UN-IDPAD: “United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent”

Session I: Welcoming Remarks and Opening Statements
Mr. R. Stacey Laforme, Chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation
Mr. Adam Abdelmoula, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Mr. Mamdouh Shoukri, President and Vice-Chancellor, York University
Mr. Lorne Sossin, Dean, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Mr. Yasir Naqvi, Attorney-General for the Province of Ontario, Canada
Chaired by: Mr. Francois Tanguay-Renaud, Director, Nathanson Centre on Transnational
Human Rights, Crime and Security

Session II: Introduction to the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024)
Ms. Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France, Member, United Nations Working Group of Experts on People African Descent
Ms. Gloria Nwabuogu, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Chaired by: Mr. Francois Tanguay-Renaud, Director, Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security

Session III: Access to Justice – An Overview of International and National Norms and Standards
Ms. Verene Sheppard, Member, United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Mr. Trevor Farrow, Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School
Mr. Yasir Naqvi, Attorney-General for the Province of Ontario, Canada
Chaired by: Mr. Adam Abdelmoula, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Session VIII: The Canadian Context
Mr. Isaac Saney, Professor of African Nova Scotian Studies, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada
Mr. George Sefa-Dei, Professor and Director, Centre for Integrative Anti-Racism Studies, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
Mr. Grace-Edward Galabuzi, Professor, Department of Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University, Toronto
Chaired by: Ms. Gloria Nwabuogu, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Session IX – The Canadian Experience (I)
Ms. Marian Jacko, The Children’s Lawyer, Ministry of the Attorney General for Ontario, Canada
Mr. Shaheen Azmi, Director of Policy, Education, Monitoring and Outreach, Ontario Human Rights Commission
Ms. Margaret Parsons, Executive Director, African Canadian Legal Clinic
Mr. Selwyn Romilly, Justice of the British Columbia Provincial Court (Retired)
Chaired by: Mr. Ziyad Motala, Professor of Law, Howard University, Washington, D.C.

Session X – The Canadian Experience (II)
Mr. Brian Smith, Sergeant, Divisional Policing Support Unit, Toronto Police Service
Mr. Knia Singh, Lawyer and Anti-Racial Profiling Activist
Mr. Anthony Morgan, Lawyer, Falconers LLP, Toronto
Mr. Shedrack Agbakwa, Lawyer, Agbakwas LLP, African-Canadian Youth Counsel
Chaired by: Ms. Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France
Member, United Nations Working Group of Experts on People African Descent

Session XI –Comparative African/Canadian/American Experiences
Mr. Ziyad Motala, Professor of Law, Howard University, Washington, D.C.
Mr.Dennis Parker, Head, Racial Justice Program, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Mr. Jamil Jivani, Activist and Visiting Scholar, Osgoode Hall Law School
Chaired by: Mr. Obiora Okafor, Project Director of E-CASSARE; York Research Chair in International and Transnational Legal Studies of Osgoode Hall Law School and Member of the United Nations Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

The seminar examined the elements of “access to justice” in relation to the lived experiences of people of African descent, under the “Justice” theme of the Decade. The seminar also raised awareness on the need to strengthen national, regional and international action and cooperation in relation to the full enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights of people of African descent.

While the seminar took place in Canada and considered the Canadian context and her national legal framework, it also had an international focus. Experts from around the world attended and spoke at the event and hundreds of thousands of people participated online through social media. Participants shared their stories and contributed to the conversation. It was a unique gathering of legal thinkers and legal practitioners, defense counsel, law students, academics, police services, judicial officials, Government representatives, and civil society activists to discuss these issues together, and provide a practical contribution to the International Decade for People of African descent.

Professor Obiora Okafor, Project Director of E-CASSARE, called on states to commemorate the launch of the International Decade at the national level, develop national programmes of action and activities for the full and effective implementation of the Decade; and to also organize national conferences and other events aimed at triggering an open debate and raising awareness on the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, with the participation of all relevant stakeholders, including government, civil society representatives and individuals or groups of individuals who are victims.

A primer of the expert presentations on access to justice will be published in the coming months as a contribution to the Decade.

The seminar was attended by several experts and stakeholders from within and outside Canada. Also in attendance were the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, OC, OOnt (Representative of Her Majesty The Queen) and several other dignitaries including the Member of Parliament for Whitby, the Honourable Celina Caesar-Chavannes.

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