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Contributing to International Conversations About Human Rights and Disability Justice

Posted by Amanda Kirby-Sheppard on January 2, 2024 in News
My Home, My Rights Collective members Conar Clory (left), Simon Snyder (Provided Photo)
My Home, My Rights Collective members Conar Clory (left), Simon Snyder (Provided Photo)

In early December 2023, Schulich Law Associate Professor Sheila Wildeman and members of the My Home, My Rights Collective travelled to a conference at Ghent University in Belgium to present their multimedia art show and host a roundtable about arts-based research and advocacy.

The International Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Conference, organized by the UGENT Human Rights Research Network, marked the 75th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights and featured speeches by the UN Special Rapporteur on Deep Poverty and the Secretary General of Amnesty International.

My Home, My Rights is an action research collective that brings together community and academic partners to imagine and advocate for disability justice and the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities and other disabilities to live in the community as equals. In addition to Wildeman, the delegation that travelled to Europe included Collective members Conar Clory and Simon Snyder, arts-based facilitator Justin McGarragh, photographer David Simmonds, and Prescott Group and Club Inclusion Executive Director Alice Evans.

From left: Clory, Wildeman, McGarragh and Evans.

The international human rights community at the conference enthusiastically received the art show and roundtable. Clory and Snyder participated in Q&A sessions and panel presentations on migrants' rights and restorative justice processes. The Collective's work also received a special mention at the conference’s closing ceremonies, highlighting their inclusive methods and the group's core messages, ‘we have the right to live in the community with support if we need it,’ and ‘we have the right to make decisions with support if we need it’. 

“Attending conferences like this isn’t always feasible, financially or otherwise, for people who learn and communicate in ways that get described as ‘intellectual disability,’” says Wildeman. “Having two core Collective members sharing their art and insights about inclusive ways of thinking about, and advocating for, human rights made an important contribution to international conversations about human rights and disability justice.”

The trip to Belgium marked Snyder's first time travelling internationally, as well as his first time on a plane. “I enjoyed all of the culture and new experiences. My favourite part of the trip was meeting people from around the world,” he shares. “I’m happy to be home but am looking forward to my next opportunity to travel.”

Clory added, "At first I was a little bit nervous to go to an international conference but after a while I wasn't nervous anymore. We were able to teach other people about human rights in Canada and learn from them too. A lot of times disability rights get forgotten about and we were there to remind them that we're here."

The remaining My Home, My Rights Collective team who were not present in Belgium but whose contributions were critical to the success of this event include: members Isai Estey, Chantel Meister, Melly Thompson and Jenn Walters, senior research associate Paula Hutchinson, former Inclusion Nova Scotia Executive Director Patricia Neves, research and facilitation supporters Sarah Cooper and Sarah Frame, and videographer Bruce Bottomley.

The My Home, My Rights Collective would like to thank Inclusion Nova Scotia, the University of Calgary Faculty of Arts, Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law, the University of Ghent Human Rights Research Network, the Prescott Group/Club Inclusion, and a Halifax law firm for providing the generous financial support required to make this opportunity possible.