Last week, the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta became the first Canadian law school to host a “Teaching IHL Workshop” in partnership with the Canadian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross, and with the participation of officers from the Canadian Forces Military Law Centre and the office of the Judge Advocate General-Western Region at Steele Barracks. The workshop provided participants with the opportunity to discuss how we teach law students and others about the laws that apply during times of armed conflict.
Organized by Professor Joanna Harrington of the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law, Professor Christopher Penny of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) at Carleton University, and Professor Christopher Waters of the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Law, with Ilario Maiolo, Senior Legal Advisor with the Canadian Red Cross, and Anne Quintin, Public Affairs Officer with the International Committee of the Red Cross Regional Delegation for Canada and the United States, the two-day workshop on international humanitarian law (IHL) and the law of armed conflict (LOAC) attracted 35 participants, including law professors and legal scholars, prosecutors and military lawyers, humanitarian law practitioners and lawyers working with NGOs, and law students and graduate students in international relations.
The “Teaching International Humanitarian Law in Canada” workshop builds on initiatives undertaken in several U.S. law schools since the mid-2000s to expand and support the teaching and study of international humanitarian law among both students and professors. While many law students are interested in the laws applicable during times of war, and have an avid interest in world affairs, a 2007 study conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at the American University Washington College of Law found that many faculty members in U.S. law schools were in need of better resources, training opportunities, and materials to support the teaching of this important subject area.
By bringing together law professors from across Canada, and by extending our network to include lawyers with operational experience gained in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the workshop provided an opportunity for all to think creatively about how to educate the next generation of lawyers working on issues of international humanitarian law. To this end, the workshop also included several sessions on hot topics in the field, addressing IHL in times of cyber warfare as well as corporate complicity for war crimes. It is also hoped that the workshop will lead to the creation of a network for future collaboration to support the expansion of teaching international humanitarian law throughout Canada, whether as a stand-alone course, or as part of a course on constitutional law, international law, criminal law, international human rights law, or national security law.
Financial support for the two-day workshop was kindly provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Canadian Red Cross, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, with additional assistance from the Eldon Foote Chair in International Law Fund.