CBU to Host National Human Rights Conference and Confer Honorary Degree on Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Bob Rae

From Wednesday, June 1, to Friday, June 3, 2022, Cape Breton University will host the Canadian Association for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment in Higher Education (CAPDHHE) Conference. The 2022 conference theme is human rights and equity in a time of emergency, and will discuss the ways human rights and equity issues are manifesting today.

Opening with a performance and smudging ceremony by CBU Artist in Residence, Sons of Membertou, the conference will kick off with keynote speakers James Sakej Youngblood Henderson and Dr. Marie Battiste presenting on how human rights and Indigenous rights are entwined in Canada. The afternoon session will feature a legal panel with insights on human rights work in the time of COVID-19, giving practitioners tools and tips on how to best serve the communities in which they work.

“What is so important about this conference is that we’re bringing together human rights, equity and sexual violence experts from universities and colleges across the country to talk about the ways in which human rights issues exist on our campuses and in our communities and the ways in which we can best respond,” says CAPDHHE President, Dr. Tanya (Toni) De Mello. “Of particular interest today is the intersection of COVID-19, mental health and the prevailing inequality of our time and how it affects students, faculty and staff. What has been moving about having the conference in Cape Breton is the involvement of the local community, especially the incorporation of Indigenous ways of learning into our work.”

On day two, Cape Breton University will confer an honorary doctorate on Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Bob Rae, during a special convocation ceremony on campus. The ceremony will be followed by an exciting sit-down conversation hosted by CBU President and Vice-Chancellor, David C. Dingwall. Community members are invited to attend the ceremony and discussion.

Bob Rae is the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations in New York. He served as Premier of Ontario from 1990-1995, interim Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada from 2011-2013 and was appointed as Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar (2017) and Canada’s Special Envoy on Humanitarian and Refugee Issues (2020).

“Ambassador Rae has spent his life’s work changing and challenging the political landscape in Canada and has worked tirelessly as a leader in human rights issues,” says President Dingwall. “We are delighted to host him at Cape Breton University as he inspires the next generation of human rights leaders in our country, and we are thrilled to confer the degree Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, on such a prestigious and inspiring individual.”

Additional conference topics include decolonization and anti-racism education, human trafficking, addressing bias in academic settings, empowering students and building a career in the field of equity, diversity and inclusion. Preconference events, held on Tuesday, May 31, at the Membertou Heritage Park include sessions on how to be an ally with truth and recognition, as well as a diversity tour of the Fortress of Louisbourg.

“It has been a difficult two years and this is the first conference in person in that time frame. The conference will allow human rights professionals to come together and to discuss the challenges within the human rights sector and celebrate the accomplishments,” says Conference Chair and CBU Human Rights Officer, Scott Thomas. “The conference will spend a lot of time discussing the importance of decolonization and adjusting to the world after COVID-19. Having Ambassador Bob Rae with us at this particular time is a true honour, given the uprising in conflict and violations in human rights.”

CAPDHHE is an association of equity, diversity and inclusion and human rights practitioners that centre on the dignity of the individual and work to foster respect and inclusion on Canada’s post-secondary campuses.

To learn more about the special convocation and sit-down conversation with Ambassador Bob Rae, visit cbu.ca/events.

To learn more about the Canadian Association for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment in Higher Education, visit capdhhe.ca