The first 25 years of U of T's International Human Rights Program is celebrated through a photo exhibition at the U of T Art Centre. (Faculty of Law illustration)

U of T Art Centre exhibition celebrates international human rights

Collaboration between law, museum studies students

In 1987, the first intifada exploded in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, Canadian premiers and Prime Minister Mulroney were immersed in the Meech Lake Accord talks, and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez landed the Nobel Peace Prize.

At the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, Professor Rebecca Cook was busy creating an internship program for aspiring international human rights lawyers. With the addition of a clinical program in 2002, under then-Dean Ron Daniels, the International Human Rights Program grew to become the most robust initiative of its kind at any Canadian law school.

More than 300 interns have travelled around the world to advocate for international human rights. They have also intervened in cases at the Supreme Court of Canada and taken claims to the United Nations. Many have gone on to remarkable careers that have made an impact on global human rights.

A quarter of a century later, the faculty is celebrating. Transformative Human Rights is an exhibition showcasing the achievements of the IHRP “through the lens of its students.” A collaborative and interdisciplinary effort with University of Toronto graduate students in museum studies, the interactive web and photo exhibit at the University of Toronto Art Centre aims to capture these internship experiences of a lifetime, while showcasing the students’ very real impact on human rights issues, said IHRP director Renu Mandhane. Focus areas include refugee rights, international criminal law, gender-based violence, corporate accountability, and “the next 25 years.”

“I hope exhibit visitors will be mobilized to work to realize human rights both within Canada and around the world,” said Mandhane.

Visitors will see “a series of spaces that emulate the physical realms inhabited by human rights advocates in the field, such as offices, domestic spaces and refugee camps,” said Jennifer Carter, assistant professor of museum studies.

The exhibition runs February 9 to 23 at the University of Toronto Art Centre, 15 King’s College Circle.


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