I had the pleasure of being a delegate from my Amnesty International group to this years Annual General Meeting. It was three days of being exposed to extremely inspirational people from all across Canada who are passionate about human rights in Canada and all around the world. Aside from discovering the fairly tedious procedures of AGMs in general, I learned invaluable things about my country and what can be achieved through campaigning for human rights.
The weekend was inaugurated by a blessing from a local elder. Here in B.C. it is customary to acknowledge the ancestry of the land where any event takes place. In this case, at U.B.C, the Musqeum people and their land were thanked for letting us have our meeting there.
A few highlight of the weekend included a human rights panel hosted by CBC’s Chris Brown. The panel included Maudilia Lopez Cardona, speaking on Canada’s Goldcorp and their divisive tactics in Guatemalan towns, Chief Robert Morales speaking on indigenous rights in Canada, and Fatima Al-Samak speaking on women’s activism practices in the middle east, namely Bahrain.
I followed Fatima Al-Samak to her following seminar “A Year of Rebellion in the Middle East and North Africa”. This is where I finally got my Poli Sci 101 lecture on what exactly did happen to catalyze the Arab spring. Fatima cleverly outlines it further here. In layman’s terms, people got fed up with being repressed for 30+ years and decided to do something about it.
The second seminar I attended was “Resource Extraction/the Northern Gateway Pipeline and the rights of indigenous peoples in British Columbia and Alberta”. Three well-spoken women from three different First Nations eloquently put how oil and gas has devastated their communities. Melina Laboucan-Massimo went into thorough detail about how this industry has affected the Lubicon Cree in Alberta. See incredible photo essay here. Anne Marie Sam spoke on the development that is happening near Ft. St. James and Mt. Milligan. She has also seen her land drastically change from lush to desert due to copper and gold mining, residual mercury spills, and deforestation. Her words that stuck with me were, “the land is who you are”.
As life can sometimes be a major distracter from what really matters, this weekend served as a grounding experience.