 2008 Olympics in Beijing, this event, and the attendance of it, not
only ignores the human rights abuses, but provides China with a stage to boost its reception
(Lamney, 2022; Regelcia, 2022). Despite the devastation it would be for athletes to miss-out
on the Olympics, it is what should have been done, if not to call out China’s atrocious
behaviours, then to not excuse them, or grant an opportunity to disguise them.

The IOC, and some athletes alike, took this excuse one step further, calling the
Olympics a space free from politics, which is instead focused on unity (Lamney, 2022;
Wharton, 2022). While the claim itself is not only preposterous, it is also historically and
contemporarily inaccurate. The Olympics has long been used as international stage for
politics, from the 1936 Games in Germany during the Nazi regime, to Tommie Smith and
John Carlos raising their fists during the American anthem in the 1968 Mexico City Games
(Lamney, 2022; Wharton, 2022). It too has been contended that the continued existence of the
Olympics itself rests in politics, those in which are quite troublesome (Wharton, 2022). This
year’s Olympics, and the decision to hold them in China, is claimed to be one in which stems
from China’s monetary status as an authoritarian state (Wharton, 2022). Unlike other
democratic countries, China does not have to ask and get permission for spending large
amounts on the Olympics, rather its state has full discretion over its spending (Wharton,
2022). Because of this, many have speculated that in the near future, we will begin to see a
pattern of the IOC choosing authoritarian states for their hosts, in order to avoid obstacles and
conflicts in planning and hosting the Games (Wharton, 2022). Thus, while the IOC contends
the Olympics to be a space free from politics, it is entrenched in them, and nothing to ignore.
These are not the Games of unity, but rather those of division, placing the athletes’ and
viewers’ importance above those suffering grave rights violations in China.

The Olympics have long been an enjoyable event for many people, supporting your
country’s athletes, and watching the best of the best. Yet, this year’s Games have posed a
difficult situation for many, between rooting for their country, and acknowledging the
egregious human rights violations occurring in China. While it is hard not to see the validity
of the athletes’ attendance at this year’s Olympics, especially when appealing to emotions, it
is nonetheless a Games entrenched in ethics. In my opinion, this year’s Olympics were
unethical, dismissive, and unfortunately communicative of a disastrous message. That being,
it is okay to put aside China’s atrocious behaviours, and allow them to mask such, in order to
continue the event, its profits, and ultimately its blissfully ignorant enjoyability on an
international stage.


  1. Amnesty International. (2022, January 11). China: Draconian repression of Muslims in
    Xinjiang amounts to crimes against humanity. Amnesty International.
  2. Lamney , D. (2022, February 6). We can’t let China use the Olympics to mask genocide and
    human rights abuses . The Guardian.
  3. Regencia, T. (2022, February 3). Chinese exiles: Boycott winter olympics over Uighur
    ‘genocide’. Winter Olympics News.
    Wikipedia (n.d.). Sportswashing. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sportswashing
  4. Wharton , D. (2022, February 1). The ‘feel guilty games’?: China’s human rights issues have
    forever marked the Beijing Olympics. Los Angeles Times.

Release Osman Kavala

By: Lara Hovagimian


Turkey’s decision to ignore the Council of Europe’s deadline to release Turkish activist and businessperson Osman Kavala has come as no surprise. Assaults on human rights and the rule of law have been commonplace in the last few years, particularly since the attempted 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In fact, Kavala was indicted due to his alleged role in the July 2016 attempted coup, hours after being acquitted for “attempting to overthrow the government by force and violence” in connection with the 2013 mass protests which began in Gezi Park (Human Rights Watch, 2020). Kavala was accused of financing the Gezi Park protests, attempting to overthrow the government by helping orchestrate the 2016 coup, and espionage. He denies the charges, which carry a life sentence without parole. After a hearing on January 17, 2022, a Turkish court ruled that Kavala should stay in prison, despite his more than four years in pre-trial detention (ABC News, 2022).

The European Court judgment in Kavala v. Turkey (Application no. 28749/18) found violations of the following provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights: Article 5(1) (right to liberty and security), Article 5(4) (right to a speedy decision on the lawfulness of detention), and the rarely used Article 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights) taken together with Article 5(1). The Court continues to demand the Turkish government to release Kavala. Any continuation of his detention would prolong the violations and breach the obligation to abide by the judgment in accordance with Article 46(1) of the Convention. The Court said that by detaining Kavala, the Turkish authorities have “pursued an ulterior purpose, namely to silence him as human rights defender” (International Commission of Jurists, 2020).

Osman Kavala’s History of Activism

In 2002, Kavala founded the civil society organization Anadolu Kültür. It works towards developing collaborations among artists, cultural workers, and NGOs from Turkey and its neighbours, as well as other countries. The organization also supports youth social involvement, and implements projects to strengthen Turkey’s relations with Armenia. It has also published works relating to the history of the Armenian Genocide and the Syrian refugee crisis (Anadolu Kültür).

What Can You Do?

You should consider signing a petition to release Osman Kavala from prison at https://www.osmankavala.org/en/statements-about-osman-kavala/202-a-petition-to-the-president-prime-minister-and-grand-national-assembly-of-turkey-by-an-international-network-of-artists. The petition appeals to the President, Prime Minister and Grand National Assembly of Turkey to review the case of Osman Kavala as a matter of urgency. This petition has already been signed by several prominent academics and journalists, including Thomas de Waal, Christina Maranci, and Clare Shine.

You should also considering looking at Anadolu Kültür’s publications at https://www.anadolukultur.org/EN/36-our-publications/, which remain the fruits of Kavala’s work as an activist.


  1. “Turkey: Events of 2020.” Human Rights Watch, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2021/country-chapters/turkey#.
  2. Bilginsoy, Zeynep. “Turkish court rules to keep philanthropist Kavala in prison.” ABC News, ABC, January 17, 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/trial-philanthropist-dozens-resumes-turkey-82303822.
  3. “Turkey: Release Osman Kavala.” International Commission of Jurists, September 7, 2020, https://www.icj.org/turkey-release-osman-kavala/.
  4. Anadolu Kültür, https://www.anadolukultur.org/EN/.

The Janus-Face of Injustice: A Scathing Review of Humanity

By: Hero Aiken

Internationally, Canada has a spotless reputation. It is a clean, developed, technologically advanced country with a plethora of natural resources. In addition, the people are known for their kindness and exemplary treatment of others. In fact, to foreigners, “Canada is bathed in a glow as rosy as the leaf upon its flag.” (How Canada is Perceived Around the World, CBC, §3). The city of Toronto represents the crowning jewel of Canadian urbanism for many. It merges sophistication, excitement, opportunity and wonder, all while boasting the title of “most multicultural city in the world.” (Toronto: the City of 140 Languages, BBC). For these reasons, it might give the uninformed observer whiplash to consider the underlying failures of this fabled city to protect its most vulnerable. On a daily basis, commuting along Toronto’s major arterial roads will expose the commuter to countless unhoused individuals. It is enough to shatter any unqualified and false illusion of the city and, by extension, the country as a whole and its citizens. On average, 8,700 Torontonians are experiencing homelessness on any given day. This means that for every 10,000 people in Toronto, approximately 30 are homeless (About Toronto Homelessness, Homes First). And yet, the city maintains only 6,800 beds for those experiencing homelessness, many of which are only 24-hour respite beds (City of Toronto). How can good PR mask such glaring negligence of our most at risk? When brutal Canadian nights are spent in outdoor parks and on street corners, babies and seniors alike feel hunger gnawing at their insides. More than 100 unhoused people died in Toronto in 2021 alone (CBC). How do we muster the audacity to present such a falsely noble image to the world?

From this example come the following questions: where has this delusion come from? Who is perpetuating it? What are the consequences of its continued existence and success?

Unfortunately, in the midst of tragedy, the overwhelming response often consists of disguising the issue. For example, in the case of homelessness in Toronto, funds and efforts are lent to make transit shelters and subway stations inaccessible to those in need of shelter. Iron bars are placed on park benches to avoid the unseemly sight of someone hopeless to get some rest. Unnecessary architecture, like the pop-up restaurant that evicted dozens of unhoused individuals in 2019, misuse resources that could be allocated to the care of these people. These changes do nothing to solve the underlying issues which cause homelessness (The Problem with Literally Dining in A Bubble, Toronto Star). Toronto is not alone in this hypocrisy, perpetuating an aura of wholesome trustworthiness while simultaneously declining to meet the needs of the people. Many are those jurisdictions that enjoy a glamorous appearance in the sight of the world, all while perpetuating injustices on their people. Failure to clothe, feed and house all those who are in need is among humanity’s greatest failures. Who can we rely on if we cannot rely on each other?

The above is a concrete example of this frightening phenomenon. If it a surface level slight -if the material reality of millions was not affected by this farce – it would be unreasonable of me to condemn it so harshly. After all, who has not attempted to show their best face to the world? Who does not shy away from their faults? As it stands, however, the failure to recognize this issue will prevent the full provision for the survival and thriving of individuals both locally and worldwide. Thus, we would be irresponsible to denounce it in any but the clearest terms. How can we respect the humanity of each person 一 including “the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services” (UDHR) 一 if we do not acknowledge that it is not indeed being respected? To amputate the roots of inequality and suffering in society, we must cease to be dazzled by the blooms of good manners and good PR. This article aims to sweep aside these distractions and reveal our dangerous attitudes towards injustice and inequality. As long as an ounce of humanity’s energy is spent masking our equals’ suffering, rather than working towards the alleviation of their suffering, we will fail to enact lasting change.

Our greatest strength as humans lies in our ability to collaborate and pool our resources. Conversely, our greatest weakness is our propensity towards factionalism and discord. That said, two things can be gleaned from this: first, we will be unable to act ethically and care for all of humanity if we do not overcome the delusion that we are already doing so. Second, if we do not overcome this misapprehension and work together to provide equality, all will be weakened. Even those who do not suffer acutely from inequality will not fail to suffer from the failure to address it. These are the stakes we are operating under. We cannot afford to hide from our mistakes any longer.

Works Cited

“About Toronto Homelessness.” Homes First, 9 Feb. 2021,

homesfirst.on.ca/about-toronto-homelessness/#:~:text=There are approximately 8,700 people,wait list for supportive housing.

City of Toronto. “City of Toronto 2021/22 Winter Plan Adds Additional Shelter Spaces, Affordable Homes and Enhanced Street Outreach for People Experiencing Homelessness.” City of Toronto, 22 Oct. 2021,

www.toronto.ca/news/city-of-toronto-2021-22-winter-plan-adds-additional-shelt er-spaces-affordable-homes-and-enhanced-street-outreach-for-people-experie ncing-homelessness/#:~:text=From April 2020 to September,within the Toronto Community Housing.

Drolet, Gabrielle. “The Problem with Literally Dining in a Bubble.” Thestar.com, 8 Apr. 2019,

www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2019/04/08/the-problem-with-literally-dini ng-in-a-bubble.html.

“Ever Wonder Why You Can’t Lie down on Most City Benches? It’s Thanks to ‘Defensive Design’ | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 2 July 2019, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/how-defensive-design-leads-to-rigid-benches -metal-spikes-and-visual-violence-in-modern-cities-1.5192333.

“More than 100 Unhoused People Died in Toronto This Year. Some Say the Shelter System Is ‘Crumbling Quickly’ | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 30 Dec. 2021,

www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/homeless-deaths-toronto-2021-1.6300513. “Toronto: the City of 140 Languages.” BBC Travel, BBC,


Aiken 5

“Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” United Nations, United Nations, www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights.

“What the Rest of the World Thinks of Canada | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 3 July 2015,

www.cbc.ca/news/canada/how-canada-is-perceived-around-the-world-1.31323 43.

Chaos in Kazakhstan: Protests, Violence and Russian Troops

By: Peter Xavier Rossetti

As Kazakhstan made its way into the new year, the Central Asian country was gripped by intense civil unrest. The rage and anger emitted from the people of Kazakhstan erupted into a violent explosion seemingly overnight, but, in reality, this chaos has far deeper roots. For a long time now, Kazakhstanis have been in great discontent with their government and leaders. With limited room for democracy and transparency, Kazakhstan, a former member of the Soviet Union, seems to have been placed in a strange gray zone. It exists in a post-Soviet era but does not share much of the change and reform that other ex-Soviet states enjoy. Now the floodgates which held in the people’s collective resentment seem to have flung wide open, and the culprit is the most common thing in the country: oil.

Kazakhstan has an abundance of oil. According to Reuters, the country has recently produced 1.6 million barrels of oil per day (Bousso and Edwards, 2022). Such a vast tap into this highly coveted resource has helped keep fuel prices relatively low for Kazakhstanis. These affordable prices extend to include a certain type of fuel called liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG, which many in the country use for transportation (BBC, 2022). However, as the new year approached, the price of LPG spiked upwards to an uncomfortable level for the majority of Kazakhstanis. In outrage, citizens in the western end of the country headed to the streets in protest even though unauthorized gatherings and demonstrations are illegal in Kazakhstan (BBC, 2022). As the demonstrations continued and spread with more people joining in all over the country, it soon became clear that this was not only about LPG prices.

The lack of democratic rights and freedoms in Kazakhstan has been deemed the true source of the movement. What started as a wave of anger over sharply rising fuel prices has evolved into a much more encompassing demonstration. A brief background in Kazakhstani political history in the post-Soviet era is necessary to fully understand why this is the case.

Since its independence from the Soviet Union until 2019, Kazakhstan has been openly ruled by one man – Nursultan Nazarbayev (Walker, 2022). Nazarbayev stepped down in 2019, giving way to the new and current president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. It is strongly believed that Nazarbayev still controls Kazakhstan, with Tokayev acting as a mere political puppet. This assertion is supported by the fact that Tokayev comes from Nazarbayev’s party, the Nur Otan party, and was personally hand-picked by the former president himself (Putz, 2021). Therefore, Kazakhstan is still under the control of the same man. What all of this means is that this Central Asian nation has remained politically stagnant for thirty years straight.

Those years in question were not specifically prosperous for anyone but the select few individuals in power. The Nur Otan party has been routinely connected to corruption, suppression of the press, a lack of transparency and other autocratic tendencies. The government under Nazarbayev has afforded its citizens very little in the way of rights and freedoms. This oppressive way Kazakhstan treats its citizens has built strong resentment towards the Nur Otan party and government. This irritation had seemed to finally hit a breaking point at the beginning of January. For the people of Kazakhstan, it is no longer about fuel prices. It is about their treatment over the last thirty years.

Unfortunately, due to government-issued internet blackouts, the details revolving around the Kazakhstan protests, as they were happening, are inconsistent (Kirby, 2022). However, we can be sure that the clash between civilians and law enforcement resulted in the government’s brutal measures to cease the protests. As the protests spread over the country, they began to get into violent contact with police and other authorities. According to the Almaty – the biggest city in Kazakhstan – police force, dozens of protesters were killed, and hundreds were arrested during the days the protests and riots gripped the city (Regan, 2022). It is a similar pattern in other large cities throughout the country. Rioting, vandalism and looting became a common feature as the protests devolved into mindless violence between police and civilians.

Even as the government, barring President Tokayev, resigned, the protest and violence continued. The president eventually denounced the protesters as “terrorist bands” and called upon Kazakstan’s allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to dispatch peace-keeping forces (Thomson Reuters, 2022). The CSTO is an alliance of ex-Soviet states, including Russia, to help its members maintain order in their own respective countries. The alliance had dispatched 2,500 troops, most of whom were Russian (BBC, 2022). With the military and law enforcement beginning to take back control in Kazakhstan cities, the protests and riots began to lose momentum.

The violence in Kazakhstan has been destructive to the Kazakhstani state and the average civilian businesses and families that were ruined in the chaos. As the dust from these events settled, Kazakhstan has found itself polarized and shaken. No one can say for certain what will happen next, but there is an obvious path forward – that being peaceful reform to the country. With its abundance of natural resources, Kazakhstan can improve the lives of all its citizens but instead chooses to make the very few and powerful richer. The injustices that have been served to the citizens of Kazakhstan for more than thirty years must end. The people of this Central Asian nation should be able to choose their future and not live under one predetermined by one man. The citizens of Kazakhstan deserve better and should not have to choose between living in a state of tyranny or one of turmoil.


Bousso, Ron and Rowena Edwards. “Key Kazahk oilfield hit by protests.” Reuters. January 6, 2022.

https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/chevron-says-production-continues-kazakhsta n-oil-venture-2022-01-06/

“Kazakhstan: Why are there riots and why are Russian troops there?” BBC. January 10, 2022. https://www.bbc.com/news/explainers-59894266

Kirby, Jen. “How protests in Kazakhstan could become a geopolitical crisis.” Vox. January 8, 2022.


Regan, Helen. “Kazakhstan is in turmoil and regional troops have been sent to quell unrest. Here’s what you need to know.” CNN. January 7, 2022.

https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/06/asia/kazakhstan-almaty-protests-explainer-intl-hnk/inde x.html

Putz, Catherine. “Nazarbayev to Step Down From Nur Otan Party Leadership.” The Diplomat. December 2, 2021.

https://thediplomat.com/2021/12/nazarbayev-to-step-down-from-nur-otan-party-leadershi p/

Thomson Reuters. “Kazakhstan protests turn deadly as crowds storm, torch public buildings.” CBC. January 5, 2022.


Walker, Shaun. “Kazakhstan president vows to destroy ‘bandits and terrorists’ behind protests”. The Guardian. January 7, 2022.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jan/07/kazakhstan-president-vows-to-destroy-b andits-and-terrorists-behind-protests

Secularist VS Islamophobic Sentiment in France

By: Kaamilah Moola

Woven into the fabric of French politics are values of liberty, and republicanism, which most palpably manifests through France’s practice of “laïcite,” or secularism. A product of French philosophy and history, “laïcité” was signed into law in 1905, advocating for the separation of church and state (Villeminot, 2016). From its inception, laïcite required attitudes of neutrality in terms of faith, ensuring everyone’s freedom to practice their religion (Villeminot, 2016). However, French secularism is evolving to be understood as one that attacks the freedom of religion instead of protecting it. The value of laïcite is rapidly associated with Islamophobic sentiment, as legislation passed in the name of secularism applies more evidently to Muslims.

The 2004 ban of conspicuous religious symbols in public schools and public offices means banning a visible cross and Christian veil, the Islamic hijab and burqa, the Jewish Kippah, and the Sikh Turban. In 2022, a bill was passed extending this law to prohibit the wearing of “conspicuous religious symbols” by participants in sports events organized by “federations and affiliated associations” (Upadhya, 2022). The law further states that rules for using public swimming pools or artificial bathing areas must respect the neutrality and secularism of public services (Upadhya, 2022). Despite the absence of mentioning the hijab, or the burkini (modest full-body covering swimsuit worn by Muslim women), it is fairly evident that the law was targeted toward these two pieces of religious attire. Is it Islamophobic? Or is it because the hijab is truly too conspicuous of a religious symbol?

Islamophobia can be understood as the dislike of, or prejudice against, Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force (Oxford Languages). Accordingly, why is laïcite, and Islamophobia conflated as associated values within the context of France? The legislation regarding the prohibition of conspicuous religious symbols in official settings is used to target religious visibility. This implies that to be true to your religious beliefs while identifying as French, you must be an invisible Muslim, Sikh, and perhaps, an invisible Christian. There is hesitation as to whether laïcite is fairly enforced, with two binaries being made out, Christianity being on one end of the spectrum and Islam on the other. Given France’s previous association with the Church, cracking down on Christian conspicuous religious symbols seems to be less of a priority than those of an Islamic nature. Iman Abdelali Mamoun expresses, “how is it that in France the [Church] bells ring each hour to demonstrate a Christian presence, and yet Muslims don’t have the right to express their religious conviction [Athan- Islamic call to prayer]? So, let us be thoroughly discrete and stop all these [Church] bells”. The double standard, although somewhat subtle, exists. Therefore, is legislation in the name of laïcite is passed in the name of Islamophobia or not.

President Macron explains that legislation specific to the Islamic faith and in the name of laïcite is passed with a logical reason. Macron asserts that due to his belief that republican values such as free-thinking and free speech are under threat due to “Islamic terrorism,” he believes that “Islam is a religion in crisis.” Granted, terrorism in the name of Islam has been an ongoing global issue that remains contentious. Attacks in France, made by fundamental Islamic groups, were incontestably horrific, entailing the Bataclan attack, the Strasbourg shooting, as well as the killings of Charlie Hebdo and Samuel Paty. However, Macron’s words provoked violent attacks on Muslims that were not revealed and swept under the carpet. Islam, in France, has been painted by French figureheads as a religion of violence and terror that prove antithetical to French republican values. Under this guise, Macron calls for Islamist separatism, the institution where many draw the line as bordering on blatant Islamophobia. Macron fails to differentiate between fundamentalist terrorism and the religion of Islam. Moreover, it should be noted that this level of enforced secularism appeals greatly to the far right and sections of the left. Thus, Macron’s tightening of proposed legislation lends itself to a political dimension when leveraging support.

As a result of Macron’s push for Islamist separatism, Muslims have been somewhat stripped of their right to exercise their citizenship fully. It is fair to question, is it coincidental that because the hijab is conspicuous by nature, the legislation applies more directly to Muslim women? It is a valid response to argue that Macron’s push for Islamist separatism is no coincidence; in the name of ‘liberty’ and ‘integration,’ a free pass is given when infringing on religious rights and policing women’s bodies. In essence, the French political trend of arguably marginalizing Muslims through legislation is not necessarily coincidental under laïcite.


Affairs, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World. n.d. “Islam, Secularism, and the Culture Wars in France.” Berkleycenter.georgetown.edu. Accessed January 25, 2022. https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/posts/islam-secularism-and-the-culture-wars-in-france.

“France, Secularism and Hijab Paranoia | UpFront (Feature).”


“France, Islam and Secularism | Start Here.”


“France Senate Votes to Ban Wearing of Religious Symbols at Sport Events and Swimming Pools.” Jurist.org. Accessed January 25, 2022.

https://www.jurist.org/news/2022/01/france-senate-votes-to-ban-wearing-of-religious-symbols-at-sport-ev ents-and-swimming-pools/.

“French Connections – Understanding ‘Laicité’: The Ins and Outs of State Secularism.” 2016. France 24. January 21, 2016. Accessed January 25, 2022.

https://www.france24.com/en/20160121-laicite-secularism-france-history-philosophy-government-state-p ublic-schools-religion-extre.

Blackademia: the Ostracization of Black Intellect

Academics are actively discouraging Black students from pursuing academia through
anti-Black sentiments.

By: Jasmin Smith

Portrait of the Black Student

When I was fifteen years old, my favourite English teacher taught me a lesson:
academia is more important than my comfortability. “Your fellow students will have
permission to say the n-word when reading,” she said, “and if you’re upset about that, you’ll
need to mature some more, because that’s what it will be like in university.” There were only
two other Black kids in my class, and we attended the only predominantly white high school
in our city.

Two years later I would graduate with honours and attend my top choice of university,
one of the best in Canada. This university is where I learned my second lesson: Black people
are not wanted in academia. My institution, one that I had gone through a laborious process to
decide on, had decided to come out in solidarity for a white professor who said the n-word.
Never in my life, until that moment, have I ever felt so out of place or unwanted somewhere
that I had paid thousands of dollars to attend. I had turned down better schools because I felt
the institution would be a perfect fit, and here I was, having hateful messages sent to my
Twitter account because I had spoken out about my disappointment towards the university.

A few weeks ago I was taking a break from work when I saw a news headline pop-up
on my phone, feeling my heart sink to my feet. A teacher at a high school in one of Canada’s
most diverse cities— one of the few Canadian cities that made me feel safe as a Black
person— had gone to class in blackface as a Halloween costume. My first thought wasn’t
disgust or anger; in fact, the teacher himself was the last of my worries. The first thing I felt
upon reading the article was despair, and it was despair for the students.

Race in Childhood

Children are not born with an inherent ability to discriminate towards other races;
they are a completely blank slate, influenced by every aspect of their upbringing until they
are old enough to establish their own opinions.

Studies from the University of Toronto have been able to establish that between 6
months and 12 months of age, babies develop a preference towards their own race. This
occurs as a result of their environment and social group, and will not occur if babies are
surrounded by a diverse group of people during these crucial months (Weir, 2021).

Until the age of roughly five years old, children are conditioned mostly by their
families and those that they are often in contact with – thus their biases will begin to reflect
those of their parents and relatives (Weir, 2021). At this point in life, it is too early for them to
be influenced by institutional or societal perspectives on race.

Race in Canadian Public School Systems

At five years old, in a school setting, children are more likely to see their Black peers
getting in trouble or struggling academically (Weir, 2021). Black students are more likely to
be blamed for classroom problems, and more likely to be accused of cheating. These
struggles faced by young Black students are not a result of their lack of effort or intelligence,
but a result of the lack of primary assistance received from their teachers, who are often more
focused on the success of their white peers. There are many alarming statistics regarding the
correlation between race and graduation rates in American schools, with only 73% of Black
Americans graduating, in contrast with 87% of white Americans (Weir, 2016). Canada,
however, seems resistant in the collection of race-based data in public school districts.

Toronto is one of the few Canadian cities that has examined the connections between
economic status, sex, and race in connection with education. In a 2018 study published in the
Canadian Journal of Higher Education, it was found that Black secondary school students in
the Toronto District School Board were less likely to be in completely academic streams in
comparison to their white counterparts, and they were found to have worse grades overall
(Robson, Anisef, et al., 2018). The study also concluded that black students were less likely
to attend university, and most notably, that “inequality in later-life outcomes is rooted in
early-life disadvantages” (Robson, Anisef, et al., 2018).

These Black students are not suffering academically due to a lack of intelligence or
ability, but a dire lack of support from academic staff. When young students witness their
peers being treated as if they are undeserving by figures of authority, especially those who are
meant to be teaching them about the world around them, they grow to assume these biases
themselves. From this comes stereotypes regarding Black people being unintelligent or only
having the capabilities to perform labour jobs. If this uncaring nature towards Black students
is stemming from the exact same people that are meant to nurture them most, and their peers
are adopting the same sentiments, when does that begin to reflect in their self-worth?

Racial Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

According to the CDC, Adverse Childhood Experiences “are potentially traumatic
events that occur in childhood (0-17 years)” and they can result in an inconceivable scope of
later life consequences, many of which can negatively shape the rest of an individual’s life.

The University of North Carolina’s School of Social Work has developed a
compelling argument as to why racism itself should be categorized as an ACE, as opposed to
just the consequences of it. Racism is a direct cause of violence, inaccessibility to healthcare,
and wrongful incarceration; however, the CDC fails to mention the impacts that racism itself
can have on mental and physical health (Lanier, 2020).

Putting aside the discrimination that occurs within the healthcare system, racism is
something that many Black people are forced to think about on a daily basis. Racism is
something that can be experienced anywhere, at any time, and it can even infiltrate spaces
that have been deemed safe. The constant threat of discrimination can cause mass amounts of
stress as well as other serious mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety
(Lanier, 2020). Moreover, constant stress can lead to hypertension, which is a direct cause of
many heart conditions and other serious physical health concerns (Lanier, 2020).

Children of colour, and particularly black children, are able to tell when their peers
harbour negative emotions towards them, and kids can begin to detect racism from a very
early age. In fact, “studies focusing in detail on perceived self-reported racism and
discrimination find rates around 90% for Black children” (Lanier, 2020). Experiencing racism
is an extremely traumatic experience at any age, but children are especially influenced by
discriminatory experiences, and they can often shape the success of a child’s future and the
choices they make later in life.

Back to Toronto

Now you may be wondering why such a long exposition was required in order to
discuss the Halloween incident that occured at Parkdale Collegiate Institute, but each of these
aspects are relevant to understanding the true harm done by the staff member.

The staff member’s costume had been reported by a student to the institution’s
vice-principal. Why was it that a student – a child in a categorically “safe space” – was the
one who had to tell wrong from right? As of November 17th, the teacher is no longer
employed at the institution, but the question still stands (Rocca, 2021). There are a number of
people that the teacher must have seen prior to arriving to class that morning. The school has
other teachers and staff, yet none of them held their colleague accountable before he entered
that classroom, irreparably changing many of those students’ perspectives on academia

The trauma resulting from racism is a feeling that I had never truly known until I
attended my first year of university. Once I had, I hoped that nobody else would have to
experience the same. Although it was idealistic of me, the hopeless, desolate realization of
society’s inherent discrimination is a feeling that can never be replicated, nor fully described
to someone who has not experienced it. A child should not have to endure a first encounter
with systemic racism, but it is unfortunately an aspect that is deeply ingrained within our
culture. However, despite the inevitability of discrimination, a child’s first experience with
racism should certainly not occur in an academic setting, where their parents are trusting the
school staff to protect and shield their children.

For at least one student in that classroom, the experience of having their educator
wear their race as some sort of caricature would permanently damage their view of the world.
When the teacher was put on home-assignment and not immediately terminated, that sent a
message: white voices are more important than Black comfortability in academia. I felt
heartbroken over reading about the event because I knew that these children would have to
learn the same lessons that I did. Some of them— who may feel the same love and adoration
towards academics that I always have— may be left with a sour taste in their mouth for the
rest of their education.

The legal side of police brutality in Hong Kong

By: Serina Woo

Question & Rationale: What constitutes as police misconduct under basic law in Hong Kong? To what extent can the police be prosecuted for misconduct in Hong Kong protests? I am personally connected to this topic and am really interested in finding out more about it. My inquiry is based on the legal significance of police brutality, through which I examine the bindingness of legal principles, and attempt to identify gaps, opportunities and ambiguities in the law.

Disclaimer: Please note that this is an analysis from the issue pertaining to my perspective on the matter.

According to the Police Force Ordinance, a regulatory document by which Hong Kong police officers should abide by, officers should exercise a high degree of restraint when dealing with the public and it clearly states that the violation of police regulations constitutes as police.[1] So far, not one police officer accused of police misconduct has been charged or prosecuted over protest-related actions.[2] The Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) is responsible for handling complaints concerning police misconduct, however, no information has been released from the Hong Kong government on the degree of prosecution police officers will receive. [3]

There are in total three issues that I discovered. 1. The term “police misconduct” is vaguely defined. 2. There is a lack of transparency of police guidelines. 3. The Independent Police Complaints Council’s (IPCC) is inadequate in responding to complaints

  1. Vaguely defined term of “police misconduct” creates environment for government manipulation

A police representative told the Washington Post that the Hong Kong Police Force has always complied  with stringent protocols when patrolling protests and “regulations are “benchmarked” against international standards.[1] However, there currently isn’t a definite definition for the term “police misconduct” in the Police Force Ordinance, and the vagueness of the term can easily be misunderstood and misinterpreted by the general public. Even worse, misused by law enforcers when evaluating whether one is guilty of police misconduct.[2] To support this argument, The Nation accuses Hong Kong Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai Chung for publicly favoring the police officers by justifying their violent actions while intensifying public discontent by calling the clash “a riot”.[3] The implications of a vaguely defined term not only leads to societal frustration, but also potential freeing of guilty law enforcers. Nonetheless, the missing definition of “police misconduct” allows punishment to be unaccounted for in the Police Force Ordinance.[4] In a confrontation between police and protesters, police shot an 18-year-old boy in the chest at close range with their firearm. Reportedly, the police officer was not penalized but the student was charged with rioting and assault.[5] Setting aside potential media bias and misinformation, the lack of transparency fostered anger amongst citizens. From a police officer’s point of view, the vague term increases the vulnerability of their job as well. On one hand, they could be falsely charged of police misconduct. On the other, it is easier for them to avoid liability. A commonly used argument of police officers for police brutality is self-defense. Since the term of police misconduct is defined vaguely, police are allowed to avoid responsibility. Such actions jeopardizes the reputation of the entire Hong Kong police force. Therefore, Hong Kong law enforcers should amend the Police Force Ordinance Sec 6 to include a clear definition of the term “police misconduct”, as well, include reasonable punishments for different instances.

2. Lack of transparency in police guidelines

“Violating police regulations” is the definition of police misconduct in the Police Force Ordinance, widely used by law enforcers.[1] However, according to the Washington Post, the law-enforcement manuals containing police guidelines and training manuals was not disclosed to the public officially until December 24, 2019. Only after the “leak” of part of the manual.[2] This lack of transparency of the manual allowed the government and law enforcers to justify the police officer’s violations of police on their own means, neglecting the undisclosed manual. A viral video on social media shows a 57 year-old retired mechanics instructor who was within 12 yards of a police line outside government offices. He was pleading for police to stop provoking protesters.[3] During which, he began yelling obscenities.[4] An officer aimed what looked like a gun at him. Soon identified by weapon experts that it was likely loaded with balls containing pepper spray.[5] The old man fell on the ground and had to be carried away from the public. Yet, the police’s spokesperson claimed police officers acted with restraint.[6] From which we could understand, the police saw firing shots at him was the only way to restrain him. Chapter 29 of the leaked Police General Orders details protocols around the use of force, mentioning that the only time officers are allowed to use “deadly force” is when there is “assault intended to cause death or serious bodily injury”, as well, officers should be “accountable to their own actions.”[7] Applying this clause to the abovementioned incident, verbal threats should not be constituted as an intent to “cause death or serious bodily injury.” According to the manual, officers should’ve responded with verbal reinforcements or verbal.[8] The Hong Kong government has not obliged to their international legal obligations to investigate alleged abusive police, and fails to demonstrate commitment to human rights and the rule of law. The implications of the lack of transparency highlights the need of such to maintain public order and to keep the public informed.

3. Independent Police Complaints Council’s (IPCC)  inadequacy in responding to complaints

There are currently two underlying problems with the IPCC. First, the complaints council’s panel is mostly made up of conservative and pro-government figures. The chairman of IPCC, Dr. Anthony Francis Neoh is appointed by Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam, who is appointed by the Chinese government.[1] Dr. Neoh’s political stance is therefore mainly conservative and pro-government.[2] As well, the vice-chairmen of the IPCC are mostly pro-government.[3] Therefore, such politically biased leaders compromises the independent investigations of the complaints submitted. Second, the IPCC is inadequate in monitoring independent investigations launched by citizens because of their lack of legal power and investigation capability.[4] According to the Nation, between 2011 and 2018, there had been approximately 2119 complaints about police beatings submitted to the IPCC, the IPCC had only confirmed 2 of the cases.[5] This shows the incapability and inefficiency of the IPCC on dealing with complaints. Since the beginning of pro-democracy protests, it was reported by the South China Morning Post that the Hong Kong police had received 1,200 complaints regarding their behavior during protests.[6] However, according to the IPCC official website, in the most recent publication of 2018-19, there were no published complaints concerning police misconduct or police brutality.[7] In order to fully account to all complaints, the Hong Kong government would have to alter its complaint review system by granting the committee more legal power for investigation and interrogation, which ensuring that leaders’ decisions are not threatened by power.[8]

Clearly, this legal issue currently present in Hong Kong is allowing accused police officers escape their legal responsibilities. Such discontent among citizens have taken a toll on Hong Kong’s economy as well, over reputation in the international community. The strains between police and citizens will forever by engraved in the history of Hong Kong politics. The threat placed on the civil rights of Hong Kong citizens is furthered by their vulnerable position during protests towards unregulated police force.


  1. Cap. 232 Police Force Ordinance. (2018, April 26). Retrieved from https://www.elegislation.gov.hk/hk/cap232?pmc=0&SEARCH_WITHIN_CAP_TXT=restrain&xpid=ID_1438402864250_002&m=0&pm=1
  2. Mahtani, S. (2019, December 24). In Hong Kong crackdown, police repeatedly broke their own rules – and faced no consequences. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/world/hong-kong-protests-excessive-force/
  3. Ho, R. (2019, November 27). The Hong Kongers Building a Case Against the Police. Retrieved from https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/hong-kong-police-brutality/
  4. Sum, L.-kei. (2019, November 27). Police receive 1,200 complaints over handling of Hong Kong protests. Retrieved from https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-and-crime/article/3039603/hong-kong-police-receive-1200-complaints-over-handling
  5. Complaints Against Police Office, A Guide For Complaints. (2015, September). Retrieved from https://www.police.gov.hk/info/doc/pol/en/Pol_679.pdf
  6. Complaint Cases and Recommended Improvements. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.ipcc.gov.hk/en/home/index.html
  7. Hernández, J. C. et al (2019, June 30). Did Hong Kong Police Abuse Protesters? What Videos Show. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/30/world/asia/did-hong-kong-police-abuse-protesters-what-videos-show.html
  8. Kuo, L. (2019, December 11). Foreign experts quit Hong Kong police brutality inquiry over lack of powers. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/11/foreign-experts-quit-hong-kong-police-brutality-inquiry-over-lack-of-powers

Angola: 27 Years of Civil War

By: Kunal Dadlani


In the Angolan Civil War, two major parties, the MPLA, and UNITA were engaged in a dangerous conflict. Beginning in 1975, the war finally ended when Jonas Savimbi, the leader of UNITA, was assassinated in February 2002, and with the Luena Memorandum on April 4, 2002 (Meijer and Birmingham 2004, 15). The war can be split into several phases, some of which were more deadly than others, but the total cost of the Angolan conflict is “immeasurable” (Rocha 2009, 16).

This research paper will explain why and how the country devolved in civil war shortly after independence, the responsibility of different actors, before finally concluding about how this conflict affected and continues to affect Angolans socially and politically.

Independence to Civil War

By its modern borders, Angola had been formalized as a Portuguese colony at the Berlin Conference in 1884-85 (Meijer and Birmingham 2004, 11). A military coup in Portugal on April 25, 1974, signalled the end of Portuguese colonial rule in Africa (James 2011, 41). The Alvor Agreement stipulated those elections would be organized before independence around October 31, with independence set for November 11, 1975 (James 2011, 55). The agreement promised a tripartite government between the three fundamental independence movements – the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA), the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) (Davidson 1977, 142). Notably, in the ensuing Civil War, the FNLA was not a significant factor.

The Portuguese suspended the Alvor Agreement after the MPLA had driven the FNLA and UNITA out of Luanda in late August. By then, it was clear that the Portuguese would abandon Angola on Independence Day (James 2011, 58). On November 11, the MPLA declared the creation People’s Republic of Angola in the capital city of Luanda, while UNITA & FNLA declared the Democratic People’s Republic of Angola in Huambo (64).

Angola and the Cold War

The Cold War had a profound effect on Angola. Both key actors, UNITA and the MPLA, were backed by their global superpower.

W. Martin James III (2011) argues that the Alvor Agreement was purposefully sabotaged by the MPLA, with support from Cuba and the USSR, as they were aware that they would lose any election (253). The MPLA became a Marxist-Leninist party in 1977, so gained the support of the communist world (194). UNITA argued that the MPLA was a new colonial power, as they only had strength because of the USSR and Cuba (James 2011, 103).

Comparatively, Victoria Brittain (1998) argues that UNITA’s popularity was immense because of Jonas Savimbi’s, the leader of UNITA’s, significant anti-communism (10-11). The US, South Africa, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Congo (then known as Zaire) actively supported UNITA as they attempted to take Luanda militarily before the November 11 deadline (2-3). However, Between 1975 and 1983, MPLA was recognized as the legal government of Angola by every powerful nation except the US – UNITA was recognized by none (James 2011, 189).

A turning point was when the US recognized the MPLA regime in 1993 (Vidal 2008, 141). In 1991, the MPLA made a key concession, with the Bicesse Agreement, by agreeing to multiparty politics for UNITA accepting a ceasefire (Brittain 1998, 43). UNITA decided to undo the 1991 electoral results, which declared a resounding MPLA victory by force; therefore, the US-led international community switched its support from the rebels to the MPLA (Messiant 2008, 101).

The Claims to Power

The Statute of the Portuguese Natives of the Provinces of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea created by the Portuguese separated the indigenous African population from a tiny elite of civilized assimiladoes. The assimiladoes enjoyed some of the rights of Portuguese citizens, so this policy had a profound and lasting impact, helping to create the divisions and mistrust between the independence movements (Meijer and Birmingham 2004, 11).

The MPLA supporters were those who descended from mestizos and assimiladoes. UNITA embodied the economic aspirations of Ovimbundu (Meijer and Birmingham 2004, 12). The ethnic identification of these movements has largely emerged about because of conscious political manoeuvring by each group (12). UNITA appealed to their supporters by pointing out that the MPLA was a minority party that was not a black Angolan political party but dominated by mestizos and assimiladoes who keep black Angola subjugated (James 2011, 102). To avoid accusations that they were not African at all, the mestizos, whites and assimiladoes who formed the MPLA needed a class-based ideology (Newitt 2008, 74).

UNITA claimed to stand “for those who had not only been unjustly excluded from power at independence” (Ball and Gastrow 2019, 13). Furthermore, most of the leadership for the MPLA spoke Portuguese, so Savimbi believed that people would support a leader who spoke their language (James 2011, 104). UNITA respected ethnic customs and traditions, while the MPLA suppressed them. Yet many commentators have pointed out that the leadership of all the nationalist movements came from a group of Angolans classified as assimilados – those who had displayed a stipulated level of education, Portuguese culture, and economic independence (Newitt 2008, 53).

Modern Angola

In March 1991, the MPLA abandoned Marxist-Leninism and adopted democratic socialism/social democracy (Brittain 1998, 43). In October 2002, UNITA declared itself a fully disarmed and democratic political party (Meijer and Birmingham 2004, 15). There are approximately 200 registered political parties, but they have very little social, economic or ideological difference between themselves. The reason for this is that 27 years of civil war has increased the levels of mistrust among the population, making it extremely difficult for people to collaborate and co-operate with each other (Rocha 2009, 12). As a result, UNITA and the MPLA remain the two most prominent political actors, yet the MPLA is still the dominant party and has never been adequately unseated. The opposition party has been sufficiently weakened through decades of guerilla warfare and government propaganda that they do not hold any power capable of challenging the MPLA.

Additionally, the problems that led to the division between the three independence movements remain. Angola as a sovereign territory is a reality, but the modern Angolan nation still discriminates based on ethnicity, creed, class, religious or political affiliation (Rocha 2009, 2). People were killed, not for political reasons, but because they belonged to the wrong category. These social inequalities remain in modern Angola, as the civil war introduced a culture of each one for himself and the notion of survival of the fittest. Notably, while the civil war has further entrenched these inequalities, Portuguese colonial policy undeniably encouraged and deepened ethnic tensions and rivalries (3).

The consequences of the civil war are, apart from the direct war damage and neglect of infrastructure, some poor public policies and distorted economic programmes (Rocha 2009, 1). Today Angolans ranked as one of the lowest in world ratings in terms of human development, as less than 40% of the population has access to clean water and sanitation, while 70% do not have adequate social services (2). The generation born in 1975 has known nothing but war for 27 years, while almost one million people died, and hundreds of thousands have been physically and psychologically maimed (4-5). Four million people have been displaced, and 27 years of war have meant that almost every single Angola victim of disrupted family life (2). 

Furthermore, while Angola has not had a level of violence seen in 2002, there is still violence in a specific region of Angola – Cabinda. Cabinda is an area in Angola separated from Angola by a 25km strip of DRC territory (Sadiqali 1976, 30). Several campaigns arguing for the independence of Cabinda were founded in the early 1960s (Warner 1989, 33). Since 2002, many Cabindans still support demands for independence. Towards the end of 2003, the Angolan government signalled that it was prepared to talk peace or even consider a referendum – however, the conflict remains unresolved (Meijer and Birmingham 2004, 15).

So, while peace is welcoming, there are still many social and economic obstacles that Angola still faces to search for a better life. Angola needs to develop; otherwise, there will be further social upheaval (Rocha 2009, 16). 

Image Attribution: No attribution required.

Western Sahara: Africa’s Last Colony

By: Muhammed Bamne

Western Sahara is a region that is given very little attention in international media. Crowned as Africa’s last colony, It is a country that has been fighting for self-determination and independence for well over a century. Spain colonized the country until 1975 and as it was leaving, Morocco swiftly came in and for over forty years has held a brutal occupation of Western Sahara which is in defiance with U.N. convention and international law (Zunes). Currently, no country recognizes Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara (except the United States in 2020), but the lucrative extraction and exploitation of resources seem to be stopping the international community from taking any real action. The main reason for the occupation is for the plundering of its natural resources and fish, as Western Sahara is home to one of the largest sources of phosphates and rich fishing waters that supply the E.U. with much of its seafood (Contini).

Since its occupation, the Moroccan government’s occupation of Western Sahara has been characterized by decades of torture, disappearances, killings, and repression against the pro-independence Sahrawi people (natives of Western Sahara) living in the occupied territory. In 1991, the U.N. sponsored a ceasefire and promised the Sahrawi people a referendum on self-determination organized by the peacekeeping mission MINURSO (U.N.). Since then, Morocco has blocked attempts to organize a vote and the U.N. Security Council has refused to implement its referendum plan or allow MINURSO to monitor the human rights situation in Western Sahara (Democracy Now). International media has ignored the occupation in part because Morocco has blocked foreign media from entering and reporting on Western Sahara (Democracy Now).

Days after the Moroccan invasion (in 1975), Secretary of State Henry Kissinger privately told President Gerald Ford, “He hoped for a rigged U.N. Vote” to confirm Morocco’s claim over Western Sahara (Smith). Half of the Sahrawi population fled invasion to neighboring Algeria and the Moroccan invasion set off a 16-year long war with the Sahrawi liberation movement, known as the The Polisario Front. Morocco’s army, with help from the U.S. military, drove the Polisario to Western Sahara’s eastern region from the coast. Morocco then created the longest minefield and the second-largest wall on earth with help of U.S. weapons companies Northrop and Westinghouse (Democracy Now). The 1700 mile wall divides Sahrawis who remain under occupation from those who fled into exile. The U.N. Ceasefire ended after the Moroccan military broke into a southern no-go buffer zone on November 13th, 2020, to attack Sahrawi civilians and exchange fire with the Polisario Front (Democracy Now). This action came soon after a top U.S. general met with the commander of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces Southern Zone, which covers Western Sahara. As the Polisario populated regions and Morocco clash, many have been arrested in the occupied territory. These arrests include many of the peaceful protesters, a large proportion of whom are women, who demonstrate inside the capital of Western Sahara, Layouhn. They have been repeatedly sexually assaulted, beaten, and taken to secret prisons where thousands of Sahrawis have gone to be tortured, killed, or have disappeared for resisting Moroccan occupation (HRW).

The U.S.-Morocco relationship dates back to 1777 when Morocco was one of the first countries to recognize the U.S. as a nation (U.S. Department of State). Since then, alongside the military aid and funding, the U.S. announced Morocco as its largest non-NATO ally following the Cold War, opening the doors for more military deals. The relationship is mutual as we see that money has flowed both ways. For example, state-owned Moroccan phosphate company, OCP, which operates in Western Sahara, donated millions to the Clinton Foundation before the 2016 election (Vogel). Fast forward to the presidency of Trump and we see that Morocco and Israel have agreed to establish diplomatic relations as part of a U.S. brokered deal. The U.S. is now the first country to recognize Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara in return for relations and strengthening the legitimacy of Israel in occupied Palestine as well as opening the way for more military contracts that will be used to further oppress the Sahrawi people (Cambridge University Press, 318-323).

Democracy Now, an independent journalism website, was one of the first media operations to be able to get inside the country in years. In 2016, the journalism service published an exposé where we see how the Sahrawi people are suffering and their commitments to self-determination and freedom. Some of their stories are highlighted below.

One prominent interview from the publication was with journalist Mohamed Mayara who speaks about the torture and murder that his family faced at hands of Moroccan authority. He notes, “my father was one of 4 brothers kidnapped…he was kidnapped sent to jail, spent one year and six months and was killed after being tortured” (Democracy Now). When asked about what kind of risk he takes speaking to a reporter based in the western world he replied, “I have a seven-year-old daughter, I tell her about my father who was kidnapped, I tried to teach her that one day that I will face the same fate…so I am always waiting” (Democracy Now). And when asked why he takes that risk despite all the persecution he has witnessed he states, “Because I think this engagement is the duty of freedom” (Democracy Now).

Elghalia Djimi, Vice President of ASVDH, which is an association that traces the files of Sahrawi disappearance victims and former victim of forced disappearance herself, was asked what had happened to her as a victim of forced disappearance. She responded, “What happened to me happened to all prisoners…Moroccan state and secret police used dogs as a form of torture…they stripped me naked…I lost all my hair because of the chemicals they used on my head chemicals used on my head…” (Democracy Now). She was waterboarded, beaten with a baton on her feet, threatened with rape, and much worse. Like Mohamed when asked why she was taking such risk she said, “I am not afraid, I took a vow that we have to talk about this issue, if we do not speak out, especially us as victims who have suffered all of this, this problem will remain” (Democracy Now).

What Can You Do?

The situation in Western Sahara is a dire occupation that has been going on for far too long without any sort of broad mainstream coverage or support from the international community. Amnesty International UofT encourages all readers to stay informed on the subject and to contribute to change through various organizations that are still fighting for the native people of Western Sahara: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Front Line Defenders to name a few. Please consider making a financial contribution to these organizations as well.

Image Attribution: No attribution required.

(Copy)right to Life

By: Emma Thornley

If you were asked to predict the next century’s emergent human rights issues, what would you say? There’s no shortage of crises to choose from. Anxieties among laymen and experts alike span environmental, political, and technological topics. The United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner has issued warnings regarding climate change’s effects on the rights to development, food, sanitation and housing (OHCHR, 2015). The International Journal on Human Rights has similarly predicted compounding crises of poverty, urban development and increasingly isolationist immigration policy (Petrasek, 2014). The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre has written extensively on the threats that advances in technology like artificial intelligence, automation, and digital information constitute (BHRRC, 2021). 

 In the face of these formidable challenges, more futuristic and cerebral concerns can lose their potency. I believe that intellectual property rights, AKA IP rights, are a prime example of how highly theoretical concepts can escape public scrutiny. Outside of academia’s ivory tower, IP rights can seem underwhelming compared to broader human rights concerns. In reality, IP rights are shaping the future of freedom of information, access to cultural heritage, artistic expression and Indigenous rights (OHCHR, 2015).

The extent of our day-to-day entanglement with IP’s gargantuan spread could (and has) filled volumes. I couldn’t do it justice in a small article. So instead, I’d like to introduce you to what IP is, the basics of how it works, and a select assortment of ways it’s influencing human rights close to home. It’s my hope that you’ll agree intellectual property rights are instrumental to human rights as a whole and you will engage critically with related issues in future.

So what exactly are IP rights? They’re a legal quantification of intellectual, intangible assets, giving ownership over inventions, designs, creative products, brands and more (CIPO, 2016). At its core, intellectual property rights are about ideas. Who owns an idea? How do they come to own them, and what gives them that right? Who can use an owned idea? Who can profit from it?  

Think of a company brand. Maybe the cafe you buy coffee from on your morning commute, or your favourite clothing store. Their company name is an intellectual property right. They own it. They have applied for ownership of that specific name with the Canadian Intellectual Property Right office, secured it, and registered it. Nobody else, individual, corporation or organization, has the right to use that name without the brand’s permission, or outside the scope of fair use outlined in S. 29 of the Canadian Copyright Act (Government of Canada, 1985). That same brand also owns the intellectual rights to their logo and unique products. As an example, Starbucks owns the phrase “Pike Place”.

Songwriters own original melodies and lyrics. Authors own their stories and the unique aspects which comprise them. In a particularly infamous example, Anne Rice, author of Interview with the Vampire, petitioned to have all fan fiction involving any aspect of her publications removed from fan fiction websites (Pauli, 2002). Her push failed, but only because fan fiction is considered transformative and therefore fair use (Kopp, 2021). 

Functional inventions and invention blue-prints can also be owned. Vaccines, including the various COVID-19 shots, are patented (Lindsey, 2021). So are genetically modified organisms (Coles, 2021).

This is where we begin to see the obvious overlaps between IP rights and human rights. 

In a 2015 submission to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council, science and culture were described as “fundamental to human dignity and autonomy” (Shaheed, 2015, p. 3) Exploitative intellectual ownership practices therefore constitute a uniquely insidious threat. Shaheed, the report’s author, drew on the collective concerns of international human rights organizations when she noted that the tension between IP rights and human rights was characterizable as the tension between community and privatization (2015, p. 3). Knowledge and practices that had traditionally been held as communal property, if not birthright, were being appropriated by private entities (Hale, 2018) 

Jenna Rose, a researcher at the Grenoble Ecole de Management’s Business Lab for Society, referred to this process as “scientific colonialism” in an article about biopiracy in the medical field (2016). She described medical biopiracy as follows:

“Often, in the search for new bioresources, researchers draw on local people’s traditional knowledge about the properties of a particular plant, animal or chemical compound. [Biopiracy is] when researchers use traditional knowledge without permission, or exploit the cultures they’re drawing from.” (2016)

Biopiracy and resource appropriation is an ongoing issue in agriculture as well. Monsanto, a genetically modified seeds distributor, has been named by Indigenous activists as one of the largest corporate biopirates around today (LaDuke, 2005, p. 115). Seeds were historically common property. Farmers would collect seeds through progressive harvests, effectively creating a genetic bank of good farming stock. Some private corporations, Monsanto included, have thrown their weight behind privatizing certain genetic materials, using the genetic modification of existing crops as grounds for ownership. Companies like Monsanto are known for “creating sterile seeds or requiring farmers to sign contracts stating that they will not save seeds from Monsanto’s crops.” (LaDuke, 2005, p. 115) A 2004 Canadian legal case, Monsanto Canada Inc. v Schmeiser, set a legal precedent with far-reaching implications across agriculture.

As LaDuke describes it, “in Monsanto’s notorious case of Percy Schmeiser of Bruno, Saskatchewan, a lifetime’s work in seeds garnered from careful plant breeding was almost ruined by pollen blown in from [Monsanto’s] neighbouring fields of Roundup Ready canola.” (2005, p. 115). Schmeiser gathered seeds from the crops that had sprung up along his property line for use in planting. He was sued for patent infringement. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in Monsanto’s favour (SCC, 2004). Note that Schmeiser had not intended to infringe on any patenting claim. Circumstances blew viable Monsanto seeds into his field, contaminating his genetic seed bank. Schmeiser was held to be in violation of Monsanto’s patenting but was not financially liable because the seeds were of mitigable benefit without Roundup Ready chemical spray, which Schmeiser did not have (Cullet, 2004).

A basic principal of the Supreme Court’s finding was that ignorance of infringement is not a defence for it (BYU, n.d.). This raised alarming speculative questions for activists and farmers alike. How are farmers supposed to know if a crop growing on their property is the genetic copyright of another company? If they’re financially liable for any profit they earn from a GMO, irrespective of their knowledge of that crop’s copyright status, how can they protect themselves? This question is particularly relevant in light of the unsupervised cross-breeding of GMO’s and non-GMO’s (The Royal Society, 2016). While humans are beholden to IP law, pollinating agents like insects, birds and wind are not. What happens when accidental pollination inevitably occurs and alters the composition of a farmer’s crop?

Biopiracy and the copyrighting of natural resources are consequently indicative of two emerging problems. Firstly, the appropriation of a community’s heritage and the subsequent exclusion of that community from their traditional resource. Secondly, the “developmental monoculture and agenda underscoring Global IP regimes and their exploitative extension […] indigenous communities are now being increasingly compelled to defend their culture at, what is regarded by dominant Western narratives as, the cost of the public domain.” (IP Osgoode, 2000) Non-Indigenous farmers are similarly burdened by larger monopolies’ exploitation of genetic patenting at the expense of smaller agriculture. 

IP and human rights are also competing in the medical sphere. Earlier in this article, I mentioned that the COVID-19 vaccine is held under patenting. Amnesty International issued a report on that patenting earlier this year, stating in no uncertain terms that the monopolistic hold select pharmaceutical manufacturers have on the vaccine is obstructing poor and developing nations from accessing life-saving treatment (Amnesty International, 2021, p. 4).

“While Europe, the US and a handful of other states emerged from lockdown […] parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America plunged into renewed crises, pushing ill-equipped health systems to the brink and causing tens of thousands of preventable deaths every week […] Despite receiving billions of dollars in government funding and advance orders which effectively removed risks normally associated with the development of medicines, vaccine developers have monopolized intellectual property, blocked technology transfers, and lobbied aggressively against measures that would expand the global manufacturing of vaccines. Some companies- Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna— have so far delivered almost exclusively to rich countries, putting profit before access to health for all.” (Amnesty International, 2021, p.4)

Prior to the release of Amnesty’s report, Pfizer was making headlines for publicly opposing the US administration’s call to waive COVID vaccine patent rights (Breuninger, 2021). None of the three companies named by Amnesty have since waived their IP protection.

I hope I’ve been able to illustrate how the implementation of IP rights can sometimes stretch beyond the reasonable scope. As a final, more light-hearted example of this phenomenon, consider reality t.v. celebrity Kylie Jenner’s attempts to trademark the name ‘KYLIE’. Her initial application was challenged by Kylie Minogue. Minogue’s legal team argued that Jenner’s application should be refused, on the grounds that it “would lead to confusion among consumers between the two Kylies […] The USPTO commonly refuses to register trademarks when the applied-for mark is confusingly [sic] similar to other, already-registered marks.” (TFL, 2019) Anyone else named Kylie who had used or intended to use their name in the course of doing business would likely have similar concerns.

While this seems like a silly example, many communities and organizations take the intellectual ownership of genetic materials, natural resources and vital medical treatment just as seriously as you might take somebody else claiming ownership of your name. And rightly so.

The United Nations have acknowledged every human’s right to food, medical care, participation in their community’s cultural life, and share in the benefits of scientific advancement (UN, 2021). IP rights should not invalidate the basic human rights which sustain and define us. They are expressions of collective history, family traditions and personal identity. To patent and copyright them is to patent and copyright our ways of life.

It is important to note that IP rights are not, as a whole, a threat to human rights. To the contrary, they can be used to protect consumers, entrepreneurs and artists from exploitation (US Chamber of Commerce, 2009). Yet like so many other things, its practice can be manipulated to serve private interests at the expense of others. Critically interacting with IP rights at every stage of their development and implementation is integral to insuring they serve us, rather than harm us.


Amnesty International (2021, September) A Double Dose of Inequality. Amnesty International. https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/pol40/4621/2021/en/

Breuninger, K. (2021, May 7) Pfizer CEO opposes U.S. call to waive Covid vaccine patents, cites manufacturing and safety issues. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/07/pfizer-ceo-biden-backed-covid-vaccine-patent-waiver-will-cause-problems.html

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (2021) Technology and Human Rights. Business & Human Rights. https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/big-issues/technology-human-rights/

Canadian Intellectual Property Office (n.d.) Intellectual Assets. Government of Canada. ic.gc.ca/eic/siTe/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/eng/wr03585.html

Coles, J. (2021, July 30) IP & Agribusiness: How GMOs, superfoods & the cannabis industry are shaping IP rights in Canada. Expert. https://www.lexpert.ca/legal-insights/ip-agribusiness-how-gmos-superfoods-the-cannabis-industry-are-shaping-ip-rights-in-canada/356005

Copyright Licensing Office (n.d.) Copyright Myths. Birmingham Young University. https://copyright.byu.edu/copyright-myths

Cullet, P. (2004, October 22) Lessons from Canada. The International Environmental Law Research Centre. http://www.ielrc.org/content/n0407.htm

Global Innovation Policy Centre (2009, December 28) Why Are Intellectual Property Rights Important? U.S. Chamber of Commerce. https://www.theglobalipcenter.com/why-are-intellectual-property-rights-important/

Government of Canada (n.d.) Infringement of Copyright and Moral Rights and Exceptions to Infringement (continued). Justice Laws Website. https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-42/page-6.html#docCont

Hale, Z. A. (2018, April 4) Patently Unfair: The Tensions Between Human Rights and Intellectual Property Protection. University of Arkansas Little Rock. https://ualr.edu/socialchange/2018/04/04/patently-unfair/

Kopp, J. (2021, April 28) Is Fanfiction Legal? The New York Journal of Intellectual Property. https://blog.jipel.law.nyu.edu/2021/04/is-fanfiction-legal/

Lindsey, B. (2021, June 3) Why intellectual property and pandemics dont mix. Brookings.

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (2015) The impact of intellectual property regimes on the enjoyment of right to science and culture. The United Nations. https://www.ohchr.org/en/Issues/CulturalRights/Pages/impactofintellectualproperty.aspx

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (2015) Understanding Human Rights and Climate Change. The United Nations.https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/ClimateChange/COP21.pdf

Pauli, M. (2002, December 5) Fan Fiction. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2002/dec/05/internet.onlinesupplement1

Petrasek, D. (2014) Global Trends and the Future of Human Rights Advocacy. The International Journal on Human Rights. https://sur.conectas.org/en/global-trends-and-the-future-of-human-rights-advocacy/

Rose, J. (2016, March 7) Biopiracy: when indigenous knowledge is patented forprofit. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/biopiracy-when-indigenous-knowledge-is-patented-for-profit-55589

Supreme Court of Canada (2004) Monsanto Canada Inc. v Schmeiser. Lexum. https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/2147/index.do

The Fashion Law (2019, June 6) On the Heels of the Kylie v. Kylie Trademark Battle, Kylie Minogue Launches Cosmetics. The Fashion Law. https://www.thefashionlaw.com/on-the-heels-of-the-kylie-v-kylie-trademark-battle-kylie-minogue-launches-cosmetics/

The Royal Society (n.d.) If we grow GM crops will they cross breed with other plants? The Royal Society. https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/gm-plants/if-we-grow-gm-crops-will-they-cross-breed-with-other-plants/

The United Nations (2021) Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United Nations.


Amnesty International (2021, September) A Double Dose of Inequality. Amnesty International. https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/pol40/4621/2021/en/

Breuninger, K. (2021, May 7) Pfizer CEO opposes U.S. call to waive Covid vaccine patents, cites manufacturing and safety issues. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/07/pfizer-ceo-biden-backed-covid-vaccine-patent-waiver-will-cause-problems.html

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (2021) Technology and Human Rights. Business & Human Rights. https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/big-issues/technology-human-rights/

Canadian Intellectual Property Office (n.d.) Intellectual Assets. Government of Canada. ic.gc.ca/eic/siTe/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/eng/wr03585.html

Coles, J. (2021, July 30) IP & Agribusiness: How GMOs, superfoods & the cannabis industry are shaping IP rights in Canada. Expert. https://www.lexpert.ca/legal-insights/ip-agribusiness-how-gmos-superfoods-the-cannabis-industry-are-shaping-ip-rights-in-canada/356005

Copyright Licensing Office (n.d.) Copyright Myths. Birmingham Young University. https://copyright.byu.edu/copyright-myths

Cullet, P. (2004, October 22) Lessons from Canada. The International Environmental Law Research Centre. http://www.ielrc.org/content/n0407.htm

Global Innovation Policy Centre (2009, December 28) Why Are Intellectual Property Rights Important? U.S. Chamber of Commerce. https://www.theglobalipcenter.com/why-are-intellectual-property-rights-important/

Government of Canada (n.d.) Infringement of Copyright and Moral Rights and Exceptions to Infringement (continued). Justice Laws Website. https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-42/page-6.html#docCont

Hale, Z. A. (2018, April 4) Patently Unfair: The Tensions Between Human Rights and Intellectual Property Protection. University of Arkansas Little Rock. https://ualr.edu/socialchange/2018/04/04/patently-unfair/

Kopp, J. (2021, April 28) Is Fanfiction Legal? The New York Journal of Intellectual Property. https://blog.jipel.law.nyu.edu/2021/04/is-fanfiction-legal/

Lindsey, B. (2021, June 3) Why intellectual property and pandemics dont mix. Brookings.

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (2015) The impact of intellectual property regimes on the enjoyment of right to science and culture. The United Nations. https://www.ohchr.org/en/Issues/CulturalRights/Pages/impactofintellectualproperty.aspx

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (2015) Understanding Human Rights and Climate Change. The United Nations.https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/ClimateChange/COP21.pdf

Pauli, M. (2002, December 5) Fan Fiction. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2002/dec/05/internet.onlinesupplement1

Petrasek, D. (2014) Global Trends and the Future of Human Rights Advocacy. The International Journal on Human Rights. https://sur.conectas.org/en/global-trends-and-the-future-of-human-rights-advocacy/

Rose, J. (2016, March 7) Biopiracy: when indigenous knowledge is patented forprofit. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/biopiracy-when-indigenous-knowledge-is-patented-for-profit-55589

Supreme Court of Canada (2004) Monsanto Canada Inc. v Schmeiser. Lexum. https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/2147/index.do

The Fashion Law (2019, June 6) On the Heels of the Kylie v. Kylie Trademark Battle, Kylie Minogue Launches Cosmetics. The Fashion Law. https://www.thefashionlaw.com/on-the-heels-of-the-kylie-v-kylie-trademark-battle-kylie-minogue-launches-cosmetics/

The Royal Society (n.d.) If we grow GM crops will they cross breed with other plants? The Royal Society. https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/gm-plants/if-we-grow-gm-crops-will-they-cross-breed-with-other-plants/

The United Nations (2021) Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United Nations.


Image Attribution: Pixabay, artist “Geralt”, link: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/artificial-intelligence-network-3706562/

Anti-Asian Racism Still Exists!

By: Tianyang Liu

As the COVID-19 pandemic has been going on for a little over a year now, I would like to first remind everyone to stay safe, wear masks and wash our hands. It is critical that we still encourage safety measures, even if we are vaccinated and in person. The topic discussed in this short essay will be on anti-Asian racism and the effects it has had on the Asian community.

Recently, the Asian community has experienced some successes in the aspects of pop culture with Shang Chi, Squid Game, K-pop and various Asian beauty products making large impacts across the globe. Despite this success and reputation boost for the Asian community, we cannot forget the hate and discrimination Asians have faced throughout history, particularly during this past year and how that has affected the Asian community. Anti-Asian sentiment was reignited last December, when the first cases of the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus arrived in North America. Almost immediately, the Asian community was berated and assaulted by people looking for something to blame for the state of the world.

It did not help that government officials from various countries including the United States, Italy, Spain, Germany, Greece, and France were making statements that either directly or indirectly hinted towards incitement and/or encouragement of anti-Asian racism and xenophobia. In Italy, one governor told journalists that Italians would be better at dealing with the virus than the Chinese because of their “culturally strong attention to hygiene, washing hands, taking showers, whereas we have all seen the Chinese eating mice alive.” (Human Rights Watch). Among these negative statements, the most famous has been the term “Chinese virus” used by Trump. These statements made by professional government officials and leaders spurred even harsher attacks against the Asian community.

Since the initial outbreak in November 2019, people of Asian descent have been subjected to derogatory language in public, social media, and government reports all around the world. The community has been the victim of physical attacks and racist actions that all lead back to the virus. There have been cases of violent threats in the UK and Australia, while reports of serious attacks spread through Spain and the United States. (Human Rights Watch) Canada is not an exception. Since the pandemic started, there have been over 1128 cases of attacks against Asians reported, with many more unknown. (Katherine Lee).

How do Asians feel about these racist acts and threats directed at them? Research from Alice Chen, Arminée Kazanjian and Hubert Wong discuss how individuals of Asian descent find it harder to seek help for mental illness. This is due to cultural biases and perceptions of the system along with pressures to save face and endure. There are fewer sensitive approaches to mental health in Asian culture, leading many people to experience confusion and doubt in the face of blatant and violent discrimination within their neighborhoods. Many individuals of Asian descent already have a hard time staying quiet about mental illness, and anti-Asian racism only amplifies that. Psychologist Helen Hsu has previous stated in an interview that “I’ve heard a lot of Asian patients say things like, ‘Well, my family said to work hard and stay quiet, then everything will be fine.’” (Katherine Lee). Societal pressures are also what drives those who are a part of the Asian community to stay silent about their struggles. In her article, Katherine Lee writes that Asians are among the wealthier racialized communities and are considered the model minority by the West. Due to these perceptions and beliefs, many people in the West don’t believe Asians are struggling and consider their mental health issues “a false narrative”.

Despite the recent success associated with various Asian entertainment groups and trends, we cannot forget the extreme amounts of anti-Asian racism that have been occurring since the outbreak of the virus. Some ways we can stop this racism today include educating yourself about the history of racism in the Asian community, providing resources to victims of violence, addressing mental health in racialized communities, and donating to various non-profitable organizations such as The Asian Mental Health Project.


Lee, Katherine. “Asian Pop Culture May Be Trending, but so Is Anti-Asian Racism and Discrimination.” The Conversation, October 29, 2021. https://theconversation.com/asian-pop-culture-may-be-trending-but-so-is-anti-asian-racism-and-discrimination-169903.

“Covid-19 Fueling Anti-Asian Racism and Xenophobia Worldwide.” Human Rights Watch, May 12, 2020. https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/05/12/covid-19-fueling-anti-asian-racism-and-xenophobia-worldwide#.

Chen, Alice W., et al. “Why Do Chinese Canadians Not Consult Mental Health Services: Health Status, Language or Culture?” Transcultural Psychiatry, vol. 46, no. 4, Dec. 2009, pp. 623–641, doi:10.1177/1363461509351374.

Editor’s Note:

Image is free to use with no attribution required.

A Call for Conscious Holiday Shopping

By: Penelope Giesen

As the holidays season has fallen upon us, I have been reflecting on this time last year. It was a time characterized by rising cases, near constant anxiety, and perpetual isolation. I remember the distinct feeling of longing for my family and friends. During a period of joy, light, music, food and love, the winter felt colder and the nights longer. The holidays, typically a joyous break from traditional monotony, became a bittersweet period of mourning what was lost. This year we can travel again, see our vaccinated older relatives safely, and spend time together in conversation over meals cooked with endless love and dedication. With that being said, the one part of holidays that we participated in last year and this year, the material exchange of goods, feels particularly relevant to discuss.

Although the holidays are a time of joy, they are also characterized by the wasteful production and consumption of an immense number of unnecessary products. We typically generate 3 million tonnes of extra waste in the month of January, during the holiday season, where 80,000 tonnes of clothing are included in this tally. Though we enjoy giving and receiving gifts during this period, Zero Waste Canada cites that within 6 months, only 1% of everything the average person buys is still in use and the other 99% has been discarded.

In the current age of constant advertisements and accessible clothing/products around us, the holidays have become an opportunity for marketing by businesses and consumption of cheap goods for family and friends. These goods particularly include holiday themed items and exorbitant amounts of clothing. As opposed to looking forward to a time for family, friends and relaxation, little kids look forward to Christmas with long lists for Santa. Moreover, parents search nearby department stores, online commerce platforms, and malls for goods to satisfy those lists. Gift giving, as it has evolved in today’s consumerist culture, sometimes loses the special feeling of a personal touch or meaningful message associated with the actual good itself.

Many people, young and old, wish for clothing around Christmas. Considering this demand, people justifiably often turn to cheaper options and end up buying fast fashion items for their loved ones. However, the consequences of these decisions are disproportionately correlated to the the low-price tag on the item. Fast fashion labels such as Gap, H&M, Zara and many others are able to keep their prices relatively low due to mass production of their clothing using cheap materials in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Cambodia that have relatively inconsequential labor laws. Therefore, the garment workers receive low wages and are forced to work incredibly long hours. In a truly horrific example, The Guardian reported that at least 540 female garment workers in Bangladesh disclosed threats and sexual abuse in their workplaces, which included factories for H&M and The Gap, between January and May 2018. The Guardian wrote that the abuse is a result of the global supply chain structure. H&M and The Gap’s fast fashion supply chain model creates unreasonable production targets and low bidding costs, resulting in employees (the majority of whom are women) working overtime hours without additional compensation and facing pressure to work quickly.

Sadly, these conditions worsened further during the pandemic. When we were online shopping for clothing, shoes, and other goods that we thought we needed or as an activity to pass the time during the pandemic, the garment workers in factories were further suffering from increasingly dangerous conditions exacerbated by suspended payments. The Clean Clothes Campaign interviewed 49 garment workers in these countries, to which 70% responded they had experienced delayed payments and lower wages than before the pandemic. Given wages that are  barely capable of supporting life and obtaining food to sustain families before these cuts, the reality of delayed or lowered wages were matters of life and death for these families. These brands, in their unrelenting dedication to low prices and mass production of goods for consumers, were pushing their workers beyond their breaking points during the pandemic. The Clean Clothes Campaign reported that a garment worker in a factory that supplied products for H&M in Bangladesh detailed to a reporter that “We have been severely exploited in the name of pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic was not our fault, but it was us who were given less than half of our normal salary. At first we protested, but the factory management said, ‘If you protest or form a union, you will not get a penny from us and you will not only lose your job, but also you will be evicted from this area and will never get a job in any other factory again.’ So, none of us could form a union in this factory.” In addition, at the beginning of the pandemic, the Clean Clothes Campaign reports that the said companies refused to pay for an estimated $40 million worth of clothing and goods that were already produced or in production.

During the holiday season and in the time afterwards, I hope that we can remember what we were missing this time last year and prioritize time spent together. Our planet and its people cannot sustain the current culture of unrelenting consumerism. Therefore, I ask that we consider shopping for items that are multipurpose and/or multiuse. I also request that we demand as much as possible from companies that are dedicated to fair treatment and wages for their workers and they take action to manage waste effectively. Moreover, if more socially/environmentally conscious products are out of the price range of consumers, with some extra time spent looking, great quality options can be found at second-hand stores. Remember that the consequences of an item bought and discarded have implications for people working to make these products, and the nations who accept the pollution and mass waste produced in North America, thousands of miles away.


Hetherington, Barb, et al. “Zero Waste Christmas.” Zero Waste Canada , Zero Waste Canada, 2017, http://zerowastecanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Zero-Waste-Christmas.pdf.

Oshri, Hadari. “Council Post: Three Reasons Why Fast Fashion Is Becoming a Problem (and What to Do about It).” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 17 May 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2019/05/13/three-reasons-why-fast-fashion-is-beco ming-a-problem-and-what-to-do-about-it/?sh=670f7794144b.

Jessop, Andy. “Discover the Environmental Impact of the Christmas Season.” Commercial Waste, 8 Dec. 2020, https://commercialwaste.trade/the-true-cost-of-christmas/. “Abuse Is Daily Reality for Female Garment Workers for GAP and H&M, Says Report.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 5 June 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/jun/05/female-garment-workersgap-hm-south-asia.

“H&M, Nike and Primark Use Pandemic to Squeeze Factory Workers in Production Countries Even More.” Clean Clothes Campaign, Clean Clothes Campaign , 30 June 2021, https://cleanclothes.org/news/2021/hm-nike-and-primark-use-pandemic-to-squeeze-factor y-workers-in-production-countries-even-more.

Image Attributions: HM christmas, HM, November 9, 2017 https://galleriariga.lv/en/hm-svetku-kolekcija-ir-klat/ Gap switches to “Merry Christmas”, Politics Red, December 8, 2013 https://www.patheos.com/blogs/bristolpalin/2013/12/the-gap-switches-to-merry-christmas/ Zara “party wear”, Zara, 2021 https://www.zara.com/ca/en/woman-evening-l1104.html?v1=1906800

Freedom of the Press: Its Importance and What You Can Do to Protect It

By: Jude Lobo

The term “freedom of the press” is (loosely) defined as the understanding that communication and expression through various media should be considered a right to be exercised freely. Such mediums include (but are not limited to) printed and electronic materials, with a particular emphasis on materials created with the intention of being shared with the public at large. Central to the denotation of this principle is the implied absence of coercion from state or state sponsored actors, not only from the released media product but also in its initial inception and creation (Freedom House).

Why is such a principle so important in the first place? Firstly, one will be hard pressed to consider a free press corps as an ultimate good in and of itself. It will come as a surprise to no one that both written and electronic media outlets are far from being considered bastions of altruism. All media outlets are, at their core, profit seeking entities. Thus, contrary to what one may believe, the truth is not in their best interest, but only increased engagement with their various media products. With this truth in mind, it is not hard for one to draw a causal link between profit and the perpetuation of discord. As is agreed by many experts ranging from Political Science to Communication Studies, unbridled press corps can often be attributed to enormous public angst (Tsfati 10). For example, divisive ideologies may proliferate, youth may be corrupted before they properly learn how to disseminate information, and even the public at large may be nefariously manipulated, despite their best interests. Amid such circumstances, how could the state not be justified in strongly regulating or even suppressing the press corps?

In light of this line of thinking, one should note that while such concerns are valid, they misunderstand the point. The right to a free press makes no assumptions on the content or quality of that which it facilitates. Rather, in protecting such a right, what is being defended is not what is being discussed, but the very forum of discussion itself, ensuring that it is open and conducive for public engagement. Thus, crudely summarized, a Free Press is not in itself valuable. Rather, the value in such a vehicle lies in its inherent ability to facilitate criticism, both of the government and of society at large (Charles Koch Institute).

This is also the reason why even avowedly liberal governments may find themselves at odds with the principle of ‘Freedom of the Press”. The private institutions who champion this principle naturally come to embody all that power abhors, power both new and entrenched. While this fact has been studied and proven extensively, it is also intuitive, for power does not respond well to criticism (Freedom House).

For a real-world example of such behavior, one need look no further than Belarus. Often referred to as ‘Europe’s Last Dictatorship’, suppression of what little freedom the nation’s press corps had manage to secure for itself was brutally suppressed and continues to be suppressed amidst the ongoing protests surrounding President Alexander Lukashenko’s administration. One of the most shocking displays of suppression came in May of 2021, when the Belarusian government grounded an international Ryanair flight bound for Vilnius, arresting the Belarusian dissident journalist Roman Protasevich. Photographs taken nearly two months after his arrest suggest that Protasevich had been subject to various methods of torture during his time in government custody (Tétrault-Farber 2).

While not many efforts to suppress the freedom of a nation’s press corps are quite as shockingly blatant as those that have occurred in Belarus in recent months, such activity is by no means unique to Belarus. In the neighboring country of Russia, it is not uncommon for reporters to receive letters directly from the Kremlin, requesting their immediate resignation. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for publicly funded Russian companies to buyout majority stakeholders in various private media companies, companies that often have no immediate relation to the nature of their work (Corbus 11). For example, the largest stakeholder of REN-TV, widely lauded as Russia’s last nationwide television network with independent news programming, is owned by a subsidiary of Severstal, Russia’s second largest government owned steel company, in a buyout first initiated in 2006 (Kishkovsky 4).

On must realize that the protection of a free press is a constant war rather than a one-off battle. While government authorities are often its traditional enemies, in the modern age one must realize that everyone is a threat to its existence. Anyone can create content with the power to influence anyone. Thus, even in a liberal society, the integrity of the press corps can be eroded, and furthermore, such erosion can often be manipulated to seem in the public’s best interest.

For example, with regards to internet regulation laws in the United States, news aggregating applications are simultaneously being projected as biased against conservatives, and much too willing in the promotion of far-right ideology, divisive ideology which at once finds a home within conservative bases (Samples 11). Thus, what is to be done?  How much regulation is enough? How much is too much? How much is too little? How is one to balance the ideal of a free and open medium with a medium that is far too open to manipulation? These are open questions that must be asked on a continuous basis by all who truly believe themselves to be true defenders of democracy and its associated liberal ideals. For, threats to a free press can as easily come from within, via popular legislation, or they may come from without, via tyrannical government.

Beyond becoming a critical consumer of media rhetoric and policy, as is outlined above, what else may one do to further ensure that the Freedom of the Press is respected? Hundreds, if not thousands of journalists are unjustly imprisoned across the world every year for nothing other than simply making their opinions known to the world. While such a phenomenon certainly is not new, the advent of digital activism ensures that everybody can express solidarity with these victims of conscience, ensuring that justice is done to them and their cause. Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign often highlights the plights of several political prisoners, among whom several are often journalists or those specifically targeted by their governments for their views (Write for Rights).

All are encouraged to participate in such events, as it is only through these individual initiatives that lasting change and protection for the many may be realized.

Image Attribution: Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

Canada’s Abuse of Immigrants

By: Tia DeRuiter

In July of 2020, the Federal Court of Canada passed a ruling that withdrew Canada
from their participation within the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) (Canadian Council
for Refugees [CCR], 2020). An agreement which legalized the transfer of refugees back to
whatever “safe” country they landed in first, either Canada or the United States (Government
of Canada). The proposed withdrawal from this agreement was brought forth on the grounds
of the egregious conditions in which the United States treated those who were sent back from
Canada, including arbitrary imprisonment, psychological abuse, and extreme human rights
abuses (CCR, 2020). The court justified their decision to leave the STCA because of the
United States clear and appalling violations of section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights
and Freedoms (CCR, 2020). The section in which gives all persons the equal right to security
and liberty, a right infringed upon by the erroneous treatment of refugees in the U.S. (CCR,

Almost one year later, in June of 2021, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty
International (AI) released a report detailing the appalling treatment of immigrants in Canada,
those in which are remarkably similar to the conditions for which Canada left the STCA
(Gros et al., 2021). According to this report, Canada imprisons thousands of people a year on
immigration related charges, often involving abusive behaviour (Gros et al., 2021). Not only
are the reasons for which these immigrants are detained not disclosed or arbitrary, but their
release dates are kept from them as well (Gros et al., 2021). During their imprisonment,
immigrant detainees face some of the most putative measures, including being housed in
maximum security prisons, and emplaced into solitary confinement, finding that these
conditions were even harsher for Black immigrants, and those with psychosocial disabilities
(Gros et al., 2021). These abuses have had devastatingly severe impacts on the mental health
of these immigrants, often resulting in feelings of hopelessness, failure, and sometimes
suicide (Gros et al., 2021).

It is not difficult to draw the parallels between this abuse, arbitrary detainment, and
human rights violations, that not less than a year ago Canada’s courts denounced the United
States for (CCR, 2020). Both HRW and AI hold that something must be done to eradicate
these atrocious conditions and treatment (Gros et al., 2021). A report done in 2016, in
conjunction with the University of Toronto, AI, and many other organizations, provided
suggestions for eliminating these abuses (Muscati, 2016). Including, but not limited to,
establishing an independent body to which the Canadian Border Patrol Service Agency
(CBSA) is held accountable, modifying existing laws and regulations, imposing requirements
to access of essential services for both physical and mental health, and increasing funding to
find safe, healthy, and adequate housing for immigration detainees (Muscati, 2016). Since
this, both the CBSA and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada have responded,
declaring their intentions to look further into this issue, but action has yet to be seen
(Ossowski, 2021; Wex, 2021). While Canada may never change their approach to this issue,
there is hope through advocacy by AI, HRW, and institutions like UofT, that there will be
amendments in the future.

Image Attribution: hrw.org, via Getty Images

The Detention of the Two Michaels: A Story on China’s Human Rights Abuses

By: Peter Xavier Rossetti

Michael Korvig and Michael Spavor, known as the “two Michaels,” returned to Canada after spending over 1000 days detained in China. Their collective story is a harrowing example of China’s human rights violations and willingness to use people as a means for geopolitical gain. Now that they are home and present in the minds of Canadians and others, it is essential to report their treatment while in China accurately. Background information is necessary to understand the severity of the tribulation the two Michaels faced.

In early December of 2018, a woman named Meng Wanzhou was about to make a layover stop in Canada while flying to Mexico (Corera, 2020). Nothing, in particular, made this stopover in Vancouver strange, but Wanzhou was no ordinary tourist. Wanzhou is the chief financial officer of Huawei, and the United States wanted her on charges of bank and wire fraud that helped her company circumnavigate the US sanction on Iran (Karphal, 2020). As soon as she landed in Vancouver, Canadian officials arrested her and prepared her extradition case to the States. Several days later, Michael Spavor and Michael Korvig were detained in China.

Korvig, a former diplomat, and Spavor, a businessman, were convicted of vague espionage and spying charges, with the latter being sentenced to 11 years in prison by Chinese courts (Aziz, 2021). Many people speculated that the arrests were an act of retaliation by the Chinese government after the arrest of Wanzhou in Canada. Despite Canadian and American attempts to persuade China into dropping the charges, the two men would go on to spend nearly three years of their lives detained. The conditions of their detention were brutal, and they highlight the gross and arbitrary imprisonment tactics employed by the Chinese government.

Korvig and Spavor spent most of their imprisonment completely cut-off from the outside world. Chinese officials allowed the two men to make only a handful of phone calls throughout their captivity while also barring Canadian diplomats from reaching them (Coletta, 2021). To put into perspective how isolated they were, Korvig and Spavor appeared to be missing common knowledge about current international events. For example, after a long-overdue meeting with a consular in October of 2020, Korvig was finally informed that the pandemic had spread across the world, resulting in the death of millions (Hopper, 2021). Deprived of basic information pertaining to current events, Korvig and Spavor spent their days detached and unaware of what was happening in the outside world.

Isolation was not the only thing the two Michaels had to cope with during their detainment, as the actual physical conditions of the prison cells were inhumane. Reports determined that both men were forced to live in tiny cells filled with other prisoners and were denied the ability to leave (Hopper, 2021). Unlike Western prisons, these detainment centres contain no communal spaces such as exercise yards or dining halls. Besides the confined, brutal living conditions, the two Micheals were also subject to psychological torment. The bright lighting of the cell was kept on during all hours of the day, allowing for little rest, and the two were treated to daily integrations by Chinese authorities (Nossal, 2021). The Chinese government’s mental and emotional abuses inflicted on Korvig and Spavor are unspeakable.

The arbitrary conditions that the Korvig and Spavor were subject to are gross inflictions on human rights. It has been a massive relief to have both men return home. However, it is important to acknowledge that these isolation conditions, physical confinement, and psychological abuse are not unique to the two Michaels. China has been detaining people in this brutal fashion long before the Korvig and Spavor were sentenced to prison there. The Chinese government will continue to act in such a manner until they face a firm international stance. No human being should be subject to such treatment.


Aziz, Saba. “ ‘Free at last’: Canadian Michael Korvig, wife speak about emotional return from China.” Global News, 26 Sep. 2021,


Coletta, Amanda. “Canada’s ‘two Michaels’ back home after more than 1,000 days imprisoned in China as Huawei’s Meng cuts deal with U.S.” The Washington Post, 25 Sep. 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/09/24/canada-two-michaels-china-huawei/

Corera, Gordon. “Meng Wanzhou: Questions over Huawei executive’s arrest as legal battle continues.” BBC, 31 Oct. 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-54756044

Hopper, Tristin. “No sunlight, a hole for a toilet: What two years in Chinese detention has been like for the two Michaels.” National Post, 19 Mar. 2021, https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/no-sunlight-a-hole-for-a-toilet-what-two-years-in-c hinese-detention-has-been-like-for-the-two-michaels

Karphal, Arjun. “The extradition trial of Huawei’s CFO starts this month – here’s what to watch.” CNBC, 9 Jan. 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/10/huawei-cfo-meng-wanzhou-extradition-trial-explained. html

Nossal, Kim Richard. “Wrong place, wrong citizenship: The tribulations of the Two Michaels.” The Interpreter, 19 Jan. 2021, https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/wrong-place-wrong-citizenship-tribulations-t wo-michaels

Image Attribution: Michael Korvig and Michael Spavor after landing in Calgary and being greeted by Prime
Minister Justin Trudeau (image from The Globe and Mail)

Theory in Action

By: Serina Woo

There shall be no justification for what the government of Zimbabwe has done to its citizens. Led by republican President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the government has once again failed the people of Zimbabwe. In Mnangagwa’s election speech in 2017, he promised to improve the quality of the government and reach across political ethnic and racial lines to strengthen Zimbabwe’s democracy (Zimbabwe: An Opportunity for Reform?). Filled with hope, Zimbabweans anticipated a political evolution. Yet, after Zimbabwe’s military brought an end to 37 years of rule by former president Robert Mugabe’s authoritarian regime, it’s continual presence as a key political player complicated Mnangagwa’s task of reinstituting effective governance (Zimbabwe’s “Military-assisted Transition” and Prospects for Recovery). On August 7, 2020, Zimbabwean police transferred prominent journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono, and opposition leader, Jacob Ngarivhume, to the infamous Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison (Chigumadzi, 1). Both were arrested and accused of inciting police violence, while in reality, the government played a prominent role in unreasonably enforcing violence amongst the protesters (Chigumadzi, 1). The treatment they received was terrible, being put in leg iron casts, and denied of bail, private visits with lawyers and family, food and adequate covid-19 precautions (Chigumadzi, 1). However, this is only one of the many issues that encapsulate the political persecution and public repression of Zimbabwe’s military state, marking the beginning of social unrest among Zimbabweans. In response to the thousands of protesters who marched on the streets, the government ordered a vicious attack – deploying soldiers as well as police force (Piguo, 1). To say the least, groups of protestors have also engaged in intimidation, vandalism, and looting. Though some of it was undeniably orchestrated, most appeared to be spontaneous (Chigumadzi, 1). By referencing the political ideology of the philosopher and economist, John Stuart Mill, it justifies the protests and serves as a framework for the defective government’s reconstruction. On the contrary, philosopher Edmond Burke’s political ideology fails to draw on the issue at hand, undermining the significance of innovation within a political context and favouring President Mnangagwa’s absurd policies and decisions.

John Stuart Mill was a liberal during the nineteenth-century, and in the modernized society, his ideology and written work continue to resonate with politicians. He is often brought up during discussions of social justice and income inequality, and his theories criticized privilege, oppression, and injustice. Mill’s theory of three liberties: the absolute freedom of opinion of sentiment, liberty to pursue one’s own tastes and pursuits, and liberty of combination among individuals, justify the protester’s motives of protesting. In his first liberty, he understood that silencing the expression of an opinion as peculiarly evil, “robbing the human race.” His theory supports the protesters’ purpose for attacking the government’s decision to subjugate opposing voices through violence. Further, this theory also validates the protesters’ resentment towards the government’s resolution to block internet services, suspending the flow of information and bringing about the prevalent confusion (Piguo, 3). Hence, giving the protesters justified reasons to protest for their concerns about the absence of freedom. Nonetheless, in Mill’s second liberty, he truly believed in “the liberty to pursue one’s own taste and pursuits,” where people should be allowed to live their lives exactly how they see fit, as long as this does not harm others in their society. Though modern-day politicians might refute Mill’s theory for it offers society a disproportionate amount of independence and freedom, but his individualistic values support the citizens’ protests for their futuristic expectations. However, only if we exclude the casualties from the physical encounters between the police force and protesters that created disunity within Zimbabwe. Mill’s liberal individualistic conception is also seen in his third liberty which underlines an individual’s freedom of choice to form groups of human rights activists, as long as this does not harm others in their society. If individuals of Zimbabwe wish to form an opposing stance to the government in the hope of advocating the respect for fundamental human rights, they should be entitled to do so. These ideas from Mill’s political philosophy strengthen the motives of protest and directly contradict Zimbabwe’s traditionalism, and unless convictions turn against this mindset, the demand for continuing traditions will only increase.

In addition, Mill valued individualism, his theory could be used to remodel and embellish the dictatorial government as a whole. Mill’s Harm Principle embodies the notion that “the sole end for which mankind is warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” This could prompt the government to limit its unreasonable use of assault towards opposing groups and politicians as it is unreasonable to exercise power over protesters, except a minority of protesters who participated in lootings. Though the government’s order of violence on its citizens could be appropriated as an act of “self-protection” for state owned properties and police officers, it is evident that the government has a distorted idea of restricting opposing voices to retain its power. Accordingly, the government should reevaluate its attitude towards individual rights and achieving social utility based on Mill’s values, striking a balance between individual autonomy and government interference to limit freedoms in the interest of preventing harm to others. Individual protesters should have the freedom to defend their rights subsequent to the unlawful arrests and restraint of freedom made by the police and military, rejecting the government’s long term abuse of power. In order to achieve a balance, the government should cease its human rights violations, such as the invasion of privacy, obstruction of movement and limitation of access to information by peacefully reaching a consensus with the protesters and acknowledging their stance. Effectively, the government should utilize Mill’s Harm Principle to amend its structure, and manage opposing groups democratically.

On the other end of the political spectrum, the philosophy of Edmond Burke, the founder of conservatism would support the Zimbabwean government in defending contemporary arrangements against both idealistic desires and innovative schemes of reform though it is shown to be over-optimistic and out of date. Given that Burke’s ideology outlines the tradition and custom of the social contract, he does not consider innovative reforms suggested by citizens as necessary to the success of a country. He regards innovation as the result of a selfish temper and confined views, reinforcing the government’s desire to deny democratic changes from an authoritarian state. This theory also highlights the characteristics of conservatism seen in our contemporary society. Along with the rejection of innovation shown by the Zimbabwean government, Burke’s theory rejects the idea of changes in the government because he believed, “the entire progression of the commonwealth would be demolished.” Despite that, the government of Zimbabwe failed to take into account that the dismissal of these proposed changes violates democratic principles in our modern society, which are different from Burke’s conservative theory. The government’s disbelief in new changes to prevent the loss of power, similar to Burke’s theory, led to Zimbabwe’s failure in achieving democracy. Burke implied that the present generation does not have the right to ask for a change in politics because it would risk the country becoming a disaster: “It [is not] among [this generation’s] rights to cut off the entail or commit waste on the inheritance by destroying at their pleasure the whole original fabric of their society, hazarding to leave to those who came after them a ruin instead of a habitation.” This further empowers the Zimbabwean government in casually making decisions to benefit itself, and continues to justify public repression and freedom violations. Despite he urged people to understand the significance in teaching these successors as little to respect their contrivances as they had themselves respected the institutions of their forefathers, the consequences of his conservative thinking contradicts his belief.

Contrary to Mill’s theories, Burke’s perception of a government body implies the idea that citizens cannot depose an oppressive government due to the risk of a disaster. Despite that, the Zimbabwean government’s introduction of fiscal and economic reforms led to the hyperinflation of goods and services (Piguo, 10). As well, the values of ordinary citizens’ income and savings have been cut by more than half, further impoverishing an already struggling population (Piguo, 10). This counters Burke’s theory, indicating that an oppressive government is the cause of disaster, not the opposing opinions of citizens. Further, Burke believed that social achievements should be built up over time and suggested governments to find a compromise between what everyone wants and what’s beneficial to society from a historic point of view. However, as society develops, fixating on historic views in modern-day democracy brings on contradiction. After the ousting of Zimbabwe’s former authoritarian government, it marked a change, defying historical political values, and submitting to presentist democratic values. Yet the government’s response to violence towards the protests shows the embedded military influence in decision making, reflecting the fear of losing power. Similar to the government’s worries, Burke believes a change in government operation might trigger the fall of a government. He believed that the experience and obstacles a government had endured in its past should be recognized and preserved, hence rejecting the disposition of a government. Further, there was not an adequate structure that he approved of to act as a guide for changes during his time. Lastly, he viewed the state of government as a living organism, underlining the complexity of a society. Therefore, no one should be able to redirect the power as it might lead to a disaster. Although he recognized that a change in the law is necessary, he thought reforms should be made from a historical perspective. However, this would lower the efficiency of his reform in the ever changing society. Similar to the situation of Zimbabwe, laws aren’t likely to change as it is proven over time that the current system gives the government power over the citizens. Hence, it is seen in both Burke’s theory and the Zimbabwean government’s actions that they both value having power more than beneficial and efficient changes to the community.

Zimbabwe is in desperate need of reform if the government’s aim is to maintain stability and transition into a democratic country. John Stuart Mill’s liberal theories embody both sociality and freedom, guaranteeing freedom to individuals from different ideological groups. His theories underline Zimbabweans’ right to fulfill their interests through the uninterrupted expression of opinions. Supporting Zimbabweans’ humanitarian concerns and holding the faulty government accountable, the Zimbabwean government should take into account Mill’s theories and carry out changes to become a democratic state. On the contrary, Burke’s theories challenge the effectiveness of innovation based upon his old-fashioned thinking and support the Zimbabwean government to a certain extent where both Burke and the government value power over change. His theories are relatively controversial considering many aspects support the authoritarian government’s decisions. Critics believe that the Zimbabwean government is likely to be able to “put a lid” on the unrest and take activists off the streets, emphasizing the need for a reform of the government (Piguo, 22). As time goes by, though both philosopher’s ideologies were beneficial to future generations, being part of the foundation of the establishment of parties and the role of the member of Parliament, we should not be restricted by the views of historical philosophers as their ideas might not be up to date. Politicians should incorporate citizen’s current needs and desires, taking into consideration its effects on the future while making political decisions to form a harmonious society. 

Works Cited

JS Mill, On Liberty, 1859.

Mutsaka | AP, Farai. “Scores of Zimbabwe Protesters Arrested, Military in Streets.” Washington

Post, WP Company, 31 July 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/empty-streets-in-zimbabwe-as-security-forces-thwart-protest/2020/07/31/cda13416-d309-11ea-826b-cc394d824e35_story.html.

“Opinion | In Zimbabwe, Two Political Prisoners Are a Symbol of a Repressive State.” Chigumadzi, Panashe. 

The Washington Post, WP Company, 17 Aug. 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/08/18/zimbabwe-two-political-prisoners-are-symbol-repressive-state/.

Piguo, Piers. “Revolt and Repression in Zimbabwe.” Crisis Group, 31 Jan. 2019,


“Zimbabwe’s ‘Military-Assisted Transition’ and Prospects for Recovery.” Crisis Group, 20 Dec. 2017,


Crisis in Myanmar

By: Penelope Giesen

Myanmar Continues its fight against oppression

On February 1, 2021, there was a military coup in Myanmar, which a country in southeastern Asia, bordering India, China, Thailand, and Laos. This coup halted the nation’s first quasi-democracy that had previously held power since 2015, led by Aung Sung Suki. Aung Sung Suki is widely considered to be a controversial figurehead who successfully transformed Myanmar into a democracy after a long history of military dictatorship, yet whose leadership has been marred by ethnic violence and potential unethical alliances with the military now in power.

Since the coup, there has been widespread civil disobedience against the oppressive policies put in place by the military government in power, the Tatmadaw. These immediate policies included seizing control of infrastructure, suspending international and national flights, stopping internet access in most major cities, and closing the stock market and major banks. All of these measures were justified under claims of a “constitutional” state of emergency declared by the military. Though these protests started peacefully, they quickly turned violent and sparked ruthless retaliation by the government. On February 20, 2021, two unarmed protesters were killed, including a 16-year-old boy, prompting millions to go on strike two days later. The retaliations have escalated with the military, killing 600 and maiming, injuring, and torturing thousands more on March 27, 2021. This incredible violence inspired an armed resistance by the Burmese people, who call themselves the People’s National Defense, and they engage in jungle gorilla warfare against the Tatmadaw. Despite facing rampant food insecurity and constant threat from the Tatmadaw, the People’s National Defense is determined to fight for liberties and the freedom that had once existed. Yet this army is underfunded, and many have been pushed up into the remote hills where they must combat hunger, poisonous snakes, and dengue along with their families when the Tatmadaw systematically burns villages that are home to these resistance fighters. Despite these challenges, the horrific conditions don’t diminish the determination of the resistance, which has been further galvanized by their shadow government calling for a revolution by armed insurrection on September 7, 2021. Many of the Burmese people have a complicated relationship with the armed resistance in support of their former democratic government given the atrocities inflicted upon ethnic groups in the nation such as the Rohingya Muslims. In a state of disorder and terror, it is hard to distinguish what is being fought for, but some believe that this fight for liberty is a turning point for the Burmese people as it is uniting all Burmese people in a fight for liberation. Thet Swe Win, a Burmese human rights activist, notes the Tatwondow’s terrorization of Burmese people in villages and urban areas has “opened people’s eyes to the rights abuses other ethnic groups have long been facing”. As a result, people have started to broaden their horizons for the liberty they are fighting for.

Humanitarian crisis:
This armed coup and ensuing resistance had caused the death of at least 1180 armed resistors and civilians, the destruction of innumerable villages and homes, and displacement of at least 176,000 people internally with an additional 22,000 to other countries. The Tatmadaw has been documented using tactics against Myanmar’s civilian population such as burning villages, looting properties, torture, and mass arrests. This is in addition to the hundreds of thousands of Burmese refugees such as the Rohingya Muslims that have fled ethnic terror for decades. Many of these refugees flee with their families to India, which is an arduous journey that involves spending days in the woods without food or water and having to cross the Tiau River that separates the nations. And there are growing concerns that neighboring countries such as Thailand will begin to turn away refugees at the border.

What can be done to help?
The humanitarian crisis in Myanmar is multifaceted and severe. Civilians, members of the rebel army, and refugees all are in dire need of support. There are many approaches that could be taken to support these groups, including: donations to various humanitarian aid organizations, advocacy to local representatives and the federal government of increased sanctions, and blockades, and establishing a “no-fly zone” over Myanmar. Some reliable organizations that could be donated to include: The International Rescue Committee (which has been supporting Myanmar since 2008), Save the Children (which supports children in dangerous situations around the world and specifically provides support to children and families in Myanmar that have been affected by the deadly violence occurring). In addition, donations to the Civil Disobedience Movement will provide support to Burmese people participating in protests against their authoritarian government. In addition, support to the Burmese people could include contacting your country’s relevant diplomatic and government representatives to ask for increased sanctions on Myanmar in solidarity with the protestors trying to weaken and destabilize the military in control. Another method of support could involve exerting pressure on our government to support the Secretary General’s special envoy on Myanmar, per Christine Schraner Burgener’s request in her speech to the UN press conference on October 21, 2021. Her request noted that international leadership not accept the Tatmadaw as a legitimate established government as they are responsible for the majority of the instability and violence in the nation.

1) Goldman, Russell. “Myanmar’s Coup and Violence, Explained.” The New York Times, The New
York Times, 1 Feb. 2021,
2) Wee, Sui-lee. “Thousands Flee Myanmar for India amid Fears of a Growing Refugee Crisis.”
The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Oct. 2021,
3) Martin, Michael F. “Myanmar’s Opposition Wants U.S. Intervention. Here Are Some Options.”
Foreign Policy, 24 May 2021,
4) Win, Thet Swe. “The Coup United the People of Myanmar against Oppression.” Opinions | Al
Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 1 Oct. 2021,
5) UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific (RBAP). “Myanmar Emergency – UNHCR
Regional Update – 1 September 2021.” UNHCR Operational Data Portal (ODP), UNHCR , 1
Sept. 2021,
6) Snodgrass, Erin. “5 Ways to Help Anti-Coup Protesters on the Ground in Myanmar Right
Now.” Insider, Insider, 11 Apr. 2021,
7)Desk, News. “Myanmar Situation Deteriorating – United Nations Press Conference (21
October 2021).” The Global Herald, The Global Herald , 21 Oct. 2021,
Image Source: New York Times October 26, 2021

Women’s Strike Protests in Poland

By Shiva Ivaturi image from uk.reuters.com

Corruption of Political Institutions 

Poland’s nationalist, far-right Law and Justice (PiS) party has been the dominant party in the country since winning the majority of seats in the lower house (235 out of 460 seats) and upper house (61 out of 100 seats) in 2015 parliamentary elections. 

Elections and political parties often face tumultuous cycles. Yet political change does not substantiate action to reduce the power of a country’s basic institutions of justice that are meant to keep all political agendas from crossing irrevocably defined ethical boundaries. After coming into power, the PiS terminated the terms of three constitutional judges belonging to an opposition party and nominated three judges to represent the PiS, a move that ignored the timeframes of their terms of office (Tomczak, 2020). Legal experts across the world deemed the change to the Constitutional Tribunal as an illegal, unwarranted attack on judicial independence that established a link between the most powerful independent court and the ruling party of parliament (BBC, 2016). With a presupposition of corruption overshadowing future rulings made by the Constitutional Tribunal, the rights and freedoms of Polish citizens would be inevitably modified as well (Kobyliński, 2016). 

The party’s propaganda and attempts to delegitimize the human rights of sexual and gender minorities have only continued in recent years, with the Law and Justice party winning the vast majority of local elections in 2018 and maintaining power in the lower house of parliament during 2019 parliamentary elections (Beswick and Abellan-Matamoros, 2019). 

Amendments to the electoral code of Poland in 2018 signed by President Duda changed the framework of the National Electoral Commission (PKW). Previously, all nine members of the commission were appointed by courts, although the reform allowed seven out of the nine members to be chosen by parliament, perpetuating biased influence of the ruling party throughout the electoral process (Freedom House, 2020). 

Observers of the 2019 parliamentary elections from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) concluded that although the elections were generally conducted in a transparent and fair manner, the effect of judicial reforms and state sponsored propaganda through public broadcaster channels reduced the ability of voters to make an informed, impartial choice or to lodge election related complaints without undue influence from government authorities (Freedom House, 2020).

Ruling of the Constitutional Court 

With the Law and Justice (PiS) party having exerted firm control in the past of Poland’s institutions and continuing to do so for the foreseeable future, the quality of life and impact on sexual and gender minorities has become a human rights cataclysm that cannot be ignored for any longer. With the most powerful institutions in the country falling in line to the ruling party, political agendas became commandments that all citizens were subjugated to, irrespective of whether it deprived them of basic human rights they had previously enjoyed. 

Abortion restrictions had previously severely limited the rights of women in Poland, only allowed if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, if the woman’s life was in danger, or if there were fatal fetal abormalities (Gessen, 2020). However on the 22nd October 2020, the Constitutional Tribunal, tied to the political agenda of the PiS party, held unconstitutional the provision of allowing an abortion should there be fatal fetal abormalities. The tribunal’s justification relied on defining abortion to be permissible only in instances of “absolute necessity”, a vague term seemingly allowing the court to propogate the ideas of the PiS without acknowledging or protecting the rights of pregnant mothers. Notably, the constitutional rights of women were hardly mentioned in the judgement, including but not limited to: guarantee of human dignity, the right to freedom, the right to life, the prohibition of torture and degrading treatment, the right to privacy, the protection of health, and the special protection of mothers before and after birth (Krajewska, 2020). 

Emergence of Women’s Strike Protests 

Following the ruling on 22 October 2020, activists mobilized across the nation to call for a change to the eroding, precarious status of reproductive rights in Poland. The umbrella term for these protests were colloquially referred to as the Women’s Strike, although since its inception the protests have come to encompass a wide variety of human rights issues and call attention to socioeconomic disparities (Gessen, 2020). 

The right to freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, freedom of expression, life, liberty, and security of the person to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments and/or punishments are provisioned in human rights treaties to which Poland is a party (UN General Assembly, 1966). However, Amnesty International has documented multiple instances of police brutality against peaceful protesters. 

On 9 November 2020, activist Gabriela Lazarek was violently arrested while protesting peacefully in front of the Ministry of Education (Bednarek, 2020). She faces charges of unlawfully influencing by force or threat of the actions of authorities, punishable by up to three years in prison (Code of Criminal Procedure, 1997). Amnesty International holds that these

charges are unjustified. On 10 November, activist Katarzyna Augustynek was arrested in Warsaw while she was protesting peacefully (TVN24, 2020). Video footage shows her talking to three police officers when a fourth officer approaches and demands to see proof of identification, to which she refuses as police do not have a legal basis for conducting an identification check. Katarzyna was forcibly arrested and charged on the basis of a violation of the physical integrity of an officer on duty, punishable by up to three years in prison (Code of Criminal Procedure, 1997). Amnesty International holds that these charges are unjustified. On 11 November, multiple instances of excessive use of force by police on protesters were documented. On 18 November 2020, police kettled protesters and used pepper spray directly in their faces. 

Concerns that the police will continue to resort to excessive use of force and criminalization of peaceful protesters are of the utmost importance during a time where Polish authorities appear to be turning a blind eye to citizens who oppose the deprivation of reproductive rights and social mobility. In fact, Polish authorities appear to be taking punitive actions against the constituents to which they are obligated to represent. 

What Can You Do? 

Broad actions taken to consolidate power in governments is not a new phenomenon. Nor is the deprivation of basic reproductive rights and those of sexual and gender minorities through the corruption of a country’s institutions of justice. In these tumultuous times, we must ask ourselves whether we are willing to stay uninformed and take no action against these sorts of horrific phenomena that continue perpetuating inequalities at every level of society, or whether we will call for change. 

With the onset of a global pandemic, traditional forms of social mobilization have been restricted in order to limit the transmission of COVID-19. Fortunately, activism has increasingly taken advantage of digital channels. Amnesty International at the University of Toronto encourages you to stay informed on the actions of Polish authorities particularly as it relates to the treatment of protestors and contribute to change through letter writing campaigns, petitions, and other forms of communication to raise awareness among peers. Please consider making a financial contribution if you are able to do so to organizations including but not limited to: Amnesty International, Stonewall Poland, and Human Rights Watch!


1. “Poland’s Constitutional Court Clashes with New Government.” BBC News, BBC, 9 Mar. 2016, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35766482. 

2. Kobyliński, Konrad. “The Polish Constitutional Court from an Attitudinal and Institutional Perspective Before and After the Constitutional Crisis of 2015–2016.” Wroclaw Review of Law, Administration & Economics, vol. 6, no. 2, 2016, pp. 94–107., doi:10.1515/wrlae-2018-0006. 

3. Tomczak, Malgorzata. “Poland’s Government Creates Constitutional Crisis It Will Find Hard to Resolve.” Balkan Insight, 30 Nov. 2020, 

balkaninsight.com/2020/11/30/polands-government-creates-constitutional-crisis-it-will-fi nd-hard-to-resolve/. 

4. Kurasinska, Lidia. “This New Political Party in Poland Wants to ‘Re-Christianise’ Europe.” OpenDemocracy, 27 Feb. 2019, 

www.opendemocracy.net/en/5050/new-party-poland-aims-re-christianise-europe/. 5. “Poland.” Freedom House, freedomhouse.org/country/poland/freedom-world/2020. 6. Gessen, Masha, et al. “The Abortion Protests in Poland Are Starting to Feel Like a Revolution.” The New Yorker, 17 Nov. 2020, 

www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-abortion-protests-in-poland-are-starting-t o-feel-like-a-revolution. 

7. Beswick, Emma, and Cristina Abellan-Matamoros. “Poland Election: Ruling PiS Win Narrow Majority – Final Results.” Euronews, 15 Oct. 2019, 

www.euronews.com/2019/10/13/poland-head-to-the-polls-with-conservative-ruling-law-j ustice-party-in-the-lead. 

8. UN General Assembly, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 999, p. 171, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b3aa0.html 

9. Bednarek, Michalina. “Aktywistka Gabriela Lazarek Spędziła Noc ‘Na Dołku’. Wyszła z Poważnymi Zarzutami.” Wyborcza.pl, 11 Nov. 2020, 

katowice.wyborcza.pl/katowice/7,35063,26502384,aktywistka-gabriela-lazarek-spedzila noc-na-dolku-i-wyszla.html?disableRedirects=true. 

10. The Code of Criminal Procedure of Poland (Act of 6 June 1997). 1997. 11. “Polska Babcia Zatrzymana. Poseł Szczerba: Usłyszała Zarzut Zaatakowania Policjantów Tęczową Torbą.” TVN24, TVN24, 30 Nov. 2020, 

tvn24.pl/polska/polska-babcia-katarzyna-augustynek-zatrzymana-przez-policje-w-sobote w-czasie-protestu–strajk-kobiet-4764431.