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Photo courtesy Amnesty International Canada

Amnesty International Canada hosts conference on campus

By Saima Asad, June 2 2017 —

Amnesty International (AI) Canada will host their Human Rights Conference and Annual General Meeting at the University of Calgary this weekend.

AI Canada secretary general Alex Neve said they chose Calgary due to its strong network of local supporters.

“There’s a lot of Calgarians who are very active in our human rights work and there’s a lot of Calgarians who provide generous financial support for our human rights work so we really wanted to build on that great energy and support we have here,” he said. “We have a lot of strong support here. Calgary is a very important city for Amnesty in Canada.”

The event will begin with a keynote speech from Tareq Hadhad, who moved to Canada as a Syrian refugee. Hadhad and his family were displaced after their chocolate business was destroyed in Damascus during the Syrian civil war. After coming to Canada, he restarted the business under the name Peace by Chocolate.

“Everyone has a responsibility now more than ever to improve and advance human rights individually or in groups and learn from our previous successes and failures,” Hadhad said. “Nobody should sit down and say that he or she can’t do anything in that direction.”

Neve said the conference will feature a variety of human rights-related topics.

“There’s going to be speakers and panels covering a whole range of important human rights issues refugee protection, indigenous rights concerns in Canada, the relationship between national security and human rights and a whole bunch of other issues,” he said.

In addition to the panel discussions, attendees can take part in a workshop of their choice. Workshop topics include “LGBTI Rights Now,” “Refugee Rights,” “Human Rights in the Digital Age” and “Being an Ally for the Protection of Indigenous Rights.”

AI Canada collaborated with several U of C faculties to organize the event. The Faculty of Law, Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Social Work and the Werklund School of Education each sponsored a panel for Saturday’s event.

Faculty of Arts dean Richard Sigurdson said the collaboration between the human rights organization and the university creates a learning opportunity for attendees.

“They wanted to partner with the university to have a conference that would be open to the public and would really connect the activism work that [AI Canada] does as an organization with getting more knowledge and understanding from an academic point of view of many of these global as well as domestic challenges around human rights,” Sigurdson said.

Neve said he hopes attendees leave the conference with a renewed commitment to activism.

“We want people to go away from this with real commitment to being part of that change,” he said.

The free conference takes place in Science Theatres on June 3 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. More information can be found here.

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