Two-day event will examine Canada’s role in torture abroad

An upcoming two-day symposium at St. Thomas University will bring academics from across Canada here to talk about a controversial topic: torture and Canada’s complicity in it.

Mainly organized by Alan Clarke, STU’s endowed chair in criminology and criminal justice, the symposium will take place March 21-22 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Clarke is a scholar and lawyer with professional focus on, among other things, human rights law, capital punishment and criminal justice policy.

He is a professor of integrated studies at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah, and is visiting STU until the end of this semester.

Clarke defines torture as “a massive and important human rights violation.”

“Why is it important that a number of nations have been complicit in torture?” he asked in an interview.

“If we have any sense of trying to come to a more humane and more socially-just society, torture simply has to be done away with.

“There are a lot of good reasons about why torture doesn’t work as a practical matter, but as a moral matter, it is an evil that the world should well do without.”

Torture has become a hot topic since 9/11 and the so-called war on terror. Clarke said in the end, torture doesn’t just hurt an individual, it hurts whole nations and societies.

“If you want a reason for why torture should come back to home and why it should matter to you, think about all the misery in the world that comes from information [obtained by torture].”

The first day of the symposium will be about human rights and social justice issues and will involve a number of students and faculty members.

Deborah van den Hoonard, Canada Research Chair in qualitative research and analysis and professor of gerontology at STU, will speak on discrimination the Baha’i have faced.

The Baha’i are a religious group who form the biggest religious minority in Iran. They are subject to persecution due to their beliefs.

Other topics of the day will include Africa, colonialism and slavery, human rights and education.

The second day will focus on Canada’s role in torture abroad, with Clarke, University of Ottawa law professor Paul Champ and Alex Neve, the director of Amnesty International Canada, among the speakers.

Lorne Waldman from York University’s Osgoode Hall will ask: can Canada protect its national security without being complicit in torture?

Students are welcome to attend the symposium and participate in discussions.

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