CCS is officially into our second year of operations, and much has happened in our first year!
The first few months were very busy with getting the word out about CCS, and I made several presentations to groups enthusiastic to learn more about the problem of statelessness in Canada. I spoke with students at Ryerson University, settlement practitioners at the Immigrant and Refugee Housing Committee at the City of Toronto, activists and community researchers at OPIRG Toronto, and students and academics at the University of Ottawa.
In March and April of 2015, CCS was so lucky to be joined by two brilliant students, Taraneh Etemadi of Ryerson University, and Patrick Balazo of Dalhousie University. Together we worked on our inaugural research studies that investigated statelessness in the Canadian context in unprecedented and critical ways. Taraneh investigated Canadian and British legislation dating back to 1910 as they impact the multiple ways statelessness can occur in Canada. Patrick investigated issues concerning data collection practices of various Canadian government agencies as they relate to stateless persons in Canada, and global best practices of statelessness determination procedures. All four studies uncovered never-before understood aspects of the problem, and put CCS and Canada on the map with respect to statelessness research.
In May a partnership was formed between CCS, Ontario Public Interest Research Group Ottawa (OPIRG) and the University of Ottawa to commit to researching statelessness in the Canadian context, and to host the First Summit on Statelessness in Canada. In August, the summit planning began when the summit organising partners were expanded to include UNHCR Canada, and the Human Rights Research and Education Centre (HRREC).
In June I presented a webinar on statelessness in Canada to the Americas Network on Nationality and Statelessness. Attended by UNHCR staff, legal practitioners, researchers, academics, and students from all over the world, I was able to communicate the legal situation of statelessness in Canada, but also connect with and learn from allies experiencing similar challenges. This discussion took place in advance of the Network’s inaugural regional meeting, in San Jose, Costa Rica at the end of June. This meeting brought together several practitioners working on statelessness, nationality, and refugee issues all over the Americas, and formed a foundational connection over three intense days. The event began with an overview of statelessness in the Americas context, and culminated with the establishment of the Network’s membership and year two activities.
In July we moved into our first office! CCS is now part of the Centre for Social Innovation, a social enterprise that provides office space to organisations with a socially innovative mandate.
In August, we hired Theresa Dillon, our new Manager, Communications and Operations. Theresa’s expertise on the intersection between business and human rights has undoubtedly enhanced CCS’ presence and impact in the field of human rights in Canada – and we are so happy to work with and learn from her!
In November, CCS incorporated and now reports to its first Board of Directors! This was truly a milestone. The Board brings a diverse and rich insight into the field of human rights research, advocacy, and governance in Canada. A few weeks later, our partnership with OPIRG Ottawa and the University of Ottawa saw another milestone as we applied for a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Partnership Development Grant, in the hopes to undertake a three year research study looking into the lived experiences of statelessness in Canada.
In December I was humbled to be a guest speaker in the Global Ideas Institute, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto seminar series. I presented the human rights side of birth registration to several groups of high school students, and was impressed both at their task to create a project solution to the challenges of birth registration, as well as their critical thinking and enthusiasm to get involved.
Throughout the year, CCS has gained visibility both in social media, and in print and online news outlets. CCS is on Twitter, Facebook, and finally – our first e-newsletter has been published! I have spoken with Al Jazeera, the Vancouver Observer, Yahoo! News Berlin, and City TV News, all of which have brought national visibility to the challenges associated with statelessness in Canada.
More importantly, over the past year, we have connected and built relationships with several stateless persons in Canada. This is the best we could have hoped for, for connecting with individuals for and with whom we advocate allows us to be better informed, and have a more meaningful impact on the issues we are trying to help solve.
For year two, we’ve got more in store. Firstly, the First Summit on Statelessness in Canada takes place on February 24, 2016 at the University of Ottawa. We are thrilled to have four panels that discuss international law and domestic compliance, community perspectives, research initiatives, and most importantly, the voices of stateless persons sharing their stories. We are also exploring a seminar/webinar speaking event series that addresses issues of statelessness, citizenship, and identity in Canada. We hope to have more students on board involved in more research and programming too!
It has been a wonderful first year – thank you to all who made this possible.