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A life transformed, black awareness heightened

Michael Coleman left an important legacy for the university when he co-founded the Black Law Students’ Association of Canada - Queen’s Chapter.

Michael Coleman Law'17
During his time at Queen's University Michael Coleman (Law’17) co-founded a Queen’s chapter of the Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA) of Canada. 

If there’s a word to describe the three years Michael Coleman (Law’17), spent as a student at Queen’s Law, it’s “transformative.” 

Not only did he earn his JD degree and emerge from the experience a changed person, he also left an important legacy when he co-founded a Queen’s chapter of the Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA) of Canada. 

Today, Coleman is thriving in his role as an associate with Toronto-based Fogler, Rubinoff LLP, where he works in the firm’s commercial real estate and banking groups. But he still marvels at how much his life has changed since his first day of law school in September 2014. 

Coleman was 22 then. While earning an Honours BA from York University, he’d hoped to have a future in law.

“I was inspired by my Grade 12 law teacher who shared positive stories about being a lawyer, and I was always encouraged by my immediate family and (now) fiancée, Schenelle Dias,” he says. “I developed a strong sense that I wanted a legal career. That was something no one else in my family had ever accomplished.”

Coleman was the third of four children born to Jamaican-born immigrant parents. After coming to Canada in the early 1980s, his father, Fedrick, toiled as a transportation dispatcher, his mother, Evadne as a personal support worker. The Colemans worked hard to build better lives for themselves and for their children; education was integral to that goal.

Choosing Queen's

Coleman chose Queen’s Law for two reasons. One was the legacy of Robert Sutherland (c1830-1878), the brilliant Jamaican-born man who was the first black graduate of Queen’s, the first black lawyer in British North America, and one of the university’s most important early benefactors.

“I found his story particularly inspiring,” Coleman says.

A second reason was the collegial approach to learning at the school.

“The students support each other, and the professors are passionate about the subjects they teach," he says. "They challenge you intellectually while encouraging you to think, question, and consider all sides of an issue. That’s something that has stayed with me, and that I try to do in my practice.”

Coleman learned critical legal skills and more at Queen’s Law while finding his way. He began first-year intent on a career in criminal or administrative law; however, a tax course taught by Professor Art Cockfield (Law’93), fired his imagination and nudged him in a different direction.

“That’s one of the great things about Queen’s Law,” Coleman says. “Students are exposed to and have opportunities to experience different areas of the law.” 

At the same time his career goals were changing, he made some big changes personally, becoming “a lot more mindful” of what he was eating and beginning a running-based exercise regimen that helped him drop 90 pounds.   

Giving back to the community

As if all that wasn’t challenging enough, Coleman somehow made time and found the energy to continue “giving back to the community.” This is something his role models have always done, and he has followed their example. In his graduating year at Queen’s Law, Coleman was named to the Agnes Benidickson Tricolour Society for his volunteer efforts with Queen’s Legal Aid, for serving as a math and English tutor for inmates at Collins Bay Institution, and for co-founding BLSA-Queen’s.

The latter is an organization that Coleman discovered in October of first year, that he’s still proudly involved with and that he’s delighted to see active at Queen’s Law.

“The BLSA provides me with ongoing opportunities to mentor black law students and to network with other black Queen’s Law alumni,” he says, noting two in particular: Justice Donald McLeod (Law’95) of the Ontario Court of Justice, the first black Queen’s Law grad to be called to the bench, and Frank Walwyn (Law’93) of WeirFoulds LLP, who’s one of the first black partners at a Bay Street law firm.

“I’ve benefited from the friendships that I made at Queen’s Law and from the rich alumni network that’s out there,” says Coleman. “I’ll always feel a strong connection to the school.” 

By Ken Cuthbertson (Law’83)

Capturing the Art of Research

Celebrating its fifth year, the Art of Research photo contest is open for submissions until March 12.

  • "Love Under the Microscope" by Dalila Villalobos, MD, Resident (Anatomical Pathology)
    "Love Under the Microscope" by Dalila Villalobos, MD, Resident (Anatomical Pathology)
  • "Santa Fina" by Una D'Elia, Faculty (Art History and Art Conservation)
    "Santa Fina" by Una D'Elia, Faculty (Art History and Art Conservation)
  • "A New Light" by Robert Cichocki, PhD Student (Civil Engineering)
    "A New Light" by Robert Cichocki, PhD Student (Civil Engineering)
  • "Window on a Window to the Universe" by Mark Chen, Faculty (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy)
    "Window on a Window to the Universe" by Mark Chen, Faculty (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy)
  • "Platinum Surface Electrochemistry" by Derek Esau, PhD Student (Chemistry)
    "Platinum Surface Electrochemistry" by Derek Esau, PhD Student (Chemistry)
  • "Keep Cool Boy - The Jets Aloft in West Side Story" by Tim Fort, Faculty (Dan School of Drama and Music)
    "Keep Cool Boy - The Jets Aloft in West Side Story" by Tim Fort, Faculty (Dan School of Drama and Music)
  • "Nano-dendrite Collision" by Hannah Dies, MD/PhD Student (Chemical Engineering)
    "Nano-dendrite Collision" by Hannah Dies, MD/PhD Student (Chemical Engineering)
  • "Exploring Worlds at Home" by James Xie, Undergraduate Student (Engineering Chemistry)
    "Exploring Worlds at Home" by James Xie, Undergraduate Student (Engineering Chemistry)

Researchers … ready your cameras. Returning for its fifth year, the Art of Research photo contest is looking to celebrate and creatively capture the research conducted by the Queen’s community.

RESEARCH@QUEEN’S 
Did you know that the university recently launched a new central website for Queen’s research? From in-depth features to the latest information on the university’s researchers, the site is a destination showcasing the impact of Queen’s research. Discover Research@Queen’s.

Hosted by the Office of the Vice-Principal (University Relations) and open to Queen’s faculty, staff, students, and alumni, the Art of Research provides a unique and accessible method of sharing ground-breaking research happening at the university. It also represents the diversity of Queen’s research, with winners representing multiple disciplines and submissions highlighting research happening at all career stages.

The contest is an opportunity for researchers to mobilize their research and spark curiosity. Visuals can create a more compelling and accessible research narrative. By looking at research from a different perspective, it is possible to find the beauty and art in any project.

Eligibility and Prizes

Any current Queen’s faculty, staff, student, or alumni are eligible to participate. Research depicted in the submissions must have been completed at Queen’s or while the submitter was affiliated with the university. More information about contest rules can be found on the Research@Queen’s website.

In addition to promotion across institutional channels and platforms, prizes of $500 will be awarded for the top submission in each of these categories:

Category Prizes

  • Community Collaborations: Research that partners with or supports communities or groups
  • Invisible Discoveries: Research unseen by the naked eye, hiding in plain sight, or only visible by using alternative methods of perception
  • Out in the Field: Research where it occurs, is documented, or discovered
  • Art in Action Prize: Research that is aesthetically or artistically transformed or research in motion as it happens
  • Best Description: To recognize the most creative and accessible description for an image
  • People’s Choice: Determined by an online vote by members of the Queen’s community

In honour of the fifth anniversary of the Art of Research photo contest, three special prizes of $500 each will be awarded to celebrate the diversity of research happening across the university.

  • The Innovation, Knowledge Mobilization, and Entrepreneurship Prize will be awarded to the submission that best demonstrates research that encompasses a spirit of the applied practices of innovation, entrepreneurship, and knowledge mobilization. (Sponsored by Partnerships and Innovation)
  • The Graduate Studies Prize will be awarded to the image submitted by a Queen’s graduate student or post-doctoral fellow that best embodies the School of Graduate Studies’ motto “Create an Impact.” (Sponsored by the School of Graduate Studies)
  • The Health Sciences Prize will be awarded to the image that best represents the Faculty’s mission of “ask questions, seek answers, advance care, and inspire change.” (Sponsored by the Faculty of Health Sciences)

The contest closes on March 12, 2020. The submission form can be found here and winning images from previous competitions are located on the Research@Queen’s website

New internal funding for research

Queen's Vice-Principal (Research) launches Wicked Ideas Competition.

Wicked problems are issues so complex and dependent on so many factors that it is hard to grasp what exactly the problems are or how to tackle them. Wicked ideas are needed to solve these problems, and demand the input of multiple disciplines, multiple perspectives, and relevant practical expertise.

The Vice-Principal (Research) has launched the Wicked Ideas competition as a pilot initiative to fund and support research collaborations that respond to local, national, and global challenges. Aligned with the concept of the Government of Canada’s New Frontiers in Research Fund – Exploration program, the competition “seeks to inspire projects that bring disciplines together beyond traditional disciplinary or common interdisciplinary approaches by research teams with the capacity to explore something new, which might fail but has the potential for significant impact.” Along with both disciplinary and interdisciplinary funding streams, the competition offers a “global challenge” stream, featuring climate change as a global challenge area.  Teams of researchers are invited to submit notices of intent by Feb. 3, 2020.

“This funding is designed to remove some of the financial barriers to high-risk, high-reward research, allowing scholars to push the boundaries of knowledge into uncharted territory,” says Dr. Kent Novakowski, Acting Vice-Principal (Research). “I greatly look forward to hearing about some of the paradigm-shifting ideas that come out of this new exploratory opportunity.”

Up to 15 teams will be awarded $75,000 each in the first phase of the competition in spring 2020. The 15 teams then will be eligible to compete for one of an additional five awards of up to $150,000 in the 2021 Wicked Ideas competition. The competition is open to all Queen's faculty across all disciplines. Co-investigators and team members also must be Queen's faculty members.

This is just one of several internal funding programs that have been launched by the Vice-Principal (Research) recently.  Other programs include the Queen’s Research Opportunities Fund (QROF) Post-doctoral Fund, as well as the Catalyst Fund – designed to enhance areas of research excellence by giving scholars an opportunity to accelerate their research programs.

A revised Prizes for Excellence in Research competition, which has recognized scholarly achievement at Queen’s since 1980, is set to launch soon.

More information about all of these programs, including terms of reference, is available on the Vice-Principal (Research) website.

Law firm's gift supports Queen's Legal Aid

Bogoroch & Associates donate $200,000 to help clinic maintain access to justice.

Bogoroch & Associates LLP has donated $200,000 to Queen’s Legal Aid (QLA), providing much-needed support to assist the clinic in maintaining its current level of service. Each year, QLA provides free legal assistance to approximately 900 clients and makes appropriate referrals for over 1,400 individuals in the greater Kingston area. It also serves as a prime experiential learning opportunity for Queen's law students from which they acquire valuable skills as they serve the community's most vulnerable citizens.

Richard Bogoroch is the founder and Managing Partner of Bogoroch & Associates LLP, a Toronto law firm that has donated $200,000 to Queen’s Legal Aid. Photo Eric Forget

“I am grateful to have the opportunity to make this gift, especially at a time when recent cutbacks to legal aid have left the clinic with a funding shortfall,” says Richard Bogoroch, founder and Managing Partner of Bogoroch & Associates LLP. “This gift exemplifies our abiding interest in legal education and access to justice. Lack of access to justice is not an abstraction, it is reality for so many people who cannot afford a lawyer. By this gift, those in need of assistance will obtain it and Queen’s law students will learn valuable skills; skills that should serve them well as they embark on their legal careers.”

Karla McGrath (LLM’13), Executive Director of the Queen’s Law Clinics, certainly knows how clinical education shapes a student’s career. “Students working in Queen’s Legal Aid – and in our other clinics in business, elder, family and prison law – are placed in a dynamic work environment, under the close supervision of clinic review counsel,” she says. “The environment and stakes are real: clinic directors and review counsel pride themselves on not only giving the students an education in law, but a genuine sense of what it means to be a legal professional and to litigate.”

“We’ve heard a great deal of positive feedback from law firms about the benefits of recruiting students with clinical experience,” says Blair Crew, Director of Queen’s Legal Aid, which is the largest of five Queen’s Law Clinics operating in downtown Kingston. “Each year, QLA offers experiential learning opportunities – on a volunteer, for-credit and paid summer employment basis – to more than 80 students who meet demanding standards and compete for the coveted positions.”

QLA students provide a wide range of pro bono legal services to low-income residents of Kingston, Napanee and surrounding areas, and to Queen’s University students. These are critical services that Bogoroch & Associates LLP wanted to support.

“Legal education is of paramount importance because a strong and vigorous bar is an essential component of a healthy and vibrant democracy,” says Bogoroch. “Where there’s no access to justice, there’s increasing inequality and despair. This is not healthy for the functioning of our society. For that reason, our firm felt it important to make this gift so that Queen’s Legal Aid could continue training future lawyers, lawyers we’re confident will make a significant contribution to society.”

Bogoroch & Associates LLP, a Toronto-based law firm, represents injured individuals and their families in all aspects of personal injury and medical malpractice litigation. In 2019, Canadian Lawyer magazine selected Bogoroch & Associates LLP as one of the Top 10 personal injury boutique law firms in Canada. Richard Bogoroch, a certified specialist in civil litigation by the Law Society of Ontario, is recognized as a leading personal injury lawyer by the Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory and Best Lawyers in Canada.

“Queen’s Legal Aid, along with our other Queen’s Law Clinics, is central to our sense of what legal education is all about and to serving the community,” says Dean Mark Walters (Law’89). “This generous donation from Bogoroch & Associates LLP will support the great success of our clinical legal education program to the benefit of our students as well as vulnerable members of the Kingston community.”

For more information visit the website.

New clinic director to cultivate business law partnerships

Tomi Adebiyi
New Queen's Business Law Clinic director Tomi Adebiyi looks forward to enhancing experiential learning opportunities for students and to building relationships with more community organizations that will help budding entrepreneurs and innovators in the Kingston area. (Photo by Greg Black)

After only 10 months of supervising students who serve start-ups and entrepreneurs, Tomi Adebiyi has taken the helm at the Queen's Business Law Clinic. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Adebiyi practised with one of her home country’s leading business law firms for three years before completing an LLM in corporate/commercial law at McGill University. After her 2015 graduation, she worked in different capacities with Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission and then joined the Queen's Business Law Clinic in January. 

Promoted from staff lawyer to director of the Queen's Business Law Clinic, Tomi Adebiyi speaks about her interests in business law, clinic experience and her plans for the future.

What interests you most about business law and in providing legal services to small businesses, non-profit organizations and other Queen's Business Law Clinic clients?

I have always been intrigued by business law. I was curious to understand the intersection of law and business as a law student and this influenced my decision to pursue a business law practice. I also have a strong background in pro bono service, having worked as a staff member, articling student and volunteer lawyer at a pro bono organisation in Saskatchewan. Being able to assist clients who would otherwise be unable to afford legal services has been quite a fulfilling experience for me. For many of our clients, the Queen's Business Law Clinic provides them with an invaluable opportunity to obtain excellent legal advice thereby avoiding potential mistakes that could cost their business a lot going forward. 

What did you like best about being a staff lawyer with the Queen's Business Law Clinic?

The best part of my job as a staff lawyer was supervising the student caseworkers. When I resumed in January, the student caseworkers were halfway through their time at the clinic and, at that stage, were producing substantial work for review. I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing their work and advising the student caseworkers on their client files. 

This summer, I worked closely with the three Queen's Business Law Clinic summer caseworkers to provide our clients with top-quality and timely legal services. We had a great time working with clients from the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI) Program run by the Dunin-Despande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC). We helped clients incorporate businesses, prepared Shareholders Agreements and advised them on their intellectual property rights. It was satisfying to watch some of our clients as they presented their ideas, and won seed funding, at the Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition.

What surprised you about working with the Queen's Business Law Clinic?

The enthusiasm and dedication of the student caseworkers, as well as the versatility of files at the clinic, was a pleasant surprise. Working with startup companies and budding entrepreneurs presents a unique opportunity for students to experience hands on some of the issues that they are unlikely to find in bigger companies. It was a pleasure to watch students wear the adviser hat as they transferred the theoretical knowledge learnt at the law school into practical advice for the benefit of their clients. 

What do you like best about your new role as Queen's Business Law Clinic director?

In addition to supervising the 24 student caseworkers at the clinic, I instruct the Queen’s Business Law Clinic course. Over the summer, I worked with Morgan Jarvis (Law’10), the previous Clinic Director, to develop an intellectually stimulating syllabus for the 2019-20 school year. As part of my supervisory role, I meet with each student caseworker monthly to discuss file work and give feedback to the student on their file work. I am also working in collaboration with our partners, the Office of Partnerships & Innovation and the DDQIC on various projects, including the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) Ecosystem Fund, which is a $3.2 million fund provided by FedDev Ontario for Queen’s University. 

What are your plans for the clinic?

The Queen's Business Law Clinic is known for the provision of exceptional legal services to the Kingston area’s growing innovation ecosystem, start-ups, social enterprises, not-for-profits and charitable corporations. I look forward to continue to build up and enhance this reputation. I also look forward to enhancing the student experience at the QBLC by providing them with hands-on experiential learning opportunities throughout their year at the QBLC. We currently have a strong partnership with the DDQIC and the Office of Partnerships & Innovation and I look forward to renewing, strengthening and cultivating partnerships with other community organizations with similar goals and objectives, particularly groups focused on newcomers in Canada, budding entrepreneurs and innovators in the Kingston area. 

This article was first published by the Queen's Faculty of Law.

Putting the AI in legal aid

The Conflict Analytics Lab is developing an AI-powered tool capable of offering legal predictions to self-represented litigants along with negotiation support.

[Professor Samuel Dahan]
Samuel Dahan, a professor in the Faculty of Law at Queen's University, is also the director of the Conflict Analytics Lab.

When trying to determine how to sentence a guilty party, a judge will often look at precedent to determine an appropriate judgement. This can take time, as the judge and his or her staff pore over records and try to make a fair assessment.

But what if the technology existed to analyze hundreds, if not thousands, of similar cases quickly and build a fair judgement much faster?

Even better, what if this technology was affordable enough to be accessible in cases where hiring a lawyer was prohibitively expensive? What if you could use it when an eBay transaction goes wrong, or if you could use it even if you lived remotely and didn’t have access to a lawyer?

Enter the Intelligent Dispute Resolution System, a product of the Queen’s Law and Smith School of Business Conflict Analytics Lab. This AI-powered tool, already under development, would be capable of offering legal predictions to self-represented litigants along with negotiation support.

The “AI-Tribunal for Small Claims: Building an Intelligent Dispute Resolution System” project recently received $244,562 in funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to develop the first components of the pilot research: severance calculation predictive models, and an intelligent system for algorithmic employment negotiation.

“This is the core project of the Conflict Analytics Lab because it is touching upon many areas of our work: legal predictions, negotiation support, democratization of technology, and improving access to justice,” says Professor Samuel Dahan, Director of the Conflict Analytics Lab.

Dahan has partnered with Professor Yuri Levin, the Stephen J.R. Smith Chair of Analytics and Executive Director of Analytics and AI with Smith School of Business; Professor Xiaodan Zhu of Queen’s Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Professor Maxime Cohen of McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management. Also assisting with the project are up to 15 students earning such degrees as Master of Laws, Master of Business Administration and Master of Management in Artificial Intelligence.

There are three components to the dispute resolution program – a legal component, a computer science component, and a data science component. The user inputs the relevant data into the system, and it returns a relevant suggestion. The system also learns as it works, meaning its suggestions will only improve with time and use.

The employment notice (“severance”) predictor, which the team has been working on the longest, is intended to help employees in situations where they have been terminated. By typing in their variables including industry, region, age of employee and length of employment, the system can suggest an appropriate severance amount. This means the terminated employee can use this system – without hiring an employment lawyer – to understand if they are being compensated fairly if they are let go by their employer.

While the system is beginning with employment law, Dahan sees the potential for application in small claims, family law,insurance, trademark disputes, and beyond. The only stipulations are that it must be a monetary award, and the award amount must be under $50,000.

“We are hoping to launch our first pilot project this fall – the employment notice predictor – and through a practicum course we are continuing to develop our data sets and explore new legal questions that could benefit from the application of AI,” says Dahan. “Over the next two years, we will be working with the Ontario Attorney General and the British Columbia Small Claims Tribunal to integrate this technology into their system.The idea will be to integrate the various tools, including the legal predictions, the dispute resolution, and the negotiation tool, into existing judicial procedures.”

In the future, Dahan hopes not only that people will use this tool but he hopes to hear from users who receive positive settlements and from companies who successfully integrate the platform into their online dispute resolution processes.

As Dahan puts it, “If they say, ‘you've helped us to sort out half of our customer service cases by making offers to unhappy customers, and our employees are much less overwhelmed than they used to be,’ I would call that a success.”

This article was first published on the Queen's Faculty of Law website.

International faculty and staff supports

The Human Rights & Equity Office is holding discussion sessions about developing and strengthening supports for employees coming to Queen's from abroad.

Staff and faculty participating in the first brainstorm meeting
Queen's faculty and staff participating in a brainstorming session about supports for international employees.

The Human Rights & Equity Office (HREO) recently invited international staff and faculty to engage in an initial conversation about what potential supports or groups could be created or strengthened to assist those moving from abroad for employment at Queen’s University.

A group of international faculty and staff gathered on Sept. 30 for a brainstorming session facilitated by Queen's Human Rights Advisor Nilani Loganathan, who guided the group in an exercise to begin to identify gaps in services and programs, and suggest ways that could better support international employees.

“I’m very pleased with the ideas brought forth by those who attended our first session,” says Loganathan. “We touched on a number of areas, including issues concerning relocating to Kingston, settling in at Queen’s, employment and education supports for families, and much more. We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation and collecting more feedback that will best inform our path forward.”

Employees who identify as international staff and faculty will have additional opportunities to provide their input. The next session is to take place on Friday, Nov. 15 in Mackintosh-Corry Hall, B176 from 12pm – 1pm. Please email hrights@queensu.ca to confirm your attendance.

Learning, unlearning, and relearning

[Together We Are]
When Queen's Law student Lauren Winkler thinks of university, or post-secondary education, or life for that matter, one word comes to her mind: opportunity.

In this piece for the Together We Are blog, Lauren Winkler, a Kanien’keha:ka student at Queen’s, talks about her journey relearning to love herself in the different roles of her life: daughter, sister, niece, grandchild, and friend.

“Education is what got us here, education is what will get us out.” – Senator Murray Sinclair

[Together We Are Logo]When I think of university, or post-secondary education, or life for that matter, one word comes to mind: opportunity. Coming to Queen’s I was excited about the opportunity to live on my own, to make new friends, to find myself (because at the time I thought that was something that would just happen… I only wish), and to learn. Sure enough, I have thrived living in my independence, made lifelong friends, and gained a better sense of who I am. What I did not anticipate were the challenges to my own way of thinking that would come from my professors and peers, the different perspectives and life experiences that would be shared with me, and how strengthening my values would shift how I learned and perceived the world. Before university, I always saw learning as linear, but I now understand it to be a lifelong process in which I will learn, unlearn, and relearn. I believe that the more you learn, the better equipped you are to practice empathy, engage in meaningful discussion, and be a catalyst for change.

It was during my undergraduate degree that I first heard the term “unlearning” and it was not until this past summer that I truly understood the concept of “relearning.”

Usually when I tell my story, it heavily focuses on my identity as an Indigenous student. Today, however, I want to embrace my vulnerability and share a different narrative. I want to tell you about how I am relearning to love myself. To love myself as a daughter, sister, niece, grandchild, and friend. To love myself as a woman, as a Mohawk woman, a student, as a law student. To love myself as an advocate for Indigenous peoples, as a student to my culture, as a member of the Onkwehon:we community. To do this, I have had to unlearn toxic pressures and expectations that I put on myself, unlearn my view of vulnerability as being negative, and unlearn stigmas attached to mental health and mental illness. In the past year, I have learned that eating disorders are not solely a result of body image, I have learned that healing is not linear, and I have learned that sharing my own story helps others to validate their own. Struggling with depression, anxiety, and disordered eating, I have had to relearn patience with myself, relearn to validate my thoughts and feelings, and relearn loving myself for who I am.

You will have noticed that at the beginning of this post I included a quote by Senator Murray Sinclair. Where his quote is referring to the residential school system and the power that education has in the process of reconciliation, I think that his message on education can be applied to any situation. I truly believe that we all have so much to learn from one another and that we would all be in a better place if we genuinely listened to and engaged with one another. If we unlearned narratives that we have been taught about one another. If we relearn how to connect with one another to work towards a larger purpose. To me, that is the power of learning, unlearning, and relearning – they are processes that I will be humbly engaging in my whole life and the thought excites me.

As Together We Are marks its fifth year, the blog will focus on unlearning and relearning. The contributors will talk about the learnt attitudes, behaviours, and feelings that must be changed in order to foster a truly inclusive campus.

Lasting peace from the outside in

Ashwini Vasanthakumar, a professor in the Faculty of Law, is looking into the rights and responsibilities exiles have to the country they have left behind, as well as the responsibilities of their host country in facilitating justice for these individuals, through her SSHRC-funded project. (University Communications)

Thomas Merton once said, “Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war.”

Many countries which have survived civil wars might relate to Merton’s quote. The battles, death, and destruction are terrible, and yet picking up the pieces after the fighting is done can be a similarly overwhelming challenge.

One of the unanswered questions during these internal conflicts is what to do about those who have fled or been exiled to foreign countries and settled there, also known as diasporas. These communities play different roles in their countries of origin: they might enhance economic growth, support resistance efforts, or try to resolve conflicts. When conflict ends and it is time to pursue transitional justice, it is difficult to determine what role these diasporas should play in those processes, and what rights and responsibilities they have in their home country.

This is the focus of Professor Ashwini Vasanthakumar’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) funded project, “Transitional Justice as Transnational Justice: partnering with diasporas to secure justice from afar.” 

“Through this project, I will look at what rights and responsibilities exiles have to the country they have left behind, as well as the responsibilities of their host country in facilitating justice for these individuals,” she says. “Transitional justice is challenging because it looks at how we right wrongs, rebuild society, and foster trust – it is both forward and backward looking.”

This is a tricky topic because oftentimes the exile community functions as an official opposition to the government back home. For instance, Chilean exiles in the 1970s sustained solidarity movements opposing the Pinochet regime. Others, like Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, were able to exploit their presence outside of the country to build support and claim power. These dynamics can create an adversarial and fraught relationship upon which to try and build lasting peace.

In her research, Vasanthakumar is focusing on the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in Toronto, Canada. The Sri Lankan civil war, which ended in 2009, was Asia’s longest running civil war and it created a large Tamil diaspora. She first became interested in the war through work she completed in her undergraduate degree and fieldwork with Tamil communities. “The Sri Lankan civil war illustrates a lot of the complexities in these cases, and this is what makes it interesting to study; it is also an ongoing situation, so there is greater scope for research to inform policy or public debates.”

Some general principles that Vasanthakumar seeks to confirm through her research is whether, for instance, there are general expectations that exile communities should have in these situations. Do they have a right to be “heard” by the government, should they have a say in how justice is administered following civil wars, and does the Canadian government has a role in facilitating this on behalf of exile communities it hosts? “Suppose the conclusion is that diasporas have rights to be involved in transitional justice,” she says. “The Canadian government has international obligations to promote peace abroad – could this be a way to fulfill those obligations?”

To inform her theory, Vasanthakumar will be conducting qualitative research among members of the Tamil diaspora in Toronto. Along for the trip will be two research assistants, supported by her $33,649 SSHRC grant, who will have the opportunity to build their interview skills with clients in need of justice. She also aims to present at several workshops and conferences at the conclusion of the project.

“While I am using the Tamil diaspora as a case study, with future research funding I hope to investigate other case studies and refine the theory,” she says. 

Vasanthakumar is also writing a book on diaspora politics entitled, The Ethics of Exile: a political theory of diaspora, which is under contract with Oxford University Press and is based on her PhD dissertation. 

This article was originally published by the Faculty of Law.

Keeping reconciliation at the forefront

A quote from Justice Murray Sinclair now adorns the walls of the Queen's Faculty of Law building thanks to the support of Law'18.

Murray Sinclair quote
The Queen’s Law atrium now features a short but powerful quote by Senator Murray Sinclair, Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, thanks to a class gift by Law’18. (University Communications)

“The road we travel is equal in importance to the destination we seek. There are no shortcuts. When it comes to truth and reconciliation we are forced to go the distance.”

These are the words of Senator Murray Sinclair, expressed during his 2009-2015 tenure as Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. These words are also one of the first things people will see when they enter the Queen’s Faculty of Law building, thanks to Law’18.

For their graduating class gift to the school, Law’18 classmates funded the design, production, and installation of the quote in silver lettering on the east wall of the building’s front entrance. 

“Exhibiting the words of Justice Murray Sinclair in the atrium will provide a daily reminder to law students that the journey of reconciliation is far from over, and that they have an important role to play in maintaining its momentum,” says Katrina Crocker, Law’18 Class President. “Additionally, the plaque – located inside a building branded with the name of Canada's first prime minister – will help to achieve a greater balance in that relationship.”

Crocker and the other seven Law’18 council members had put out an open call for classmates to submit ideas for a gift that would allow their graduating class to leave behind something meaningful to the Queen’s Law community.

“After reviewing a handful of proposals, the eight student council members selected the Sinclair quote submission in the interest of advancing reconciliation with Indigenous populations and generating a deeper awareness of the harms for which we are brought to reconcile,” Crocker says. “This short but powerful quote will speak to everyone who reads it and it honours Murray Sinclair’s work with the truth and reconciliation process.”

Sinclair, who served the justice system in Manitoba for over 25 years, was the first Indigenous judge appointed in that province and the second in Canada. He was appointed to the Senate in 2016. 

Law’18 raised a total of $6,900, mainly through social events over their three years in law school. They anticipate they’ll be contributing leftover funds from their class gift campaign to another important cause, the Law ThankQ Fund Bursary.  

Watch how the Sinclair quote was installed in the Queen’s Law atrium.

This latest piece adds to the reconciliation efforts at the Faculty of Law.

On Sept. 28, 2018, a permanent art installation in the Gowling WLG Atrium, paying tribute to Indigenous Peoples.

The piece – Words That Are Lasting – was created by Hannah Claus, a visual artist of English and Kanien'kehÁ:ka / Mohawk ancestries and a member of the Tyendinaga Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, and features the recreations of seven wampum belts suspended from the Gowling WLG Atrium ceiling. 

This article was originally published on the Queen's Faculty of Law website.

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