2017 AGM with Marcia Kran

Marcia Kran. Photo from North Shore News.

We are proud to be welcoming a high-profile UN official as a speaker who will open our Annual General Meeting. Joining our membership for this unique and relevant event will be members of the public and officials, parents and students of the Burnaby School District.

Marcia Kran’s background includes a 35-year career as an international lawyer, senior manager roles in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Development Programme, and work as a professor of human rights law at UBC. Ms. Kran was elected Canada’s First UN Human Rights Committee member in over a decade. Committee members are independent experts who monitor implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a key UN treaty. The committee is the place where contentious human rights issues are brought forward, and recommendations are made in order to meet the international standards put in place by the UN.


Please join us on April 3rd, 2017 at:
Byrne Creek Community School’s Centre for Dialogue
7777-18th Street, Burnaby (8-minute walk south from Edmonds Skytrain Station)


6:30 – 6:45 UNAC Annual General Meeting
7:00 – 8:00 Marcia Kran keynote and Q&A
8:00 – 8:30 Reception – Coffee/tea and refreshments provided

The Role of ASEAN in 2017

Photo from International Pharmaceutical Quality.

This post was written by website writer, Denea Bascombe.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017. It was founded on August 8th, 1967 to promote regional economic, political, and security cooperation by the founding fathers of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Today, it is comprised of ten members, with the original five plus Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. The role of ASEAN has changed over the fifty years of its existence, but its adherence to the belief in regionalism has maintained consistent. A 1992 article by S. Rajaratnam in Singapore (written when the North America Free Trade Area (NAFTA) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) were still new regional approaches) highlighted that the counter-pressures of globalism had made regionalism more difficult to maintain, but optimism existed in that ASEAN was beginning to reflect some of the successes of the more developed European Community (EC). ASEAN is working towards increased security in the region, and maintains the reputation of managing cohesive internal relations and positive international operations.

Today, ASEAN holds regional ground, especially where the participation of the United States in international trade and its affected political influence creates increased uncertainty towards globalism. The uncertainty of the United States’ commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) under a Trump administration may further develop existing sentiments regarding the benefits of Asia-Pacific foreign policy that is less reliant on the United States. This may only be increased by the fact that the Philippines holds the position of 2017 ASEAN Chair; President Rodrigo Duterte has been distancing his country from the United States, including its military cooperation. With the Philippines’ lost position as the United States’ closest ally in the ASEAN region, the role of the United States in Southeast Asian policy, especially over the long term, is increasingly uncertain. This is made only the more complex by the United States’ unclear foreign policy position towards China in early 2017.


Though Duterte may be unpredictable in some aspects of his leadership, including some activities that call in to question the existence of human rights violations, in other aspects, his policies have provided stability for the region. This includes the surging economic growth in the Philippines, which he strives to expand throughout ASEAN due to his conviction in regionalism, and bettering relations with China, even with the existence of the South China/ West Philippine Sea dispute. Prior to Duterte, ASEAN had not seen such a clear pivot away from the United States, a country providing military and other support, and towards China. However, this could be for the betterment of ASEAN’s ability to produce a clear consensus on issues affecting ASEAN and China. A potential conflict to be aware of, though one that is out of the scope of this editorial, is the potential for some of Duterte’s controversial national policies, especially his insistent drug policies, to cause rifts among ASEAN member states. Still, keeping issues separated, this is unlikely to affect ASEAN’s external relations.

Unfortunately, Duterte’s turn away from the United States is one that the Asia Foundation would highly advise against based on its 2016 report titled Asian Views on America’s Role in Asia: The Future of the Rebalance. The report highlights, among other recommendations, that the United States must “maintain a robust, sustained, and consistent American presence in the Asia-Pacific”; “revive the TPP”; “continue to play a leading role in non-traditional security” and “continue to project American ‘soft power’”. This poses questions as to whether the Philippines’ perception of a United States presence reflects the opinions of other ASEAN member states.

ASEAN’s role in 2017 will largely dictate the extent to which the United States maintains leadership in Asia and internationally. It will also maintain a large influence over ASEAN cooperation with China, and the prospective of heightened or minimized tensions in the South China/West Philippine Sea. Both relationships may be considered of equal importance to ASEAN due to the economic, political, and security implications. However, with the Philippines holding the 2017 ASEAN Chair and its recent statements against United States involvement, it is unlikely that both relationships will be equally pursued. Perhaps part of ASEAN success in this area will depend on whether the United States maintains a balanced relationship with China, and whether there is any reason why ASEAN would be unable to separately and equally pursue their bilateral relationships with the United States and China.

Youth for Human Rights Day – Event Re-Cap

The Youth for Human Rights Foundation (B.C. chapter) and Ubuntu for Human Rights International Society co-organized an event dedicated to celebrating the International Day for Human Rights this past December 10th at The Metro (759 Carnarvon Street, New Westminster). One of the keynote speakers was Senator Mobina S.B. Jaffer (who is also an Honorary Patron of UNA-Vancouver). Several human rights groups such as UNA-Vancouver, the Global Peace Alliance, and Child Aid International were invited to host tables at the event. Each table had a representative talk about their group for a couple minutes so participants were able to learn about each organization.

The event began with a demonstration of 30 short videos dedicated to each human right listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted two years after the establishment of the United Nations Association of Canada in 1946. You can find these informative videos at http://www.youthforhumanrights.org/what-are-human-rights.html

After a First Nations welcoming ceremony, Senator Jaffer highlighted the importance of human rights advocacy and, in particular , the rights of homeless people in Vancouver.

Akmal Bazarov speaking on behalf of UNA-Vancouver.

In his capacity as Director-at-Large in UNA-Vancouver, Akmal Bazarov shared information about the UNA in Canada and assured participants that the UNA of Canada continues to promote UN values indicated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN Conventions on human rights within its mandates in order to achieve the UN`s Sustainable Development Goals.

dsc_0024For example, in addition to supporting the principles outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Canada has ratified seven principal UN human rights conventions and covenants: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR – accession by Canada in 1976), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR – ratified by Canada in 1976), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT – ratified by Canada in 1987), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC – ratified by Canada in 1991), the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD – accession by Canada in 1970), the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW – ratified by Canada in 1981), and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD – ratified by Canada in 2010). As a ratifier, Canada must submit reports on how it implements each of these treaties.

We hope that this event contributed to raising awareness among Canadians on UN values and human rights, especially in the rapidly changing political situation in the world.


2016 Renate Shearer Award for Human Rights: MOSAIC


December 10th marks the annual observance of the UN-mandated International Human Rights Day. It commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights defines human rights as “rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination.

Each year, International Human Rights Day is celebrated by the local branch of the UN Association of Canada, with its partner Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) with an award to a local organization or individual who is active in the field of human rights. The award is named after the late Renate Shearer who was a social planner and human rights activist in the City of Vancouver in the 1970s.

This year the award is being given to MOSAIC – the Multilingual Orientation Services Association for Immigrant Communities. Established in Vancouver exactly 40 years ago in 1976 MOSAIC, whose goal is to serve and support immigrant and refugee communities, has now expanded into other Lower Mainland communities including Burnaby and Surrey.

MOSAIC has demonstrated its support for new arrivals in BC in many unique ways. It was the first immigrant service organization to provide a weekly legal clinic on immigration and poverty law which was otherwise not available to its clients. Early in its existence, MOSAIC also took the initiative to help immigrant communities deal with an epidemic of domestic violence. The programme specifically provided targeted counseling and therapeutic intervention for violent husbands as well as the women and children who lived with them.

In addition MOSAIC provides settlement services, job training and mentoring, interpretation services, prenatal classes and child care as well as a variety of other services to support newcomers – men women and young people – to our community.

MOSAIC was at the forefront in welcoming refugees from Central and South America during its early years – long before regular federal or provincial government intervention. Today it is in the forefront of welcoming to BC refugees from Syria and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa.

UNAC Vancouver, with its partner the Community Legal Assistance Society, is proud to honour MOSAIC, as well as to celebrate Renate Shearer, in whose name this Human Rights Award is given. MOSAIC and Ms. Shearer reflect the finest values of our community.

Date: Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Time: 5:30-8pm

Location: JJ’s Restaurant, Vancouver Community College (250 W. Pender)

Cost: Dinner by donation

Gurkiran Mann: 2016 John Gibbard Recipient

L to R: Greg Neumann (Co-Prez), Patsy George (UNA-Vancouver, Mrs. Mann, Simran Mann, Kiran Mann, George Somerwill (Co-Prez).

The following post was written by Luciana Prado, Website Writer.

On the 23rd of October, the Unitarian Church of Vancouver held a small ceremony during its Sunday service to award Gurkiran Mann the 2016 John Gibbard Award for Youth recognizing her exemplary work representing the spirit of the United Nations and to celebrate UN Sunday. Kiran is currently in her fourth year at UBC pursuing a degree in behavioural neuroscience and physiology in the Health Sciences Department. Kiran is an inspiring young woman who has worked with others in Guatemala, Haiti, and the Phillipines, and co-founded Youth Transforming Society (YTS), a registered non-profit organization that aims to raise awareness of global issues and encourage volunteerism among young people, and where she serves as Director of Special Events.

Before the ceremony, Rev. Steven Epperson explained the important role Unitarians play in promoting social justice locally and globally thorough UN consultative status and the advocacy work of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and its United Nations Office (UU-UNO) He also highlighted the active role Unitarians played in the League of Nations and later creating the United Nations where, through the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), an Advisory Committee on the United Nations was formed thereby enabling their principles and purposes to be included to the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their involvement also contributed to the creation of the International Criminal Court and continue to provide strong leadership in all aspects of human rights at policy level, from climate justice initiatives to sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

Rev. Epperson.

In order to celebrate UN Day, Rev. Epperson highlighted the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights since its adoption by the General Assembly in 1948 by “enacting dozens of legally binding international agreements on political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights [which] set high standards to which the international community agrees to aspire and achieve, in principle and practice”.   He focused on key aspects of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the importance of protecting the human rights of people with disability in light of a recent Charter challenge to certain provisions in the BC Mental Health Act introduced in September in BC Provincial courts.

Lawyers from the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) of BC submitted on behalf of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and two individuals being medically treated against their will, and argue that BC’s mental health laws deprive involuntary patients of their Charter rights to equality and to life, liberty, and security of the persons. Rev. Epperson emphasized the fact that the recent provisions “single out a particular class of people and denies them the basic of equality, liberty, and security guaranteed by law to every other person in this Province and this nation”; thus, making BC the only jurisdiction in Canada that provides compulsory treatment.

During her acceptance speech, Kiran talked about her childhood, the importance of raising awareness of local and global humanitarian issues, and volunteering among the youth in the community. She told the audience that her desire to study neuroscience and physiology first arose when her grandfather was diagnosed with early stage of prostate cancer. Kiran’s mother advised her to approach a teacher at her school while her grandpa was undergoing radiation therapy and asked “what do I have to do to become a doctor, because I want to be the one administering the injections to my grandpa.” Since then she has continually worked hard to achieve her dream of becoming a doctor.

By connecting the benefits of volunteering for a better quality of living for all in society, Kiran spoke briefly about the mental and physical aspects of volunteering and the significance a few hours a week can bring to a community. Youth Transforming Society started 6 years ago when Kiran was in grade 10 with 3 co-founders and today the organization has grown to a team of 23 Executive Members and more than 150 volunteers, managing to raise more than $50,000 for special causes and events, such as a ‘YTS Volunteering and Beyond: An Evening of Opportunities’, which serves as a platform for students to connect with organizations. The Holiday Breakfast will be held in December in partnership with the Salvation Army and serves more than 300 homeless individuals in Surrey.

Another interesting initiative by YTS is the Mentorship Program for girls in grades 5 to 7 called “I am” that aims to make the transition from elementary to high school easier by connecting students to female students in their peer high school. The program facilitates the transition of new students by making them feel welcome in a new and intimidating environment. By drawing from Kiran’s own experiences, this program addresses issues related to bullying, self-esteem, nutrition, fitness, and other topics that are essential to improve young girls well- being and ensure they perform well in school.

You can watch Kiran’s speen in full at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peJa7M4suYY