Wednesday, October 31, 2012

health and human rights conference at @queensu.

This past weekend, I went to the Health and Human Rights Conference at my school. It was a neat experience, and best of all, it was free! If you are around the area next year around this time, I would totally recommend that you check it out.

Warning: this is a long wordy post.. more about each of the talks after the break.

The conference started out with a debate about end of life rights, and whether medically-assisted suicide should be legalized in Canada. It is currently not legal. You could clearly see their passion in their respective stances. It was a passionate debate that was very interesting to watch, and though both sides brought up good points, I remain against legalizing medically-assisted suicide. Taking one's life is not the right answer.

The keynote speaker on Saturday morning spoke about education in Aboriginal communities, and how they severely lack funding and attention. In particular, he spoke about the Attawapiskat community and Shannen's Dream. The students at the school have been asking for a new school that is safe and without toxic fumes for many years now. He touched to many aspects of the unfairness of Canadian policies.. In fact, Canada is breaking its commitment to equal human rights by denying Aboriginal children to a safe learning environment. This is definitely an issue that deserves more light. It was a very interesting talk.

For those of you from Bell, do you spot a familiar face? :)

The first workshop I attended spoke to obesity, and fighting the ideology that all fat is bad, ignoring other underlying issues. It.. was not very interesting. She didn't really tell us much more than what I summarized in one sentence. A topic I have heard about before, and is a valid opinion, but without much weight or solutions to back it up.

The last workshop dealt with the links between housing, income and health. This talk was very in line with the earlier keynote speaker, as he talked about the Universal Declaration on Human Rights from the United Nations which states that everyone has the right to food, clothing, housing and continuous improvement. He spoke about the history of slums in Toronto, the progress since then, and problems that still exist in low-income and unhealthy communities. He made a suggestion for what needs to be done (stop cutting funding, integrating innovative government planning tools and using a holistic systems approach). He was an exciting speaker full of energy, that's for sure.

I actually missed the last keynote speaker, Samantha Nutt. But I highly recommend you check out her work with War Child. I heard her speak last year at CUCOH, and was blown away by her work. What stood out to me most is that the goal of her charity is to no longer be needed. She wants to create opportunities on the ground, for locals to create change in wartorn countries, so that they no longer need international aid. Sustainable change! I like it. I'm sad I missed hearing her talk again, but I had a busy day and was glad to get a short break in the middle of it.

All in all, I enjoyed the conference. A lot of the issues exposed were issues that I am interested in, and I am sad that I didn't get to see all the workshop speakers as I wish I got to hear the one that dealt with HIV/AIDS, methadone clinics and inner city health.. but couldn't be in two places at once! I can't wait to attend again next year!