The Many Masks of Imperialism: COVID-19 & Consolidation of Power

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Monday, January 31st, 2022

Monday, January 31, 202211:00AM - 4:00PMOnline Event, Online Event
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The 16th annual Peace, Conflict and Justice Student Conference will explore the legacies of colonialism and imperialism, examining how they influence power asymmetries between state actors within the current context of COVID-19. Through four forums featuring scholars, professionals, and student speakers from the University of Toronto and beyond, the conference will analyze the ways in which these legacies persist through practices and structures such as the exercise of soft power, financial interventions, the military-industrial complex, and international legal systems.

The conference will kick off with a keynote address from Dr. Amitav Acharya, UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance and Distinguished Professor at the School of International Service, American University.

11:00-11:05 – Opening Remarks
11:05-11:20 – Keynote Address
Dr. Amitav Acharya, UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance and Distinguished Professor at the School of International Service, American University

11:20-12:20 – Forum #1: Financial Interventions
Dr. Sanjay Ruparelia, Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University
Sachini Perera, RESURJ
Wafaa Abdurahman – Coordinator of Fight Inequality Alliance, South Africa
Dr. Carmen Logie, UofT Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work
David Okojie, Second-Year PCJ Student

12:20-1:20 – Forum #2: Soft Power
Dr. Rinaldo Walcott, UofT OISE & Women and Gender Studies Institute
Laila Omar, UofT Department of Sociology
Geetha Philipupillai, Goldblatt Partners LLP
Neha Dhaliwal, Fourth-Year PCJ Student
Madhurie Dhanrajh, Third-Year PCJ Student

1:50-2:45 – Forum #3: Military Industrial Complex
Dr. Terri E. Givens, McGill University Department of Political Science
Dr. Walter Dorn, Royal Military College of Canada & Canadian Forces College
Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom)
Maryam and Nivaal Rehman, Third-Year PCJ Students

2:45-3:50 – Forum #4: International Legal Systems
Roojin Habibi, Global Strategy Lab & Canadian International Council
Bryce Edwards, Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP
David Walders, Indigenous Innovation Initiative
Dr. Uchechukwu Ngwaba, Ryerson University Lincoln Alexander School of Law
Lina Lashin, Fourth-Year PCJ Student
Roya Aboosaidi, Second-Year PCJ Student
Hailey Marleau, Fourth-Year PCJ Student

3:50-4:00 – Closing Remarks

Forum Descriptions:

Financial Interventions:
The Financial Interventions Forum will highlight how COVID-19 pathways to recovery differ between the Global South and Global North. The forum will contextualize these differences by looking at the histories of colonialism and imperialism in conjunction with their current economic impacts. It will identify the disproportionate effect of these impacts on Global South nations through topics such as vaccine apartheid and vaccine hoarding.

Soft Power:
The Soft Power Forum seeks to examine the use of immigration policies to attract migrants whose labour, cultural, and political attributes contribute to the advancement of a country’s imperialist interests. The forum will explore topics including precarious labour migration, geopolitics, just immigration, and political considerations when determining an individual’s status as a “refugee.”

Military Industrial Complex:
This Forum will analyze the ways in which the military-industrial complex has sustained conflict and contextualize it within the social movements mobilized by the pandemic. The discussion will broadly cover topics including the Canadian Armed Forces aid during COVID-19, arms trade, and defense contracts while examining the relationship between Canada, the United States, and neo-imperialism.

International Legal Systems:
The International Legal Systems Forum will explore the power asymmetries between the “developing” and “developed” worlds in international institutions. It will serve as a platform for analyzing peace-keeping, peace-building and humanitarian intervention through different international legal institutions, and how they have been influenced by legacies of imperialism. This forum will also discuss the implication of the response from the international legal system on Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people.

Speaker Bios:

Keynote: Amitav Acharya
Dr. Amitav Acharya is the UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance and a distinguished Professor at the School of International Service, American University. He is the first non-Western scholar to be elected (for 2014-15) as the President of the International Studies Association (ISA), a renowned interdisciplinary association committed to understanding international, transnational and global affairs. Dr. Acharya’s academic interests include Southeast Asia, multilateralism and global governance, human security, and international relations theory. His current affairs commentaries cover subjects such as Asian regionalism, Asian security, the war on terror, and the rise of China and India.
Dr. Acharya has received two Distinguished Scholar Awards from the ISA. The first was rewarded to him by ISA’s Global South Caucus in 2015, while he was honoured with the second award in 2018 by ISA’s International Organization Section. In 2020, he received American University’s highest honour: Scholar-Teacher of the Year Award.

Financial Interventions

1. Sanjay Ruparelia
Dr. Sanjay Ruparelia is an Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University. He is also the Jarislowsky Democracy Chair at Ryerson’s Faculty of Arts. Dr. Ruparelia has written on vaccine hoarding for Global Policy Journal and was a panellist at Ryerson’s conference on vaccine apartheid. His research interests include the politics of democracy, equality and development in the postcolonial world, and the role of parties, movements, and institutions in politics.

2. Sachini Perera
Sachini Perera is the executive director for RESURJ, a Global South-led and grounded transnational feminist alliance. She researches the intersections of technology, pop culture, sexual and reproductive justice, and pleasure. She has written on vaccine justice within the context of COVID-19 and holds expertise in sexual and reproductive health, as it pertains to socioeconomic divides.

3. Wafaa Abdurahman – Coordinator of Fight Inequality Alliance, South Africa

4. Carmen Logie
Dr. Carmen Logie is an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. She is the Canada Research Chair in Global Health Equity and Social Justice with Marginalized Populations. Her research aims to advance an understanding of, and develop interventions to address, stigma and other social ecological factors related to health disparities.

5. David Okojie
David Okojie is a 2nd-year Political Science and PCJ major with a minor in French. Due to his Nigerian heritage, he has a deep interest in West African colonial history, and the modern forms of imperialism employed globally ever since traditional colonialism fell out of style. He has no pets but plans on getting one, preferably a dog but he hasn’t decided what breed, any suggestions are welcome. His favorite color is blue and love basketball and anime with YuYu Hakusho and Onepiece being his favorite.

Soft Power

1. Rinaldo Walcott
Dr. Rinaldo Walcott is the Director of the Women and Gender Studies Institute and an Associate Professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, both at the University of Toronto. From 2002 to 2007, he was the Canada Research Chair of Social Justice and Cultural Studies. His research is in areas of Black Diaspora Cultural studies, gender and sexuality. He is the author of the essay, “The End of Diversity” (2019).

2. Laila Omar
Laila Omar is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. She co-authored an article entitled “Listening in Arabic: Feminist Research with Syrian Refugee Mothers” (2019). Her main research interests include Education Policy, Immigrant and Refugee Integration, International Development and Middle East Studies.

3. Geetha Philipupillai
Geetha Philipupillai is a practising attorney with Goldblatt Partners LLP, specializing in employment law, civil litigation and class actions. She regularly represents labour unions and their members in a range of civil proceedings. Her Master’s thesis explores the branding of Tamil youth in Canada as terrorists and radicals, and how such targeting contributes to a national project of white settler colonialism.

4. Neha Dhaliwal
Neha Dhaliwal (she/her) is a fourth-year undergraduate student. Aside from her major in peace, conflict, and justice, Neha is also pursuing a major in human geography and a minor in diaspora and transnational studies. On campus, Neha is an executive member of the Peace, Conflict, & Justice Society and the Feminist Equal Rights Alliance. She is also currently an International Presidential Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress in Washington, DC. Neha will be presenting on the role of migrants and diasporic groups in decolonization & Indigenous resurgence movements.

5. Madhurie Dhanrajh
Madhurie Dhanrajh is in her third year at UofT, pursuing a double major in Peace, Conflict and Justice and Ethics, Society and Law, with a minor in Political Science. She is also passionate about postcolonial and gender studies. Madhurie is also pursuing a degree in classical music and education, and in her free time, plays a few instruments like the violin and sitar. She spends her time between Canada and Guyana, studying and volunteering in both countries.

Military Industrial Complex

1. Terri E. Givens
Dr. Terri E. Givens is a Professor of Political Science at McGill University. She was the founding director of the Center for European Studies at the University of Texas and is the author/editor of books and articles on immigration policy, European politics, and the politics of race. Her most recent book is Radical Empathy: Finding a Path to Bridging Racial Divides (2021).

2. Walter Dorn
Dr. Walter Dorn is a Professor of Defence Studies at the Royal Military College of Canada and the Canadian Forces College (CFC). At the CFC, he teaches officers of rank from Canada and other countries Canadian foreign and defence policy, the ethics of war, peace operations and international security. His interests cover both international and human security – focusing on UN field operations for peacekeeping and peace enforcement. At the University of Toronto, he was a Research Fellow with the International Relations and Peace, Conflict, Justice Studies Program. Professor Dorn also served as the UN Representative of Science for Peace since 1983 and addressed the UN General Assembly at its Third UN Special Session on Disarmament in 1988.

3. Ray Acheson
Ray Acheson is the director of Reaching Critical Will, the disarmament programme of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). They represent WILPF on the steering committees of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, and the International Network on Explosive Weapons. They aim to bring an intersectional feminist approach to disarmament and antiwar activism.

4. Maryam and Nivaal Rehman
Maryam and Nivaal are twin activists, journalists and filmmakers and the Co-Executive Directors of their non-profit The World With MNR. They’re currently pursuing a Double Major in International Relations and Peace, Conflict and Justice Studies with a Minor in Women and Gender Studies. They’re passionate about taking action for climate justice, gender equality and human rights through storytelling and advocacy projects. While they work to address issues on a global scale, they’re currently focusing on research and advocacy to end human rights abuses in Indian-Occupied Kashmir.

International Legal Systems

1. Roojin Habibi
Roojin Habibi is a lawyer specializing in human rights and global health. She is a PhD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School (York University) and a research fellow at the Canadian International Council and the Global Strategy Lab. She has advocated for the right to health through organizations including the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Canadian Medical Association, the Namibian Legal Assistance Centre and UNAIDS.

2. Bryce Edwards
Bryce Edwards is a partner at Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP. He provides legal and strategic advice on lands and resource matters, intergovernmental negotiations, mining, energy, land use planning, oil & gas projects, and treaty and rights claims. He teaches at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, where he was awarded the Truth & Reconciliation Teaching Award.

3. David Walders
David Walders is a securities lawyer and the Deputy Director of the Indigenous Innovation Initiative, a platform to provide funding and support for Indigenous Innovators and entrepreneurs. He is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and teaches in the area of Aboriginal Law and Policy.

4. Uchechukwu Ngwaba
Dr. Uchechukwu Ngwaba is an Assistant Professor at Ryerson University’s Lincoln Alexander School of Law. His research engages multidisciplinary, comparative and socio-legal methods in investigating complex questions affecting health governance frameworks in the Global North and South. Dr. Ngwaba’s areas of expertise include public health and human rights, health systems, and transitional justice.

5. Lina Lashin
Lina Lashin is a senior student at Trudeau’s Centre for Peace, Conflict and Justice Studies, also earning a minor in Sociology and two regional minors in African Studies and Near Middle Eastern Studies. Her academic interests include colonial legacies in the Arab world, migration studies, sociology of law, comparative legal systems, and modern Arab thought. Lina derives her worldviews from personal experiences within the institutions, processes, and communities she is interested in studying. These experiences continue to enhance her academic skills by providing unique, nuanced understanding of realities otherwise inaccessible to many. Lina is interested in producing theoretically sound perspectives for structural issues facing her community.

6. Roya Aboosaidi
I am Roya Aboosaidi, a second-year student at Trinity College. I am currently pursuing my majors which combine my vast interests in medicine, economics, international relations, and political science. I have presented at 3 U of T conferences and look forward to speaking on British colonialism in India.

7. Hailey Marleau
Hailey Marleau is in her final year of her undergraduate studies with a double major in Peace, Conflict and Justice and Ethics, Society and Law and a minor in Political Science. She is passionate about the intersection between climate justice, indigenous justice, and peacebuilding, and the role that law can play in remedying social injustice. She hopes to pursue a career in environmental policy or journalism to promote policy solutions that support climate resilience for vulnerable communities.

Main Sponsor

Trudeau Centre for Peace, Conflict and Justice


Department of History

Department of Economics

Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies

Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy

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