Canadian Centre for International Justice

Voices of Refugees Posters exhibited at 2008 formal launch of Canadian Centre of International Justice, Speakers included Maher Arar, Lloyd Axworthy, and Ellen Gabriel.

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Posters from the Voices of Refugees Installation were exhibited at the June 2008 formal launch of the Canadian Centre of International Justice in Ottawa Canada. Speakers included Maher Arar, Lloyd Axworthy, and Ellen Gabriel.

Maher Arar, Lloyd Axworthy, and Ellen Gabriel

Maher Arar is a Canadian citizen who was forcibly sent to Syria in 2002 as part of the United States’ “extraordinary rendition” program. He was imprisoned in Syria for 10 months and tortured. In 2004, after his release, Maher filed a lawsuit in the United States against several individual U.S. officials for their role in his detention and torture. In November 2009, a U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the suit. CCIJ, along with other Canadian human rights organizations and scholars, filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in support of Maher’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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On June 14, 2010, the high court refused to hear the case, effectively eliminating Maher’s final hope for justice in the U.S. judicial system. Maher’s attempt to hold the governments of Syria and Jordan accountable in Canadian courts was also denied when those countries were given immunity under Canada’s State Immunity Act.

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Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, had a distinguished political career spanning 30 years. The founding Director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia, Dr. Axworthy is now President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Winnipeg. He has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.

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Ellen Gabriel (born 1959), also known as Katsi’tsakwas, is an Mohawk activist and artist from Kanehsatà:ke Nation – Turtle Clan, known for her involvement as the official spokesperson, chosen by the People of the Longhouse, during the Oka Crisis. In March 1990, she joined in the movement against the expansion of a golf course in Oka, Quebec. That event eventually escalated into the Oka Crisis. In order to raise awareness of the crisis, she traveled internationally, including visits to The Hague, Strasbourg and Japan. During this time, in May 1990, she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Concordia University. In 1993, the documentary Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance was released; she was a prominent part of the film. The next decade after the crisis had been settled, she worked as an Art Teacher for the Mohawk Immersion School. In 2004, she was elected president of the Quebec Native Woman’s Association. She held the position until December 2010. During this time she brought changes to the Indian Act in the form of Bill C-31. On 19 May 2009, she gave a speech to the eighth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Between 11–15 July 2011, she gave a speech to the fourth session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In the Summer of 2012, she ran for National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. She passed to the second round of votes and was eliminated in the second round due to misinformation on the floor which rumored she had withdrawn and given her votes to Shawn Atleo. On 7 May 2013, in regards to Bill S-2, she gave a speech to the 41st Parliament, 1st Session at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

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Canadian Centre for International Justice’s mission is to:

  1. Seek recognition, support, and compensation as redress for survivors of genocide, torture, and other atrocities with strong connections to Canada, as well as for loved ones of people who have either died as a result of human rights violations or who are unable to contact us themselves;
  2. Ensure that those in Canada accused of serious human rights violations are held accountable and brought to justice;
  3. Contribute to the success of the international justice system as a whole.

To carry out this mission, CCIJ works in cooperation with affected communities and individuals in Canada and abroad and in collaboration with a variety of domestic and international organizations and experts.

Canadian Centre for International Justice five primary objectives

  1. Provide information, assistance, and direction to survivors of human rights abuses and the loved ones of victims; carry out and/or facilitate research and investigations of their cases; compile cases to be brought to the attention of the Canadian government or other authorities;
  2. Support government initiatives leading to the prosecution in Canada of torturers, war criminals, and perpetrators of severe human rights abuses, and support other appropriate remedies;
  3. Educate & train legal professionals, civil society groups, and the general public in Canada about impunity as a critical human rights issue;
  4. Serve as a resource for anti-impunity initiatives across Canada, including access to Canadian and international jurisprudence and information regarding Canadian law, policy, and practice;
  5. Support ongoing efforts to reform law in order to strengthen the legal remedies available in Canada for survivors and victims of serious human rights abuses.
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