“In a commuter campus of 55 000 undergraduate students, it can often be hard for clubs to establish a strong presence and successful outreach to the broader student population. However, in the 3 years that I’ve been involved in Amnesty, I can’t count how many people have seen us tabling, running an event, or even just putting up a display, and instantly texted, messaged or sought me out to say ‘I just saw Amnesty again, you all do such great work on campus!’ From the bold yellow displays to our open door meetings to proudly wearing our lit candles on sweaters, t-shirts, lanyards, stress balls and phone wallets, AIY has truly become a symbol of hope, strength and friendship in a world that seems too big to fix. Here at Amnesty International at York, we are an official branch of Amnesty International Canada run completely by student volunteers at York University’s Keele campus. We believe that every person can be a powerful agent of change, and that we are strongest when we stand together. Take a look at the work we’ve done within the past year!”
Black Lives Matter
In November 2016, AIY hosted a “die-in” rally to highlight the injustices faced by black folks in Toronto, and in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter Toronto. Participants laid down on the floor in a high-traffic building in campus for over half an hour to attract attention to the issue and gained a lot of attention on campus throughout the day and subsequent weeks. Campus was buzzing with conversations about Black Lives Matter advocacy for weeks!
Site C Dam
Based on the Amnesty report, “The Point of No Return”, on March 2017, AIY hosted a display outlining the injustices faced by Indigenous communities in the Peace River Valley. The $8 billion Site C hydroelectric dam would flood over 80 kilometres of the dam and we used the display to educate the York community on the human rights abuses that were committed and would be committed with the building of the dam. Using streamers and posters, we set up a “mock dam” in a high-traffic building on campus and encouraged students to take pictures with a whiteboard, and write sticky notes on the wall as signs of solidarity and pressure on the Canadian government to Stop Site C Dam. The tape we left on the floor, spelling out “Stop Site C” was left on display for weeks after, alerting many in the community to the grave human rights abuses committed in Western Canada.
Night 4 Rights
In April 2017, AIY hosted our first annual formal, “Night for Rights”! Free for all community members, we set up petitions and actions around the room, along with a dessert buffet and we celebrated a successful year of human rights advocacy at York. We highlighted the necessity of self-care and celebration of success within human rights work, as it is something we often overlook or neglect in our pursuit of justice for others. Complete with dancing, dressing up and fond memories of the year, Night for Rights was an event to remember. We look forward to another celebration coming up at the end of April 2018!
“As an activist and hopeful international social worker, I believe that Amnesty is and continues to be an excellent fit for me. Upon joining in my first year, I was trying to find out what I was interested and be involved on campus. While living away from home for the first time, AIY helped me find a place I could feel comfortable and welcome.
Amnesty has helped me find my voice, learn how to be political, and how to create and execute campaigns and advocacy successfully. These skills have proven essential and useful across my multidisciplinary education and engaging in constructive and intersectional conversation and thoughts.
I genuinely know through AIY that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
Letter Writing Sessions
Three times per month, Amnesty hosts urgent action letter writing sessions in our office to draw attention to human rights abuse cases around the world. We’ve highlighted cases in over 10 countries throughout the year!
On October 2017, Amnesty hosted accessibility training in order to raise awareness of ableism on campus, learn how to be a strong ally for the disability community and how to be inclusive in our human rights initiatives through the use of image descriptions, closed captions and accomodations at events and rallies.
Halloween Escape Room
For Halloween, in partnership with the UNICEF and jack.org clubs at York University, AIY hosted an escape room event, “Room 107: Enter if you dare, Escape if you can!” in our club office. We collaboratively set up clues and puzzles related to our clubs’ respective mandates and over one hundred attendees visited our escape room throughout the day to solve our clues, unlock our three puzzle boxes and “escape” from the room in fifteen minute time slots. In addition to prizes to successful teams, we had delicious treats, club swag and executive members in attendance to engage teams in meaningful and fun discussions about human rights. In an unconventional advocacy event, we had a lot of fun engaging in human rights activism in a fresh and exciting way!
We Stand With Refugees
In November 2017, along with Islamic Relief, WUSC and RefugeAid, Amnesty at York hosted a panel discussion featuring Gloria Nafziger, that highlighted the limitations of Canadian refugee policy, the current refugee crisis in Myanmar and ways students can get involved in refugee sponsorship and education on campus. In an interactive speaker session, we gave students a platform to ask questions regarding barriers to asylum that refugee claimants face, the effects of caps on the number of refugees Canada accepts and about the situation for the Rohingya fleeing persecution.
Write 4 Rights
For the past two years, leading up to Write 4 Rights, AIY had a “12 Days of Human Rights” campaign, drawing attention to the cases highlighted in our annual letter writing event. Each day on social media leading up to our event, we released the details of one case we would be focusing on through all forms of social media. For the 12th day, the day of our event, we set up several tables and chairs with pens, paper and sweet treats, as well as free “AmnesTea” for York community members to enjoy while writing letters for human rights cases. #Write4Rights is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year for many allies of Amnesty at York, and it’s always a pleasure to mail the hundreds of letters at the end of the 12 days!
Winter Clothing Drive
Throughout the Fall 2017 semester, Amnesty participated and co-hosted the WInter Clothing Drive with the Syrian Refugee Response Initiative at York.
Advocacy Social Night
In collaboration with WUSC, AIY hosted an advocacy social networking night, providing York community members and club members with the opportunity to learn more about a variety of civic-oriented and social justice clubs or organizations on campus, as well as the chance to sing, perform or do spoken-word in a relaxed and comfortable environment.
KAIROS Blanket Exercise
In January 2018, AIY hosted a KAIROS Blanket Exercise – an interactive learning experience that teaches the Indigenous rights history we’re rarely taught. Developed in response to the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples—which recommended education on Canadian-Indigenous history as one of the key steps to reconciliation, the Blanket Exercise covers over 500 years of history in a one and a half hour participatory workshop.
“The Amnesty International at York team is comprised of the most hardworking group of individuals I have met. When attending meetings, it is clear to see that everyone is engaged and has such wonderful ideas. During the Kairos Blanket exercise I felt that the Amnesty team brought so much awareness to the injustices that First Nations historically faced by the Canadian government. Everyone seem to be more aware of the issues happening in Canada and found ways to support them. I am happy to be a part of a team that really makes a difference on campus, while educating students on various human rights issues and positively changing lives.”
On a weekly or bi-weekly basis, AIY tables in main areas of the Keele campus in order to highlight important human rights cases around the world, such as Idil Eser’s capture in Turkey, Ahed Tamini’s capture and trial on her 17th birthday, solidarity for the victims of the January 29th mosque shooting in Quebec, butterflies for the thousands missing in Mexico, Justice for Colten Boushie and many more! Our sticky notes of solidarity for the Quebec shooting stayed up in Vari Hall for 3 weeks (this never happens)!
Canadian Council for Refugees International Conference
Amnesty International at York is a co-host for the annual Youth Action Gathering for the 2018 International Refugee Rights conference hosted by the Canadian Council for Refugees.
Dignity: Not Detention
In February 2018, Amnesty International at York hosted a letter-writing session and talk by refugee advocate Marium Yousuf about indefinite immigration detention in Canada. We aimed to raise awareness about the ways in which this policy violates both Canadian and international human rights law and aimed to empower student activists at York University to take action against indefinite human rights detention. This event was a part of Refugee Awareness Week, hosted by a coalition of social justice clubs advocating for refugee rights.
Watch Marium’s whole talk here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIBVTT7SbMA&t=5s
Weekly Meetings and Outreach
AIY hosts weekly meetings open to all community members – follow us on social media and connect with us to learn more about getting involved! We always love welcoming new members and diverse perspectives to our team!