Bachelor of Arts, Honours in Human Rights and Law ('17)
I experience the world through a human rights-based perspective. Every day I am consciously aware of the history, privilege and laws that enable me to go about my day to eat, work, learn and love with few restrictions. Studying a B.A. Human Rights and Law with a Concentration in Transnational Law and Human Rights at Carleton University enabled me to explore the relationship between social justice and law while pursuing my passion for human rights in my community. I became heavily involved on the campus – joining six separate clubs. Subsequently, I took on leadership roles by founding the Carleton Human Rights Society and being elected President of the Oxfam at Carleton club. Simultaneously, off-campus, I interned with two Canadian MPs, two international civil society organizations and was selected for the Senate Page program. Furthermore, throughout my undergraduate degree I volunteered my time to work with children with special needs – most recently as a Special Olympics coach. Despite these numerous extracurricular involvements, my love of learning pushed me to strive for academic excellence, maintaining an 11.6/12.0 CGPA and receiving fifteen different post-secondary scholarships/awards. Through the Department of Law and Legal Studies, I have also had two papers – on sex worker’s rights and supervised injection sites – published in the Carleton University Journal of Legal Studies.
It was through the law program that I had the pleasure of taking Professor Stacy Douglas’ course “Law, State and the Citizen” in my second year. Through this course and my later involvement in coordinating the event: “Sex Workers Rights: An Evening with Terri Jean Bedford” – Professor Douglas became one of my mentors. Over the past two years she has been an incredible support personally, academically and professionally who has been instrumental in helping me pursue and achieve opportunities that were previously unimaginable. This mentorship included supervising my fourth-year independent study, which resulted in the writing of my 80-page research thesis entitled: “A Superficial Commitment to Survivor-Centrism in the Carleton University Sexual Violence Policy”.
I have always sought to connect my degree program to the broader community through a variety of involvement – most recently demonstrated through my involvement to combat sexual violence on university campuses. I first became involved in this work after reading Carleton’s Draft Sexual Violence Policy and noticing several shortcomings in the draft policy. This resulted in me reaching out to the Human Rights Society and drafting an Open Letter recommending 5 key reforms to the draft policy. It was my coursework in the law department that enabled me to properly read and understand this legal document, identify issues and write up an open letter response that ended up being signed by 45 clubs, all levels of student unions and over 200 individual students. This resulted in meaningful changes to the final version of the Carleton University Sexual Violence Policy – including the removal of the President’s exception clause and a loophole whereby respondents could avoid liability by ending their relationship with the university. I have since continued my involvement with this cause by being named Chair of the CUSA and GSA project called Our Turn. This is a national action plan to end sexual violence on university campuses through prevention and support programs, as well as advocacy efforts. As a national student movement to combat sexual violence, it will be launched in Fall 2017 on university campuses across the country. Had it not been for the law program at Carleton, I would have been unable to do this work, which includes analyzing policies, extensive research and the development of a framework document.
My passion for human rights, law and social justice has brought me all over the world, enabling me to gain a deeper understanding of various legal systems. As Carleton’s Fulbright Killam Exchange Fellow at the American University in Washington D.C., I expanded my understanding of the American judicial and political systems. Reflecting my belief in learning outside the classroom. While in Washington, I interned with the Canadian Embassy and the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition. Last summer through Oxfam Canada, I coordinated an international conference on implementation gaps in violence against women legislation in the Global South. This event in Benin, Africa, brought together 30 participants from 11 countries and resulted in the publication of a 50-page report by Oxfam International. As a testament to how my input was viewed, I was asked to join Oxfam’s Board of Directors Policy Committee for the term 2016-2019.
As I continue in my academic and professional career, my long-term goals include becoming a human rights lawyer and litigating for the rights of marginalized groups. I look forward to participating in the 3M National Student Fellowship Program in Halifax this June and spending a month studying at The Hague Academy of International Law in the Netherlands this July. Although my long-term goals include clerking for the Supreme Court, litigating the rights of vulnerable groups and becoming a judge, above all, as a lawyer, I hope to continue supporting marginalized groups to access their rights and use law as a tool to ensure that they can live a life with dignity. As my graduation date approaches, I will be forever grateful to the Carleton Human Rights and Law and Legal Studies departments (as well as the incredible faculty/staff) for supporting me and giving me the tools to achieve this goal.