About Us

Origin story

The Human Rights Collective (HRC) emerged out of a partnership with the Scholars at Risk (SAR) Network, originally focusing on projects that supported SAR’s learning and advocacy goals. This complemented the protection of academic freedom work carried out under the VP International. Led by Dr. Jenny Peterson, the experiential human rights research project started as the PURE-Funded project (2019-2022) and we are now working to consolidate and expand our programming in ways that support and engage with other human rights focused learning opportunities at UBC. 

This Collective was made possible by various student alumni, whose work, vision, and values shaped us. Here are some of the student alumni: 

Mission statement

The Human Rights Collective is a welcoming community collective for scholars including students and faculty at all academic levels, community, organizations and institutions across disciplines committed to examine, collaborate and act towards the advancement of human rights. The Collective is part of the Office of Regional and International Community Engagement (UBC ORICE) and partners with organizations such as the Scholars at Risk Network, and the Dallaire Centre of Excellence (DCOE).

Building upon a foundational understanding of the role that academic freedom plays in the work that we engage in as a collective, we commit to holding an accessible, critical, caring and reflexive space of engagement. Our work acknowledges power and positionality and we act in solidarity regarding human rights abuses.

The goals of the collective aim to develop, support and secure resources for a community of praxis of engaged scholars, who lead and participate in teaching and learning, research, solidarity and community engaged action towards the advancement of global human rights. We support faculty in teaching initiatives and through partnerships with local and international organizations working in the field of human rights within our network.

Values of the Collective 

Academic freedom is central to the work of the Human Rights Collective. We firmly believe that rights-based work is near to impossible when academic freedom is not valued or protected, and therefore view this value as being foundational to our ability to engage in human rights activism within an academic institution. Our commitment to promoting academic freedom is exhibited through our support of UBC faculty who integrate Scholars at Risk (SAR) projects into their course curriculum, by organizing public events centered around the protection of academic freedom, and through designing and implementing co-curricular engagement opportunities for students to conduct in-depth research on real-world infringements of academic freedom across national and international levels. 

As a collective, we seek to engage in activism in solidarity with the community partners, organizations, and individuals who we have formed close relations with. Through this collective approach, as well as our intentional application of the principles of ethical community-engaged practices in our programming, we have collaborated with these groups and communities to re-center their needs. These values are reflected in our events and programming; the Scholars at Risk Student Advocacy Day being a prime example. The event which was hosted in the March of 2022 served as Canada’s first SAR Student Advocacy Day, in which a passionate community of students, faculty, and activists engaged in discussions regarding advocacy, the protection of academic freedom, and locating the role of higher educational institutions in the protection of human rights. By facilitating events such as these, we desire to encourage our audience to further explore the nuances of what it means to be an advocate, the complex relationships between solidarity and advocacy, as well as how to be more reflexive in their understanding of advocacy.

As a collective, we recognize the emotional labor and trauma that is inherent to this work and therefore aim to foster an understanding community in which community care is prioritized. Through the co-curricular programs facilitated by the collective, as well as through previously hosted webinars and panels centered around vicarious trauma experienced by individuals involved in human rights work, we have come to better understand how to approach human rights work with a particular emphasis placed on holistic (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) community care for all parties involved. This process is supported by the Community Care Module; a guide created by former collective student employee, Nastya Mozolevych, that seeks to give a comprehensive introduction to the concept of community care, explore the common health struggles experienced by activists such as vicarious trauma, depression, and activist burn-out, and suggestions regarding how best these issues can be dealt with. Such resources also ensure that we continue to centralize community care in the work of the collective; not only that of our community partners and beneficiaries, but also that of the collective’s staff and networks. 

Deep learning is necessary for transformative education to occur, and relates closely to our other learning-related values; critical thinking and reflection for example. The participants of our co-curricular engagementship program, which run for 1 or 2 terms, aim not only challenged to sharpen the aforementioned skills, but also to consider the larger social, political, and economic implications of the research they conduct, to reflect upon the value of applying the theoretical knowledge they possessed into this real-world context across micro and macro global levels, and to apply an intersectional framework while exploring the related concepts of advocacy, academic freedom, and human rights. 

The design and implementation of the co-curricular engagementship program, as well as a host of other similar ones, is a result of the collaborations we have formed with numerous community partners. In addition to the Engagementship research opportunities, the Human Rights Education Advisory Committee is another example of deep learning and collaboration. This committee, which is composed of faculty, student, and staff representatives from departments across the university, meets once each semester to discuss and advises sub-teams of the collective’s staff in our pursuit of developing an interdisciplinary network in which rights-based scholars, activists, and advocates have spaces and opportunities to collaborate and share ideas toward addressing rights abuses in varying contexts.

As a rights-oriented collective, we are cognizant of the importance of being critical of individual positionalities while engaging in justice-related efforts. Developing and strengthening awareness of power dynamics and positionality is therefore of significant importance to our collective. Between September to December of 2022, the Human Rights Collective facilitated a series of talks challenging common stereotypes in human rights. One such talk,  “Exposing Normalized Violence in Canada'', compelled the audience and collaborators to be aware of how individuals unintentionally feed into harmful stereotypes in the field, exposed the realities of human rights abuses that persist beneath Canada’s global reputation as a defender of human rights, and addressed the hurdles that have resulted in decades of structural violence and oppression for Indigenous communities in the country. In this, and the rest of our programming, we aim to apply an anti-oppressive framework and intersectional lens to better understand inequalities and reflect on our individual and collective positions within the academic institution and society at large.