Friday, September 15, 2017
Group photo of Dean Edward Iacobucci with IHRP founder Professor Cook and former and current directors

Making history: (L) Dean Edward Iacobucci with former IHRP directors Noah Novogrodsky (University of Wyoming College of Law and director, Center for International Human Rights Law & Advocacy) and Renu Mandhane (Ontario Human Rights Commission chief commissioner), IHRP founder Professor Rebecca Cook, former IHRP director Valerie Oosterveld (associate dean of research and graduate studies, Western Faculty of Law) and current IHRP director Samer Muscati

Alumna and Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane, Ontario Human Rights Commission, keynotes celebratory event

By Amelia Fung, 2L / Photos by Jorge Martinez

More than 100 distinguished alumni, faculty, students, and sponsors gathered Sept. 14th at the Faculty of Law to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the International Human Rights Program. The theme of the evening was “impact,” featured a photo exhibit depicting the IHRP's work over the past three decades, and a keynote speech by alumna Renu Mandhane, now chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and a former director of the IHRP.

“You are a testament to the strength of the program and the quality of the students that it attracts,” said Dean Edward Iacobucci in his welcome address to guests, including the many IHRP alumni who continue to support the program. Iacobucci noted the IHRP is one of the hallmarks of the law school’s focus on international law and policy, and that he was proud it continues to have such a positive impact on both students and the international human rights movement.

Prof. Rebecca Cook, who founded the IHRP in 1987, said its beginnings were modest, but it has grown tremendously to meet the many human rights challenges facing the world today.  Since that time, the IHRP has expanded its summer fellowship program, including a human rights clinical legal education program. The clinic helps train the next generation of globally-focused lawyers to the highest standards of excellence in research, advocacy and professionalism.

She spoke about how the IHRP has helped to build “communities where collaborative learning…and leadership skills…and relevant knowledge have been created” to address the persistence of human rights abuses.

“The IHRP has challenged human rights violations here and abroad by helping to reform laws, policies, and practice through research and advocacy,” said alumnus Samer Muscati, director of the IHRP. The clinic has brought an important international human rights law perspective to cases before the Supreme Court of Canada, assisted Canadians seeking remedies before the UN Human Rights Committee and authored ground-breaking reports that expose human rights abuses both within and outside Canada.

The event showcased IHRP’s work through a photo exhibit, which featured covers of reports on the program’s core research issues, including refugee rights, the rights of women and girls, international criminal justice, counter-terrorism, freedom of expression, and corporate accountability for human rights.

"What is wonderful about the IHRP is that there are no strict rules about how to do the work - it is a program that parlays passion, creativity, and strategic thinking into impact," Renu Mandhane commented after her speech. She mentioned how, in the field of human rights, the kind of experiences you have on a day-to-day basis can burn you out. During these times, Renu says she misses the IHRP students’ energy and creativity, which is unparalleled. 

A number of IHRP clinic students attended the event. Enbal Singer, a clinic student and past IHRP summer fellow, said "people are constantly discouraging us from doing human rights work and the first year of law school regularly made me doubt if this is what I really wanted to do. The IHRP fellowship was an amazing reminder of why I came to law school in the first place and made me excited again about my future legal career. The IHRP really helps me feel like I'm on the right path and that there is support for my work at the law school."

Another clinic student and past fellow, Jeremy Greenberg, highlighted the remarkable experience he had working at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague – an experience facilitated through an IHRP fellowship. "Not enough students at the Faculty of Law realize that there are careers outside corporate law, let alone outside Canada. The IHRP is a hidden gem for enabling precisely such experiences, and it deserves to be heralded far more."


On behalf of the International Human Rights Program, Director Samer Muscati would like to thank event donors Prof. Rebecca Cook and Prof. Bernard Dickens, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, Goldblatt Partners LLP, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP and Stikeman Elliott LLP.