2022 Impact Awards—Partnership Award winner: Fannie Lafontaine
The Partnership Award honours the Canadian Partnership for International Justice (CPIJ), led by Fannie Lafontaine, lawyer and, since 2008, professor of international law in the Faculty of Law at the Université Laval, focusing on the repression of international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. She is also the Canada Research Chair in International Criminal Justice and Human Rights, as well as the founder and co-director of the Faculty of Law’s Clinic of International Criminal and Humanitarian Law. SSHRC has funded several of her projects related to the fight against impunity for perpetrators of international crimes.
The CPIJ partners with investigators, academics and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) across Canada to examine the different paths to obtaining justice available to victims of international crimes at the national level and at the International Criminal Court, among other international institutions. Bringing together experts from a range of legal fields (criminal, civil, administrative), the CPIJ uses an interdisciplinary approach (criminology, political science, gender and women’s studies) and cross-sectoral collaborations among universities, legal clinics, NGOs and international organizations to shed new light on the challenges in the fight against impunity.
The CPIJ’s numerous achievements include its collaboration with an independent people’s tribunal on the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Chinese authorities against the Uyghurs; its participation in mapping human rights violations against the Rohingya in Myanmar; and, most recently, its work to promote the creation of a fifth category of international crimes—“ecocide”—to make those most responsible for harming the environment accountable before the International Criminal Court.
CPIJ also contributed to advancing the possibility to prosecute Myanmar before the International Court of Justice, an initiative taken by The Gambia in 2019. Similar initiatives have been carried out or are underway for the Uyghurs, Ukraine, Syria, Mali, Haiti and other countries where mass atrocities have been committed.
In Canada, the CPIJ has garnered attention for its work on systemic gender- and race-based discrimination that focuses on exposing abuses, fighting against impunity and influencing public policy. Lafontaine’s publications include a supplementary legal analysis she co-wrote with members of the CPIJ team for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which provided a firm legal basis to characterize Canada’s colonial actions as genocide under international law. This report influenced public policy in Canada, which now recognizes Canada’s colonial treatment of Indigenous Peoples as genocide. The Quebec government also appointed her as an independent civilian observer of the Montreal Police Service investigation into allegations of criminal acts committed by officers of the Sûreté du Québec against First Nations individuals in Val d’Or.
The CPIJ has helped organize three expert meetings and over 60 webinars, seminars, conferences and summer schools, and produced more than 240 academic publications. With the goal of reaching the general public, it communicates its findings in French, English and, frequently, in Spanish, through articles, media interviews and blog posts.
“Thanks to SSHRC funding, the CPIJ also helps students and young researchers with their research training by giving them access to key conferences and established researchers, and by mentoring them as they write articles, create blog posts and produce podcasts,” says Lafontaine.
More than 90% of SSHRC funding went to initiatives that, as well as reinforcing the access to justice for victims of international crimes, have also enabled the creation of a multinational cohort of students (600 of whom have participated in legal clinics) equipped with the knowledge, practical training and a diverse network that represents the future of justice.
In Lafontaine's view, the Partnership Award gives the CPIJ greater visibility by connecting researchers and practitioners and lending weight to their work.
“This award is a great honour […] for me and for the rest of the team. […] It’s a recognition of our team’s leadership and strength. We’ve created a real partnership between researchers and civil society. It means a lot to us. We’ve achieved what we’d hoped—to leave our mark and make a real impact on Canadian society.”
About the award
The annual Impact Awards recognize the highest achievements in SSHRC-funded research, knowledge mobilization and scholarship, as well as the highest achievements resulting from a SSHRC fellowship awarded.
The Partnership Award recognizes a SSHRC-funded formal partnership for its outstanding achievement in advancing research, research training or knowledge mobilization, or developing a new partnership approach to research and/or related activities.
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