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Defenders for Human Rights

Other Human Rights Defenders

The purpose of Speak Truth to Power Canada is to share the personal journeys of some of the many Canadian human rights defenders working today. As lesson plans are thematic and many Canadians assume the responsibility to advance human rights, every lesson plan also includes community-based defenders. It is hoped that your students may be inspired to identify themselves as human rights defenders and take positive action to support human rights in their own life and community. Perhaps your students will become community defenders themselves.

Min Sook Lee

With an interest in the effect of state structure and power dynamics on human rights, Min Sook Lee’s documentary filmmaking largely focuses on marginalized groups. Lee has made three films about migrant workers in a particular: El Contrato and Borderless – about male migrant workers – and Migrant Dreams – about female migrant workers coming to Canada to support their families, a film for which Lee raised $15,000 on IndieGoGo. El Contrato is a winner of the Cesar E. Chavez Black Eagle Award for its role in the improvement of migrant worker rights. A Ryerson documentary instructor and Toronto International Film Festival judge, Lee is mindful of ethics and the protection of her vulnerable subjects, which have, as well as migrant workers, included North Korean defectors and gay police officers.

  • Human Dignity
  • Labour Rights

Lily Shinde

Often the victim of race-based bullying as a child, Japanese-Canadian Lily Shinde grew into strong beliefs in the rights of women of colour. With activism and speaking engagements spreading back to the 1980s, including the foundation of Third World Women’s and Women of Colour groups in Vancouver, Shinde is now a frequently sought guide for Japanese-Canadian issues. She has been involved with Japanese-Canadian politics and taught an original Feminist English course in Japan. Her focus is now more specifically on discrimination-based living issues, tracking ongoing displacement in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and finding solidarity with the Coast Salish peoples.

  • Truth and Reconciliation
  • Equality and Redress
  • Human Dignity

El Jones

Halifax’s poet laureate since 2013, El Jones, is an Afro-Métis spoken word activist who found solidarity with “the political, prophetic tradition of Afrikan (sic) Nova Scotia.” Jones’s activism came to her through her craft – she got involved to bring sincerity to her words. Finding her focus in prison outreach and youth engagement, Jones has developed a brand of slam poetry that aims to empower African Nova Scotians and match low reading comprehension levels. In 2014, she released her first book of poems, Live From the Afrikan Resistance! which seeks to both empower and educate.

  • Human Dignity
  • Equitable Education for All

Alex Neve

Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada since January of 2000, Alex Neve has been a defender of human rights and human dignity both internationally, in Africa and the Americas, and here at home in Canada. Born in Calgary, Alberta, and a recipient of the Order of Canada, Neve has fought for numerous causes, including Mexico’s crisis of disappearances, and how the Canadian justice system fails its Indigenous people. He has participated in numerous dangerous research missions on behalf of Amnesty International, has represented the organization at important international meetings such as the G8, and is a vibrant and effective spokesperson for Amnesty in the media.
  • Crimes Against Humanity
  • Human Dignity

Mary-Woo Sims

Born in Hong Kong in 1956, Mary-Woo Sims first moved to Canada in 1970, and became a Canadian citizen in 1978. She is a social justice activist, politician, and former chief commissioner of the British Columbia Human Rights Commission. A strong advocate for lesbian, gay and same-sex spousal rights, Sims spent her time in both Vancouver and Toronto, where her involvement in a number of community activist initiatives included the Campaign for Equal Families, the WAVAV Rape Crisis Centre, the Ontario Employment Equity Tribunal, and the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services. She now is a partner at Ardent Consulting Canada, which specializes in positive organizational change.
  • Gender and Sexual Diversity
  • Human Dignity
  • Labour Rights

Maziar Bahari

Born in Tehran, Iran, in 1967, Maziar Bahari immigrated to Canada in 1988. With a degree in Communications (Concordia, Montréal) which he earned in 1993, Bahari embarked on a career of journalism and filmmaking. A staunch activist, he has produced numerous documentaries on a wide variety of topics, including human rights abuses in especially the Middle East. Very respected in his field, Bahari has been a jury member of numerous international film festivals, he has had a retrospective of his films organized by the International Documentary Film Festival (Amsterdam, 2007), and had published by Random House his family memoirs, entitled Then They Came for Me (June 2011).
  • Crimes Against Humanity
  • Human Dignity

Dr. Andrew and Joan Simone

Both Dr. Andrew Simone and his wife Joan have been helping children for decades, through their charities “Canadian Food for Children” and “Silent Children’s Mission.” A successful Harvard-trained Toronto dermatologist, Dr. Simone’s life took a turn when, realizing he lacked fulfillment from the accumulation of wealth, he began a longstanding correspondence with Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who initially asked him to send food to starving children in Tanzania and Ethiopia. Their first charity serves over 20 developing countries; their mission charity provides basic needs, health and spiritual care, and counseling, so that women, children and their families know that there is someone who cares. Both recipients of the Order of Canada, Andrew and Joan are now retired, but their work continues to ease suffering across the globe.
  • Women’s Health and Security
  • Children’s Health and Wellness
  • Human Dignity

Jean-Louis Roy

Hailing from Normandin, Quebec, Jean-Louis Roy is a celebrated diplomat, journalist, author, researcher and academic. His education background (Laval, McGill) reveals his passion for History, Philosophy and Geopolitics. Roy has taught across eastern Canada and in Paris, and he has demonstrated, through involvement with various groups, his love of “la Francophonie.” Human rights organizations and governments have often called upon his expertise, and in 2008, he founded the UPRW (Universal Periodic Review Watch), which monitors to what extent UN member states comply with human rights standards. He has received accolades for his work from across the globe, including the Ordre national du Québec.
  • Inclusion for All
  • Human Dignity