Conference on people of African descent

Panelists left to right: Richard Sharpe, Faiza Hassan, Joanne St. Lewis and Pacifique Manirakiza Photo copyright Black Ottawa Scene

Saturday 6 April 2019


Fauteux Hall at the University of Ottawa, was the site of a conference hosted by the Human Rights Research and Education Centre (HRREC)  last Saturday. Titled: “Persons of African Descent: Recognition, Justice and Development”, it was a forum to discuss the United Nation’s Declaration of the  International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), and particularly explore how this population can obtain recognition, justice and development (the themes of the Decade) in their various locations around the globe.

With an attendance of some 50 persons, panelists analysed the meaning of the declaration, its implementation and the possible outcomes. There was a sense that many African, Caribbean and diaspora countries had not fully grasped the significance of the declaration and little unity in the understanding of how it would impact the daily lives of their various populations. Law Professor St. Lewis was of the view that the declaration was an opportunity for people of African descent to demand that their voices be heard, not as a privilege but as a right. Richard Sharpe narrated his experiences as the lone Black in a roomful of high level white bureaucrats and  having to fight for the rights of public servants of colour. One panelist spoke of the irony in the fact that, while the majority of students taking his sociology  classes were female, the curriculum itself was male dominated, something he, as a professor, did not have the power to control. There was also some debate about the racial composition of professors teaching African history in universities and its impact on the material being taught.

List of speakers 

Opening remarks

John Packer, Human Rights Research and Education Director and Sarah Olutola, Gordon Henderson Doctoral Fellow. 

Panel 1: Memory & Trauma

Eric Alina, Associate Professor of History, University of Ottawa; Abdi Bileh Dirir, Association Canadienne Pour La Promotion Des Heritage Africaines; Julie MacArthur, Assistant Professor of African History, University of Toronto; and Abdoulaye Gueye, Professor of Sociological and Anthropological Studies University of Ottawa

Panel 2: Canadian Justice, African Justice and Black Communities

Pacifique Manirakiza, Associate Professor of Law, University of Ottawa; Joanne St. Lewis, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Ottawa; Richard Sharpe, Community Activist, Ottawa Black Hub; Faiza Hassan, Community Activist, Justice for Abdirrahman. 

Panel 3: Africa and Development

Nestor Nkurunziza,  Ph.D candidate in Law, University of Ottawa; Adam Houston, Ph.D candidate in Law, University of Ottawa; Heike Harting, Associate Professor of English, University of Montreal; and Carl James, Professor, Jean Augustine Chair in Education, York University.

All photos copyright Black Ottawa Scene

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