Monday, March 19, 2018

Meet the Fellows - Éloge Butera

Éloge, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, was chosen by the Quebec Government as “young volunteer of the year” in recognition of his activities organizing and speaking at conferences and commemorative days about genocide and human rights to raise public awareness, as well as fundraising for Rwandan charity organizations.

A law clerk to Justice Professor Sam Rugege, Vice President of Rwanda’s Supreme Court in the summer of 2009, Eloge is also the recipient of the 2009 Quebec Government Volunteerism award (Prix Claude-Masson: Homage Bénévolat Québec ). He has spoken to audiences of all ages across Canada of his personal experience in Rwanda and his passion to defend human rights around the world.

As a leader in various student organizations, including the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (as its first Vice President of Advocacy), the African Students Associations, McGill Jewish Law Students Association, SHOUT (Students Helping Others Understand Tolerance), and YOT (Youth Outreach Team, War Child Canada), Éloge has worked tirelessly for human rights, access to education, and to raise awareness on issues affecting vulnerable communities in Canada, Rwanda and around the world. During his studies at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Éloge helped to create the local Seventh Day Adventist African Fellowship Outreach Program to assist in the integration of numerous African Refugees settling in Manitoba. He volunteered with the Needs Centre for war-affected families and was a guest speaker at intercultural integration and health seminars of the University’s Medical Faculty as well as at the Summer Institute on Education and Democracy of the University of Manitoba’s faculty of Education. He was also actively involved in the scholarly and human rights education programs of the Arthur Morrow Center for Peace and Justice at the University of Manitoba. Éloge maintains a great deal of interest in cultural exchanges and in the intercultural integration of war-affected persons in Canadian society and other receiving countries.

Éloge has twice been the Keynote speaker before the Manitoba Legislature on Yom Ha Shoah, at various Rwandan Tutsi Genocide memorial events and the Darfur genocide and war crime awareness events. He participated in organizing the 2007 Echenberg Genocide Prevention Conference at McGill University, as well as the Annual Raoul Wallenberg lecture series of the Winnipeg Jewish Federation. Éloge is also passionate about advocating for the poor and vulnerable in his community. He has participated in a number of fundraising activities for Tubahumurize (a Rwandan women’s collective for victims of violence), and has also worked with access to justice and genocide survivors’ support networks.

After completing the Sauvé Program, Éloge completed his law degree, articled under parliamentarian and former Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler, and began working as the legislative assistant to Senator Roméo Dallaire. Over the course of his career, he aims to work in diplomatic, legal advocacy and consultancy capacities in areas of law, nation building and human security. He hopes to teach law in Rwanda. He also wished to contribute to the reconciliation work of his adoptive country (Canada) with its First Nations. In 2012, he was named an Honourary Witness to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

In 2016, Éloge started working as an advisor on policy and legislative affairs for the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in Ottawa, Canada.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Week Five: March 9th - 7:30

 Session 3 - Chapter 2: The Pursuit of Global Justice (p. 71-148)

Our next session is still 'under construction' but we will have fun :) and we will look at:

1. What is justice? Is it ever possible to achieve justice after genocide?  Is 'victor's justice' enough? How have you experienced justice or the lack of it, and how has that shaped your views?
2. "Your honour; I had to do it." The individualization of guilt - help or hindrance in establishing justice?  What would YOU do/ have done, in Erdemovic's place?
3. War pornography and compassion fatigue vs. the importance of bearing witness - how do we maintain that balance and our mental health in the face of catastrophe?
4. "Borders have always been drawn with blood."  True or false? What does that say about our species?  What does that say about the future?
5. "Self-depiction as the victim is the prerequisite to victimizing others."  Is this how human beings legitimize inflicting pain on others?  Is this always the case?  How do we see that playing out today (e.g., ISIS?  The teenager who commits a mass shooting?  The father who comes across the desk at the man who assaulted his daughter?  The white nationalists in Canada?)   Does that shift/affect how we see those who victimize others?  Should it? 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Weeks Three & Four: Feb 9 & 23

1. Citizenship
Read p. 41 bottom.   Watch video.
Akhavan talks about fitting into Canadian culture, and his becoming a Canadian Citizen in 1980, when he pledged "allegiance to the British Queen and the laws of Canada."  
What does citizenship mean to you, in a globalized world?  Are the lines we draw on our maps 'real'?  Are they meaningful?  

2.  Global Citizenship
Watch Video.  Skim over Global Citizen document.

What does it mean to be a "Globalized Citizen" in 2018?  How was Akhavan's experience of citizenship a "Global" citizenship?  How did Canada demonstrate Global Citizenship, and how does that make you feel? (p 52).

Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot"

3. Mona's Death Changed Everything. 
Read p. 63-64, Watch Video

Qu: What impact did Mona's story have on you?  
He tells her story, in part, to honour her life and have her death not be in vain.  What "lessons" do you take from his telling of her story? 
What about her mother's reaction to the prison guard?

What does it mean to "speak truth to power"? (p. 53)  What are the consequences?  Where can we apply that in our lives, today?  

4. Suffering and the Pursuit of Justice
Read parts from p. 66, 67, 68.

Viktor Frankl quote
"If there is any meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering."  

What does it mean "to suffer"?
Is there meaning in suffering?  Is that dangerous to say?  Does it lessen the suffering? 
What would the author's position be on this?  
Is it necessary for personal growth?

"Our light shines in the darkness only if we are willing to burn." p. 68
"Without embracing pain, without breaking open, we will never start our journey to a better world." p. 70

Friday, February 2, 2018

Week Two, February 9: 7:30 pm: Chapter One, pt 2 (pgs. 40-70)

We will continue the conversations begun last week about rights, suffering and justice, and also look at:

1. What does "citizenship" mean in a globalized world?  
2. Mona's death "changed everything" for Akhavan. She "spoke truth to power" at 16 years old. What lessons are drawn from her story?  
3. What is it that draws humans to pursue justice for others?  
4. The title of this chapter is, "The Knowledge of Suffering." What does it mean to "suffer"? How do we choose which (if any) suffering to work towards alleviating? At what cost?

And whatever other questions/comments you bring to the session with you!

See you there, next Friday evening at 7:30pm.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Week One, January 26: Some questions for discussion...

We'll begin but exploring these questions, and probably more, as time permits...

- What are "Universal Human Rights" - how do we know we have rights?  Who gets rights and who doesn't?  Who gets to decide those questions? What do we make of the claims of "cultural relativism as challenges to that universality" e.g., sharia law?  
- What is suffering?  Is feeling injustice the only means of understanding injustice? What have your experiences of injustice been? 
- The Prison of Identity; what is Identity and how do WE identify?  What are the positives and negatives of "Identity" and belonging? Why do we seem to push to identify an "Other" among us?  
- How is Multiculturalism re-shaping Identity politics around the world?

Monday, January 22, 2018

Week 1: Getting Started!

Our winter book study all set to get rolling, but we've decided to bump back our start date to give everyone a chance to catch their breath after a wonderful holiday season!

January 26th is our new kick-off date! Join us at 7:30 in the West Hill lounge.

We have a few copies of this year's title for sale through the kiosk if you'd like to get a jump on reading.

Our cost for the book is $17.50, or you can pick one up at your local book store.

 "In Search of a Better World"

by Payam Akhavan 

"A work of memoir, history, and a call to action, In Search of a Better World, the 2017 CBC Massey Lecture, is a powerful and essential work on the major human rights struggles of our times. In February of 2017, Amnesty International released their Annual Report for 2016 to 2017, concluding that the “us versus them” rhetoric increasingly employed by politicians is endangering human rights the world over. 
Renowned UN prosecutor and human rights scholar Payam Akhavan has encountered the grim realities of contemporary genocide throughout his life and career. He argues that deceptive utopias, political cynicism, and public apathy have given rise to major human rights abuses: from the religious persecution of Iranian Bahá’ís that shaped his personal life, to the horrors of ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, the genocide in Rwanda, and the rise of contemporary phenomena such as the Islamic State. But he also reflects on the inspiring resilience of the human spirit and the reality of our inextricable interdependence to liberate us, whether from hateful ideologies that deny the humanity of others or an empty consumerist culture that worships greed and self-indulgence.

A timely, essential, and passionate work of memoir and history, In Search of a Better World is a tour de force by an internationally renowned human rights lawyer." -