"...a five year research initiative funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council: Community-University Research Alliance involving eight university and community partners"

Who We Are

“Reconceiving Human Rights Practice” is a collaborative research project that brings together the expertise of leading community organizations and academic institutions engaged in social rights advocacy and research in Canada. It enables university-based researchers and students to undertake joint investigations with community partners and to ensure that research responds to community needs.

The partnership includes both provincial and national organizations and networks from different regions.  It allows for the use of combined community and university networks – local, regional, national and international – and draws together women's, anti-poverty, human rights, social justice, childcare and other networks, ensuring that research is disseminated to a broad audience and a diverse range of actors.

The partners bring to the Project a track record of successful collaboration between community and academic partners and the project builds on community-university relationships that have emerged in recent years and will last beyond the completion of the Project research.

“Reconceiving Human Rights Practice” developed out of a previous CURA by the same research partners – the “Social Rights Accountability Project.”   The previous project allowed researchers and community to partners to identify, assess and develop social rights accountability mechanisms and provided research and organizational support for community organizations to make these mechanisms more effective. That project was unanimously judged by the SSHRC’s Mid-term Adjudication Committee as “among the best ones reviewed.” Many significant developments in the area of social rights accountability over the past five years, both in Canada and internationally, were supported by research and action initiated under the project.

The Project Partners

University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law

University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law (Lead institution) is a bilingual, bi-juridic faculty with an international reputation in the areas of public law and human rights. The University’s Human Rights Centre provides unique opportunities for enhanced access to research materials from students and researchers within all of the partner and collaborating institutions and organizations.  

The Social Rights Advocacy Centre (SRAC) is a not-for-profit research and advocacy centre specializing in the area of social rights. SRAC co-ordinates the work of the Charter Committee on Poverty Issues, a national committee of low income advocates and human rights experts which has been involved in nine critical Supreme Court Charter cases and a decade of groundbreaking work with UN treaty monitoring bodies. SRAC was a member of the Steering Committee of the NGO Coalition for an OP-ICESCR and co-ordinates the Caselaw Database for ESCR-Net.   SRAC is relied upon by the UN CESCR and by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for its recognized expertise in social rights practice. The research partnerships in the CURA allow SRAC to focus more on research and knowledge dissemination.  

Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) is a dynamic coalition of over 75 Canadian women’s equality-seeking and related organizations whose mandate is to further women’s equality through domestic implementation of Canada’s international human rights commitments. FAFIA is unique in its capacity to make links between international instruments and agreements, domestic human rights practice and policy-making. It provides education and information regarding Canada’s human rights obligations to Canadian women’s organizations, women and other members of the public and it supports the capacity of women’s organizations to work at the international level. The Project is enabling FAFIA to provide research into new rights claiming strategies to address the gap between Canada’s international human rights obligations and the reality of women living in poverty.

La Table ronde des OVEP de l’Outaouais (TROVEPO) is a 26 year-old organization consisting of 19 autonomous popular education organizations, dedicated to social justice and to the use of popular education as a means to effect social transformation. The research project enables TROVEPO to collaborate with other community researchers as well as with students and university researchers in mapping new challenges to social rights practice in Quebec, comparing conditions for civil society human rights advocacy in Quebec to other jurisdictions, identifying concrete social rights practices of NGO-third sector groups by examining public education campaigns, literature, briefs, public interventions, etc., and developing suggestions on how to better integrate human rights practices.

Poverty and Human Rights Centre (PHRC) is a non-profit research and public education centre committed to eradicating poverty and promoting social and economic equality through human rights. The Centre maintains an electronic searchable database of materials related to social rights including relevant international and Canadian law, court decisions, legal briefs, and articles. PHRC brings to the partnership strong relationships with rights claiming constituencies and academic and student associates in B.C., developed through collaborative initiatives and a series of consultations, colloquia and think tanks on social rights. The CURA is enabling PHRC to develop legal education materials on social rights, research and document sub-national social rights practice under international human rights law, follow up on the McIvor challenge to discrimination against Aboriginal Women under the Indian Act.   PHRC is engaging a diversity of community groups in B.C. in follow-up rights claiming opportunities emerging from the CEDAW 2008 Review.

University of British Columbia, Faculty of Law offers courses in social and economic rights, social welfare law, poverty and law, international human rights, and feminist legal theory, all of which touch on aspects of the Project research. An active law student chapter of Pro Bono Students Canada in combination with already existing collaboration between UBC’s Centre for Feminist Legal Studies and PHRC form a strong collaborative research base with significant student involvement. The CURA has enabled UBC researchers, both faculty and students, to conduct research into the Vancouver Olympics as a site of practice for social rights advocacy and to engage with several B.C. NGO coalitions seeking to ground international human rights practice, including the British Columbia Universal Periodic Review Coalition.

York University, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies brings to the research project a diverse student body and close community ties, offering full-time programs leading to careers in social welfare fields.  York research is contributiong academic support and research expertise to a study of human rights based budget analysis, a study of the effects of funding cuts on women’s advocacy organizations, the changing relationship between civil society and the state and new roles for human rights, new models for urban human rights practice that can be applied to the City of Toronto; a case study in the application of models of international human rights practice developed in Quebec and British Columbia to Ontario, and new social rights approaches within the childcare movement in Canada.

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is a national advocacy association of persons with disabilities that has been a leader in human rights and disability for thirty years. CCD is the lead organization in the CURA “Disabling Poverty Enabling Citizenship” dealing with research into challenging poverty and exclusion of persons with disabilities in Canada. 

Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) is a human rights advocacy organization specializing in a human rights approach to access to adequate housing. CERA has filed and represented more claimants to the human right to housing than any other organization in Canada and is unique in having developed a human rights practice serving poor people. CERA has, in the past, worked in collaboration with all of the community partners involved in the proposed Project. The CURA research will provide CERA with the opportunity to have access to research support for a newly developing field of practice before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, in which it is hoped that systemic challenges linked to social rights will be heard for the first time.

University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law is a bilingual, bi-juridic faculty with an international reputation in the areas of public law and human rights. It has an active NAWL caucus, a Pro Bono Law Students Association and a Community Legal Clinic. The University's Human Rights Centre, the Centre on Governance, the Institute of Canadian Studies, and the Institute of Women's Studies also provide important research resources for the proposed research.

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