Campus Life - Kamloops  

Law students advocate for social justice

JCAP Showcase

About a dozen TRU Law students united last week for a showcase of their work over the past few years with the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP).

JCAP is a not-for profit organization co-founded by TRU Law Assistant Professor Charis Kamphuis.

“It’s an initiative that connects law students across the country to organizations and communities concerned with resource extraction in Canada and abroad,” said Kamphuis.

The group collaborates with civil society organizations in Canada, the US and Latin America, including MiningWatch Canada, EarthRights International, the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability and the Pacific Center for Environmental Law & Litigation (CELL).

Students’ work is supervised by JCAP’s board of directors, which is composed of lawyers and professors from across Canada, including Kamphuis.

Two other board members – Professor Shin Imai of Osgoode Hall and Vancouver lawyer Kate Gunn (First Peoples Law) attended the showcase via teleconference, along with University of Victoria Professor Chris Tollefson, Executive Director of CELL.

“This is our first showcase at TRU and it’s great to be able to come together as a group and connect our students with colleagues and supporters from across the country,” Kamphuis said.

Over the past three years, almost 30 TRU Law students have contributed to JCAP initiatives, along with numerous students from other law schools.

JCAP students conduct a variety of tasks, including drafting memos, reports, submissions and complaints in diverse areas of law such as international human rights, access to information, securities, corporate, investment and privacy law.

“The goal of the work is to help communities and civil society activists use law to raise justice concerns about resource extraction and to raise awareness, ultimately generating pressure for policy change in Canada and abroad,” explained Kamphuis, who along with TRU Law student Danielle Ching arguably did just that.

After the pair authored a Hill Times op-ed on the actions of Canadian embassies in response to conflicted mining operations abroad (a result of Kamphuis’ research on the topic), the Canadian government introduced a new policy just a few months later.

“To us, it was an acknowledgement that we are on the right track,” said Kamphuis.

Sometimes, the efforts of JCAP members can take years, resulting in projects spanning multiple student generations.

“One question leads to other questions,” said Jeanine Ball, a now TRU alum who in her second year began working on a project related to alleged human rights abuses at a Canadian mine in Guatemala.

Ball has remained involved in the process of advocating for the disclosure of additional information from heavily redacted access to information documents. Meanwhile, second-year student Alejandra Haneo and third-year student Deanna Fedio have continued Ball’s work on the project.

While JCAP’s focus is on issues related to resource extraction abroad, it also responds to domestic concerns.

Last semester, TRU Law student Matt Campbell presented on Indigenous opposition to the Site-C dam at a public forum on resource issues, and subsequently had the opportunity to discuss his research in a couple of radio interviews.

“I drafted a memo for concerned communities, advising them of their options to challenge the approval of Site-C before international tribunals,” Campbell said.

Depending on the project, students’ work may be pro-bono, for course credit, or paid through research funds (such as TRU’s Undergraduate Research Experience Award Program (UREAP), which partially funded Campbell’s research).

With the concept of corporate social responsibility gaining momentum globally, Kamphuis hopes she can translate student interest into an academic offering at TRU Law, with a proposed new course, Transnational Community-based Lawyering in the Global Economy.

Student presentations/topic clusters at the TRU JCAP showcase included:

  • International Human Rights Options Memo (Treaty 8 Communities Opposed to Site-C)
    -TRU Law students Matt Campbell and Dawn McConnell
  • Privacy Torts & Remedies for Corporate Espionage
    -TRU Law student Jesse Guenther and UVic Professor Chris Tollefson
  • Access to Information Studies of Embassy Responses to Conflicts with Communities:
    1. Marlin Mine in Guatemala – TRU Law alum Jeanine Ball and student Deanna Fedio
    2. Tahoe Resources in Guatemala – TRU Law students Alejandra Henao and Joe Iwanicki
  • Working Group on Canadian Embassies, Mining Companies & Human Rights
    1. Modalities of Support – TRU Law students Sepand Asefi, Amrita Gill and Milad Javdan
    2. Domestic Law & Policy – TRU Law students Power Chen, Grace Kung and Emma Adbjalieva
    3. International Law – TRU Law students Danielle Ching and Richard Wong
  • Amicus Curiae for Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal on Police-Company Contracts
    -TRU Law student Eric Thorstensson
    *Eric received funding from the TRU Research Ambassador’s Program
  • Oil Exploration and Pipelines in Kenya
    1. World Bank Complaint – TRU Law student Christie Kobialko
    2. Internal Corporate Complaint Mechanisms – TRU Law student Deanna Fedio



High stakes for editing students

The students in George Johnson’s editing and publishing class are getting some unique real-world experience—reading through and evaluating 52 submissions from high school students across Canada for a creative non-fiction contest currently running at TRU.

Split into seven groups of two, each pair of students has been given seven or eight entries to judge and make notes on. They will develop a long list of up to 25 submissions by Mar. 31, under the guidance of Johnson.

Most of the students in his class have never felt this much pressure associated with editing and providing constructive criticism before. The stakes are high in this process: the grand-prize is first-year tuition at TRU—the equivalent of up to $5,500 for the winner.

“There is a wide range of styles and experiences here. I feel like I’ve gotten to really know seven different people. It’s evident that they’ve put their heart and soul into their essay,” said student Tanya Elwood.

The students use a rubric based on the judging criteria laid out in the contest rules. Four categories, weighted equally are used in the process: structure, use of language, theme and original expression. Feedback from Johnson’s students will be sent to each person who entered the essay contest, along with a thank you gift and a letter from the dean.

“Everyone approached this from their own perspective,” said Jake MacLaren, a fourth-year arts student. “They shared their story and their interpretation of the human experience, using their own voice—it’s very impressive.”

Long-listed submissions will be short-listed to up to ten submissions by TRU’s English department faculty members by Apr. 1, 2017. The grand-prize winner will be selected from the short-list by May 1, 2017 by a special judging panel.

The special judging panel includes instructor Susan Buis, who recently landed a spot on the 2016 CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize Longlist with her latest work What Lies in Sight of the Teller; instructor Karen Hofmann, who was longlisted for Best Canadian Poetry in English in 2012; and Pete Smith, a Canadian poet whose poems, reviews and essays have been published widely in the UK, the USA and Canada.

More information

Dr. George M. Johnson
English and Modern Languages
Faculty of Arts
[email protected]

Family Night of Science a time for wide-eyed wonder and questions

Science has a unique way of waking up our curiosity, causing wide-eyed wonder and at times, launching even the quiet ones into a flurry of questions.

At least that’s the experience biological sciences faculty member Cynthia Ross Friedman had in Grade 4 while growing up in Winnipeg. When on a field trip to a science centre similar to Kamloops’ Big Little Science Centre, one station proved to be life changing.

“This older gent—he was probably 22—had a circuit board with a light and a battery, and the light would not go on. He asked us, ‘Why won’t this light go on?’ ”

Normally content to let others do the talking, this time Ross Friedman grabbed the spotlight.

“Is the battery dead? Is the battery in the right direction? Are the wires tight enough? Is the lightbulb dead? Is the lightbulb in tightly enough?”

A moment later the lightbulb went on.

“I totally took over and remember squealing in delight when that guy twisted the lightbulb and it went on,” said Ross Friedman, who not only broke out of her shell, went on to study plants and is an expert when it comes to the parasitic dwarf mistletoe.

Maybe there will be a few Ross Friedmans in attendance when the Faculty of Science hosts its annual Family Night of Science, Feb. 21, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in rooms throughout the Lepin Science and Health Sciences building. Admission is free.

Family Night of Science is less about recruiting students for TRU’s array of science programs and more about faculty and students sharing their passion for all things science, technology, engineering and math and what’s collectively being referred to these days as STEM. Think of the night as a science fair, science centre and open house rolled into one.

Activities include racing chemistry rockets, petting slimy marine creatures, learning about cuddly cats and dogs, skillfully navigating a laser spy trap, viewing living microbes through microscopes, using emergency equipment on mannequins, outwitting math puzzles and games and being awed and inspired by nature’s awesomeness and resiliency. If the weather is ideal, a telescope will be set up to view Venus and Jupiter.

Science alumna Jessica (left) and Devon strike a super hero pose for science

For Animal Health Technology (AHT) faculty member Sonia Walczak, Family Night of Science is an opportunity to profile animal science and topics using dogs and cats as working examples.

“The human-animal bond is something that is most fascinating to me and what brought me to my present career,” said Walczak, who will be among those representing AHT. “Family Night of Science allows instructors and students to educate the public about animal care and because we will have live animals for people to interact with, it’s an opportunity to talk about the bond between animals and people.”

Ross Friedman will in attendance as an assistant to her student researcher Dylan Zieglar, who will demonstrate and answer questions about TRU’s electron scanning microscope, which is a high-powered instrument capable of making the writing end of a pen seem the size of a football field.

Among other things, “I like to try to make it clear that science is not done alone, is most certainly not a spectator sport and that we need more women in science, technology, engineering, and math,” said Ross Friedman. “Science is not the one guy in the lab coat working alone in the lab. It is so not that.”

TRU prof gets international attention for rangeland research

TRU researcher Dr. Wendy Gardner received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Society for Range Management, an international organization dedicated to the study, conservation and management of rangelands.

“Dr. Gardner is a star, not only for Thompson Rivers University, but across Western North America,” said Oregon State University’s Dr. John Buckhouse, who nominated Gardner for the award, which was presented during the society’s annual general meeting in St. George, Utah, earlier this month.

Gardner, who is an expert in rangeland management and ecology, has received local, regional and world-wide recognition for her tireless research and natural resource publications, both at the peer-reviewed level, and in the field.

“She has the talent, the determination, the drive, and the ability to make a significant impact on our world and on the people who populate it,” wrote Buckhouse in the nomination package.

“I believe that in order to keep our rangelands intact and healthy the place to start is through education. In order to be successful at educating the public about the importance of rangelands we need to have a strong understanding of how these systems operate — founded by research — and a way to transfer this information into on-the-ground management,” Gardner said.

Gardner, who is the coordinator of the Master of Science in Environmental Science program, is the lead researcher on a Metro Vancouver-funded project examining two tailings sites at Highland Valley Copper that she amended with biosolids in 1998. It is hoped that the long-term data set will determine how biosolid treatments impact the chemical and physical properties of the soil, specifically in terms of plant available nutrients and metals, carbon sequestration, soil texture and water holding capacity. Last year Gardner, along with Dr. John Karakatsoulis, spent two weeks in Nepal leading efforts to develop effective forest fire management techniques and establish community-level fire responses. She is currently involved in several rangeland-related research projects, and is co-supervising three graduate students.

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