Professor Oosterveld and CPIJ team honoured with Governor General's Award for Innovation

May 01, 2023

Professor Valerie Oosterveld

The Canadian Partnership for International Justice (CPIJ), which includes Western Law professor Valerie Oosterveld as a founding member, was named a recipient of the eighth annual Governor General’s Innovation Awards (GGIA). These awards recognize and celebrate exceptional and transformational Canadian innovations that create a positive impact in Canada and inspire the next generation of innovators.

The CPIJ is a Canada-wide partnership of 25 researchers from eight universities, four university-based legal clinics and four non-governmental organizations led by professor Fannie Lafontaine of Laval University's Faculty of Law. The group aims to promote access to justice for victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and international human rights violations through research and knowledge mobilization activities including workshops, experiential learning, and strategic litigation.

CPIJ members have carried out groundbreaking research focused on the prevention of atrocities, holding perpetrators accountable for serious international crimes, assisting victims, and identifying the root causes of crises to achieve a stable peace. CPIJ members have published more than 200 scholarly texts as well as civil society reports, media articles, and blogs. The team’s numerous interventions on conflict-related sexual violence, the situation in Ukraine, colonial genocide, and ecocide as a potential crime have been influential.

CPIJ members have appeared before international courts as amicus curiae (friends of the court) and as counsel. In February 2022, Oosterveld appeared as a friend of the court at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, Netherlands to present submissions in the case of Prosecutor v. Ongwen. Ongwen was a commander in Northern Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army who was found guilty of 61 charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence, between 2002 and 2005. Oosterveld presented to the judges on the charges of forced marriage.

The CPIJ has trained more than 600 students through hands-on experiences, including in legal clinics, fieldwork, and projects in partnership with non-governmental and international organizations. For example, the CPIJ organized student delegations to attend the International Criminal Court’s annual meeting of countries that have ratified that court’s treaty. Western Law students took part in this unique opportunity, which included meeting ICC judges and diplomats from around the world.

Over 30 Western Law students have engaged in the partnership, including by completing research for UN Women, the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality. The students analyzed UN Commission of Inquiry reports on conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Burundi, and South Sudan applying a gender-sensitive lens. This research helped UN Women investigators improve gender analysis in reporting and has informed two UN Security Council discussions. They also researched gender-sensitive law reform in post-conflict countries.

"It has been a privilege to serve as a leader in the Canadian Partnership for International Justice over the past seven years, working with colleagues from across Canada on challenging international justice issues,” said Oosterveld. “I have been particularly pleased to see Western Law students gain direct experience in the practice of international law, helping to develop the next generation of international human rights advocates.”

The Rideau Hall Foundation will present the awards at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre during a special ceremony on May 18, 2023. The award will enable CPIJ to continue and promote its research and training activities to support the fight against impunity for international crimes.

With files from Western News and Laval University