Conference focuses on human rights in Canada
Participants at an upcoming student-organized conference will tackle high-profile and often contentious topics such as medically assisted suicide and the rights of sex workers.
“We can’t ignore health and human rights issues faced by Canada’s most vulnerable populations. The issues are debated every day in the media, Parliament, and the Supreme Court of Canada,” says Chantalle Brace, Meds’15, one of the organizers of the 12th annual Health and Human Rights Conference.
More than 250 students from different academic backgrounds and community members will attend the conference, which opens with a debate on medically assisted suicide. The next day, keynote talks and workshops will focus on topics such as the housing and health crisis in northern Aboriginal communities and health-care program cuts for refugees living in Canada.
“There’s a lot of talk about collaboration around campus, but it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly which issues will bring students together,” says co-organizer Janette Leroux, a PhD candidate in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “We’re proud the conference is a true interdisciplinary undertaking with participants from medicine, nursing, law, health studies, policy studies, and development studies.”
The small, intimate workshops foster a high level of engagement and encourage participants to examine the issues from different perspectives. This year, the organizers hope the conference inspires students to take action on the issues they are passionate about. Guest speakers include Dr. Samantha Nutt, founder and executive director of War Child Canada, Dr. Philip Berger, an outspoken critic of recent changes to health-care coverage for refugee claimants, and Charlie Angus, NDP MP for Timmins/James Bay who has worked to raise awareness of the Attawapiskat housing crisis. They will discuss the importance of professional activism and ways practitioners can advocate for human rights.
Organizers offer the conference free of charge to participants with support from the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Principal's Office through its Student Initiative Fund, the Department of Family Medicine, the Alma Mater Society, and nearly a dozen other campus units.