Karen Bakker Announced as the Winner of the 2017 Connection Award

Karen Bakker has been announced as the winner of the 2017 Connection Award, one of five annual SSHRC Impact Awards. The annual Impact Awards recognize the highest achievements in SSHRC-funded research, knowledge mobilization and scholarship, as well as the highest achievements resulting from a SSHRC fellowship awarded. SSHRC’s Connection Award recognizes an outstanding individual or team whose project has engaged campus and community and led to intellectual, cultural, social or economic impacts.

Karen Bakker leads an interdisciplinary team of academic researchers and community-based organizations for the Sustainable Water Governance and Indigenous Law project.

Her research is oriented towards designing and implementing governance reforms to enhance water security in light of ongoing water crises facing Indigenous communities, and focuses on environmental sustainability, reconciliation, and the contributions of Indigenous law to Canadian governance.

Bakker is also Canada Research Chair in Political Ecology at The University of British Columbia (UBC), a professor in UBC’s Department of Geography, and a founding co-director of UBC’s Program of Water Governance. She is the author of over 100 academic publications, including five books on water governance. She has advised such organizations as the UNDP, UNESCO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the International Institute for Sustainable Development, and the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom.

Her commentaries appear frequently in the popular press. She is a Rhodes Scholar and a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

In addition to being passionate about her research, Bakker is enthusiastic about disseminating that knowledge using creative and sophisticated communications methods, including the arts and social media. Her approach has inspired and engaged students and scholars at all stages of their careers.

SSHRC grants supported my research, which has resulted in more than 100 academic publications (including five books)—one of which, Eau Canada, became a UBC Press bestseller and stimulated significant public debate across Canada. SSHRC’s support also enabled our Decolonizing Water team to grow quickly in just two years: from an initial Connections Grant in 2015, to a network of 21 scholars at 15 universities, working with over 20 students. One of the accomplishments of which I am most proud is the support and mentorship that our team can provide to the outstanding work being done by Indigenous students and early-career scholars.

Reem Bahdi to receive Guthrie Award

The Law Foundation of Ontario is pleased to announce that the 2017 Guthrie Award will be presented to Reem Bahdi. The Guthrie Award is the Foundation’s signature award to recognize exceptional access to justice champions.

Professor Bahdi is an author, researcher, and human rights expert, with particular expertise in the human rights of Arabs and Muslims in Canada. She was the Canadian Bar Association’s first Equality Advisor and was instrumental in the creation of the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association.

“Professor Bahdi has seized the opportunity to work on complex and cutting edge access to justice issues,” says Linda Rothstein, the Foundation’s Board Chair. “She has dedicated her life to changing hearts, minds, and systems to champion human rights. And, remarkably, it seems she is just getting started.”

Canada’s first tenured Palestinian-Canadian law professor, Professor Bahdi is an associate professor at the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Law and a visiting professor at Birzeit University’s graduate program in democracy and human rights in the West Bank. She helped introduce a mandatory access to justice course at Windsor Law in 2003 and served as the law school’s Associate Dean from 2012 to 2015.

“Professor Bahdi is an exceptional member of our Faculty of Law, and she is engaging our country in vitally important conversations,” says Alan Wildeman, the President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Windsor and the individual who nominated Professor Bahdi for the award. “She has lived and breathed access to justice, and is a role model to students, scholars, and the profession.”

Professor Bahdi’s own research focuses on the human rights of Arabs and Muslims after 9/11 and Palestinian judicial education.

She has served as an expert witness, often on a pro bono basis, in many legal proceedings involving Canadian-Muslim rights and national security, including the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar.

From 2005 to 2012, Professor Bahdi established and managed an international development project called Karamah, which means ‘dignity’ in Arabic. Primarily funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, Karamah promoted human dignity in the administration of justice in the West Bank and developed a model for judicial education to advance human rights.

Professor Bahdi has authored or co-authored numerous articles, book chapters, reports, and conference papers, which have been cited extensively and helped inform policy discussions in Canada and abroad. In 2015, she was inducted into the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

Looking to the future, Professor Bahdi has several new research initiatives in development. These include:

  • A community-based study, funded by The Law Foundation of Ontario, with the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association about the perceptions and needs of the Arab community in Ontario as it relates to access to justice
  • The finalization of two scholarly papers about Canadian human rights tribunals and access to justice since 9/11 that include a review of over 250 decisions involving Arabs and Muslims in Canada
  • A collaborative College of New Scholars project with College Member Laura Loewen, Associate Professor of Collaborative Piano/Vocal Coach at the Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba to teach empathy to law students through music

The Guthrie Award will be formally presented to Professor Bahdi at a reception later this year.

The Guthrie Award has added significance this year as 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the first time the award was presented. “We wanted to pause and reflect on this important milestone,” says Ms Rothstein. “The 20th anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight the important work that has been done over the past 20 years and the work that still needs to be done to improve access to justice 20 years from today.”

Quotes from the supporters of Professor Reem Bahdi’s Guthrie Award nomination

“Whether serving as a resource to members of her community or supporting racialized law students in need of role models, Reem has for more than 15 years advanced the cause of access to justice locally and around the world, from the classroom to the courtroom. Reem Bahdi is eminently deserving of recognition for her tireless service to the cause of access to justice.”

– Faisal Bhabha, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School

“Professor Bahdi has a significant proven track record of furthering access to justice in Canada. She has achieved this work with integrity, compassion and intelligence. She is extremely humble and diligently works to further access to justice without seeking the attention and recognition that she deserves.”

– Zahra Binbrek, legal counsel, Human Rights Legal Support Centre and an executive member of the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association

“Reem is fully committed to the implementation of human rights, whether in a classroom teaching access to justice, as an expert witness in a racial profiling case, or whilst overseas working on the Karamah project with the judiciary. She has devoted her career to exposing the universality and transformative nature of human rights with a view to defending the rights of marginalized groups.”

– Leilani Farha, Executive Director of Canada Without Poverty and UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing

“Reem is a leading expert in Canada’s national security’s laws and their impact on the human rights and civil rights of Canadians and non-citizens… In post 9/11 Canada… it was empowering for the community to have someone of Reem’s calibre to analyze and provide critical analysis of these laws and to explain in lay terms why they were problematic. This information gave the community knowledge and confidence to undertake various campaigns to raise awareness and mobilize to challenge these laws.

– Dania Majid, lawyer, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario and founder and president of the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association

“Professor Bahdi pushed me and others to critically examine complex social issues; taught me and others to discern when procedural, substantive, or symbolic barriers to access to justice present themselves; and challenged us to think through the range of advocacy strategies to combat such barriers, whether such strategies would unfold inside or outside of a courtroom. In the end, I am undoubtedly a much more capable lawyer because of all this.”

– Justin Reid, Former Counsel to the Independent Police Oversight Review

“Even at Windsor Law, where access to justice (A2J) is our primary institutional theme, Professor Bahdi stands out as a leading light. Her contributions to legal education are multi-faceted. From innovative teaching to mentoring, and from cutting-edge research to equity-led administrative service, Professor Bahdi has been in the forefront of not only interrogating A2J on a theoretical plain, but in making our institutional theme a lived one for faculty, staff, and students.”

– Christopher Waters, Dean and Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor Ontario

About the Guthrie Award

The Foundation created the Guthrie Award in 1996 to honour H. Donald Guthrie, Q.C., a long-time member and Chair of the Foundation’s Board. The Foundation welcomes and encourages nominations of individuals who have a significant and proven track record of furthering access to justice. Guthrie recipients have built bridges between youth and the justice system, advanced justice for Indigenous peoples, served women experiencing violence, and strengthened the community clinic system to assist people with low-incomes. Previous recipients include: Kimberly Murray, Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Aboriginal Justice and former Executive Director, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada; Stephen Goudge, former Ontario Court of Appeal; the Hon. Roy McMurtry, former Attorney General and Chief Justice of Ontario; Alan Borovoy, former general counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association; and the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic.

This article was originally published by the Law Foundation of Ontario.

Professor Valerie Oosterveld has been selected to lead a United Nations project

College Member and Western University Faculty of Law professor Valerie Oosterveld has been selected to lead a United Nations Women-funded project to learn more on the prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes from the Special Court of Sierra Leone (2002-13), created to address serious crimes committed during the brutal armed conflict in the West African country in the 1990s.

The world will have a clearer understanding of sexual and gender-based violence in Sierra Leone during its armed conflict, and, in turn, a blueprint for better prosecuting these war crimes, thanks to the backing of a United Nations (UN) grant and the efforts of a Western Law professor.

As a lawyer with Department of Foreign Affairs in 2000, Valerie Oosterveld and a colleague led Canada’s role in establishing the Special Court for Sierra Leone, an international criminal tribunal created in 2002 by the UN and the Government of Sierra Leone to address crimes committed during the brutal armed conflict in the West African country in the 1990s. During its decade-long run, ending in 2013, the court indicted numerous individuals on dozens of charges.

Among them was former Liberian President Charles Taylor, the first African head of state convicted for his part in war crimes. Taylor was charged with 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, including murder, forced labour and slavery, recruiting child soldiers and rape. He is currently serving a 50-year sentence.

Oosterveld’s involvement with the court continued until 2005, when she arrived at the Faculty of Law at Western, turning an academic spotlight to the actions of international criminal courts. Today, she is leading a team to draw lessons specifically from the prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence during the duration of the Special Court.

“From the very beginning, the prosecutor of the Special Court decided it would be very gender sensitive – a very big difference from all of the previous international criminal tribunals, such as Rwanda and Yugoslavia,” Oosterveld said.

“In thinking about the crimes that happened in Sierra Leone, the prosecutor realized the sexual and gender-based violence was very central to what happened there. There were thousands upon thousands of women and girls who were captured and basically made into slaves. Part of that was being a sex slave. It’s happened in other conflicts, but it had never been focused upon. The Special Court made it a central purpose of their prosecutions.”

While Oosterveld has written extensively on the judgements and convictions of forced marriage, sexual slavery and rape that came out of the Special Court, no one has truly “pulled back the curtain” to look at how it happened.

To do just that, the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women awarded Oosterveld a $37,000 grant. For the project, researchers will interview a range of people – including former court investigators, prosecutors, defence counsel, judges, legal officers and civil society members – to discover the decisions they made, and the actions they took, with respect to these crimes.

Oosterveld is working with former Western Law alumna Fanny Leveau, LLB ’11, an expert in gender-sensitive international justice, and Wayne Jordash, a British lawyer with more than 20 years of experience in the international human rights and humanitarian law fields, and a former defence counsel to the Special Court. They will publish their findings as a book and series of articles, in order to disseminate the information to other international and domestic tribunals tasked with gender-related prosecutions of war-time crimes.

“I feel it was a success,” said Oosterveld, looking back at what was accomplished through the Special Court. “What it did, on sexual and gender-based violence, was actually prompt a discussion in Sierra Leone that what happened to these women and girls were crimes. It led to significant law reform – now rape is a crime, where before, it wasn’t a crime unless it was against a young girl. Rape was not a crime in marriage during the conflict.

“Not to say the entire culture has changed – there is still discrimination against women in certain sectors, still a massive problem with rape – but there are prosecutions happening. While there are criminal laws changing, you need the culture change to allow it.”

Oosterveld’s work involves constantly reading transcripts of witness evidence involving what happened to the victims; it can be quite devastating, she said. But she tries to focus on the positive as to why she is reading the transcripts – to make change and ensure there are more gender-sensitive prosecutions happening in the future.

“There has been a radical shift in the understanding of the fact sexual and gender-based violence occurs in most conflicts and needs to be investigated alongside killings, genocide, enslavement and other crimes,” she said. “Part of that radical change is understanding they need to dig deeper and once they do they will discover more violations happening and the International Criminal Court is making progress around this.”

This article was written by Paul Mayne, and originally published by Western News

Dr. Carrie Bourassa assumes the position of Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health

Dr. Alain Beaudet, President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), announced today the appointment of Dr. Carrie Bourassa as incoming Scientific Director of CIHR’s Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health. This appointment will take effect on February 1, 2017.

Dr. Bourassa is Chair of Northern & Indigenous Health at the Health Sciences North Research Institute in Sudbury. She has spent the previous 15 years as a professor of Indigenous health studies in the Department of Indigenous Health, Education and Social Work at the First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) in Regina. During that time, her research has done much to raise awareness about the impacts of colonization on the health of Indigenous peoples and the need to deliver culturally safe care.

Dr. Bourassa is a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada and a public member of the Royal College Council of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. In 2012, Dr Bourassa won the Wiichihiwayshinawn Foundation Inc. Métis Award in Health and Science. In August 2016, she was named to the CIHR Institutes Advisory Board on Indigenous Peoples’ Health.

Dr. Bourassa is Métis and belongs to the Riel Métis Council of Regina Inc. (RMCR, Local #34). She earned her Master of Arts degree in political science and Ph.D. in social studies at the University of Regina.

Dr. Bourassa arrives at a propitious time for the organization, as CIHR has recently announced a series of concrete actions to strengthen its relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and increase its investments in Indigenous health research. As Scientific Director of CIHR’s Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health, Dr. Bourassa will work with the Indigenous health research community and stakeholders to help implement this new 10-point plan to “Build a healthier future for Indigenous Peoples.” She will also play a critical role in contributing to the development of the next generation of Indigenous researchers through capacity building and mentoring.

Through Dr. Bourassa’s appointment, CIHR is achieving a new milestone in establishing for the first time an Institute outside of a large urban centre. This move underscores CIHR’s commitment to helping meet the health challenges of Canadians in northern and rural areas. CIHR looks forward to building on its relationship with the Health Sciences North Research Institute, where researchers are engaged in cutting-edge research on healthy aging, cancer care, infectious diseases, precision medicine and northern and Indigenous health.