Disability rights expert Laverne Jacobs on COVID in Canada; visiting WWII internment sites in BC

An item from a fellow Canadian organization in the Bay Area.


Canadian Studies Announcements
In this issue:
  • Catching Up With Laverne Jacobs, 2014 Fulbright Chair in Canadian Studies
  • Photoblog: Visiting WWII-era internment sites in BC with Desirée Valadares
  • Affiliate event: COVID-19’s impact on people with disabilities in Canada
  • Affiliate event: Remembrance Day observances
Catching up with Professor Laverne Jacobs, 2014 Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in Canadian Studies and Disability Rights Advocate
Professor Laverne Jacobs has built a career dedicated to human rights and equality. Since 2007, she has taught at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. She now also serves as the Associate Dean of Research & Graduate Studies and is the founding director of the Law, Disability & Social Change Project at Windsor Law. Dr. Jacobs’ teaching and research center around disability, human rights and administrative law. Much of her work focuses on how people with disabilities interact with the administrative justice system and explores issues of equality and access to justice within those interactions.
In 2014, Dr. Jacobs was named the Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in Canadian Studies. She is returning to Berkeley (virtually) this Thursday, Oct. 29 for a special guest lecture on the challenges faced by persons with disabilities during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (see details below under “Upcoming Events”). We asked Hildebrand Fellow Tyler Nodine to catch up with Professor Jacobs in advance of her lecture, and learn more about her current work and her thoughts on addressing issues at the intersection of disability rights, equality, and the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Highlights from the interview are below: read the full piece on our website here.
What was the focus of your research at Cal?
My research explored how people with disabilities and organizations dedicated to disability issues have consulted with government in order to make their voices heard in the development of laws that affect them. My project was prompted by the development in Canada of accessibility legislation-a new collaborative regulatory approach to addressing disability discrimination through the enactment of standards that began in Ontario in 2005 and that is now being picked up by provincial lawmakers across the country. During my time as the Fulbright Visiting Research Chair, I was interested in how people with disabilities participate in formal and informal consultation processes associated with developing laws that regulate their ability to participate in the community, as this was a central aspect of Canada’s new regulatory approach.
How did you choose Berkeley as the site of your research?
I was specifically interested in Berkeley – both the university and the city – because of its well-known, active community of disability rights scholars, lawyers and activists. As a person with a disability myself and someone who identifies as a member of the disability community, I was also excited to be in Berkeley. Moreover, I loved the idea of being affiliated with Canadian Studies at Cal because I wanted to maintain a connection with scholars and others who had an interest in what was taking place in Canada. Although my work had a comparative aspect, it was largely about the Canadian phenomenon.
One of my most memorable moments came from organizing a conference at Berkeley Law, which was generously supported by Canadian Studies, called Exploring Law, Disability and the Challenge of Equality in Canada and the United States. This was a wonderful opportunity to bring together colleagues from both Canada and the US to discuss disability and equality law theory and practice.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic influenced your research?
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant influence on my current research and teaching. I believe that in times of social uncertainty, scholars have a heightened obligation to serve the public by using their research and expertise to ensure that social issues are addressed in a way that brings in the considerations of everyone in society. COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on many vulnerable and marginalized populations, including people with disabilities. Sometimes the issues faced by marginalized groups are disregarded or even misunderstood and I think that as a scholar and a law professor, I have a responsibility to contribute to public debates by helping to clarify the issues and provide knowledge where I can.
What are the most pressing issues affecting the disability community during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how can we address these?
When it comes to people with disabilities, equality rights and the COVID-19 pandemic, two of the most important issues are access to appropriate healthcare and income insecurity. Hospital and other healthcare policies often place people with disabilities quite low on the list of who will receive care if triage is required because of a shortage of staff or supplies. People with disabilities are generally subject to the stigmatizing idea that the quality of their lives makes their lives not worth living. This stigma has been systemically embedded in triage protocols during the COVID-19 crisis. However, questions about who should live or die are much broader than utilitarian calculations; they should be subject to a human rights analysis. From a human rights approach, people with disabilities should have access to healthcare in a manner that is equal to everyone else. Human rights approaches can be found in international law, but also in domestic laws such as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees equality to people with disabilities.
Income insecurity is another major issue that brings to light the systemic social inequalities that people with disabilities experience daily and which have been exacerbated during COVID-19. If someone is unable to work due to disability, the amount of support that they receive is often not enough to keep them going during the pandemic, where the cost of living has risen significantly.
In terms of what we can do to address these issues, I think that it’s important to join voices with people with disabilities who are expressing concern. I think it’s crucial to be aware of the issues but to be led by the disability community in terms of ways to resolve them. And as scholars, I think it’s important to assist through research, and by facilitating discussions that raise awareness and change.
To learn more about Professor Jacob’s current research, sign up for her Oct. 29 lecture, “COVID-19 and Global Inequalities”. Learn more under “Upcoming Events”.
Photoblog: Hildebrand Fellow Desirée Valadares Records the Architectural Residues of Second World War Internment Landscapes
In April 2017, the British Columbia Register of Historic Places recognized more than 56 sites as part of the Japanese-Canadian Historic Places Project. The list included internment camps and the fishing, mining, and logging communities that confined Japanese-Canadians from 1942-1949. These traces provide an enduring testimony to the conditions that characterized daily life in these wartime spaces that confined “civilian enemy aliens” on the basis of their ethnic and racial identity, presumed loyalties, and alleged treasons.
In September 2017, the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre in British Columbia held a “75th Anniversary Internment Bus Tour” in an effort to draw visibility and promote the study, management, preservation, and interpretation of these sites and their associated material culture. Joining them was Berkeley architecture Ph.D. student Desirée Valadares, who received a Canadian Studies Hildebrand Fellowship for her research into preservation of these sites across western North America.
Ms. Valadares, who won a 2020 Tanur Prize for Visual Sociology for her internment camp photography, took extensive photos of the sites as part of her project, which she presented during our Hildebrand Colloquium on October 20. With her cooperation, we are pleased to share an assortment of these moving photos with explanatory captions on our website for those who were unable to attend.
Upcoming Events
Affiliate Event: COVID-19 and Global Inequalities
Lecture | October 29 | 8:00 AM | Online | RSVP here
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has fallen disproportionately on marginalized communities, and among these, on people with disabilities. University of Windsor Law professor Laverne Jacobs, an expert in disability rights law who was Canadian Studies’ inaugural Fulbright Chair in 2014, will be part of a panel discussing the impact of the pandemic on Canadians with disabilities. Professor Jacobs will offer a critique of the situation in Canada through the lens of disability rights and equality law. Other participants will include Gerard Quinn (UN Special Rapporteur on People with Disabilities and professor emeritus, National University of Ireland, Galway) and Wanhong Zhang (Wuhan University, China).
The lecture is part of “COVID-19 and Global Inequalities”, an innovative online course offered by Berkeley Law featuring faculty and students from around the world. Following the lectures, participants will be able to discuss the social inequalities relating to COVID and disability in a variety of jurisdictions.
Affiliate Event: Annual Veterans Day Observance and Evensong
Event | November 8 | 4:00 PM | Online
All are invited to join in person or online for the Annual Veterans Day Observance and Evensong hosted by Holy Trinity Episcopal Church of Covina. The event will be streamed on the Facebook group of the Friends of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church of Covina. Be sure to request to join the group by the end of the day on Friday, November 6.
Affiliate Event: Virtual Remembrance Day Service
Event | November 11 | 10:45 AM | Online | RSVP here
Join US Branch #25 of the Royal Canadian Legion, along with their comrades from other branches in the International Western USA Zone, as they present a socially distanced, virtual Remembrance Day Service from Liberty Cemetery in Petaluma, Greenlawn Cemetery in Colma, and Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood Park.
Canadian Studies Program
213 Moses Hall #2308
Canadian Studies Program | Univ. of California, Berkeley, 213 Moses Hall #2308, Berkeley, CA 94720

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