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Master of Human Rights Practicum students

Master of Human Rights program students pose together with their online colleagues presenting at the Practicum Symposium held Dec. 8, 2022.

Master of Human Rights Practicum Symposium 2022 brings students and mentors together

January 20, 2023 — 

The Master of Human Rights program’s annual Practicum Symposium took place on Thursday, December 8, 2022 at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The symposium gives students enrolled in the interdisciplinary graduate degree’s practicum stream an opportunity to present their major research papers and share experiences working at their respective placement sites.

Fourteen students presented in five different panel sessions which were divided into the topics of Human Rights and Mental Health, Human Rights and Education, Indigenous Rights, Perspectives on Human Rights, and Discrimination – Race, Gender, and Disability. Audience members, which included placement mentors, professors and family members, were invited to ask questions after each group had presented. This year, the Faculty of Law accommodated a hybrid format for those unable to attend in-person.

“It was wonderful and enriching to all be together in the same room for the Master of Human Rights Symposium,” said Dr. Kjell Anderson, Director of the MHR program. “The pandemic has been a bumpy ride, but our students have shown a lot of resilience and I know they were grateful for the opportunity to gather to share their experience and knowledge with each other and the community.”

Presenting student Piper Larson reflected on how removed from each other her cohort felt, due to the pandemic. This symposium marked the first chance some of her classmates were able to meet in-person. “It was an honour to listen to all of my classmates as they spoke of their practicum experiences and their upcoming research. The diversity in the field of human rights is remarkable and listening to what everyone is passionate about is truly special. I cannot wait to see where the MHR students go from here,” she said.

“Presenting at the symposium online was definitely not the same as presenting in person but with the proper tech set up I was able to participate and engage as if I was there in the room,” said Sara Gibson, one of the student presenters who was unable to attend in-person, but presented via an online feed. “During my panel, I felt just as part of it as my fellow panelists that were in person.”

Sign of the times: Sara Gibson presents from afar online, but alongside her fellow panelists, Mitchel DeFehr and Stephanie Zirino. Dr. Kjell Anderson moderates.

Sign of the times: Sara Gibson presents from afar online, but alongside her fellow panelists, Mitchel DeFehr and Stephanie Zirino. Dr. Kjell Anderson moderates.

Students could invite family and friends to attend as well as practicum mentors, which helped to make them feel supported. Gibson appreciated the opportunity and added, “It was so exciting to hear from my classmates and see the many different areas of focus that we are all researching. It was such a rewarding day and I am so proud of everyone in this cohort!”

Students in the practicum stream undertake work placements with leading local and international human rights organizations to gain practical, hands-on experience doing human rights work. Recent graduates are sometimes offered paid employment with their practicum organization following the completion of their hours.

Amy Cherpako completed her practicum at Wa Ni Ska Tan, a research-based Indigenous-led organization at the University of Manitoba’s Environmental Conservation Lab. During her placement, she focused on the concept of assigning legal rights to natural entities, like rivers or lakes, as an innovative, decolonizing environmental protection strategy.

Forest Photo Amy Cherpako practicum

Photo by Amy Cherpako, Practicum Student, Master of Human Rights program.

“I was drawn to the practicum stream for the desire to gain valuable work experience and skills in the field of human rights as well as have the opportunity to work with community,” said Larsen. “I chose to reach out to Immigration Partnership Winnipeg about a practicum placement because of their vision of making Winnipeg a welcoming and inclusive multicultural city, where everyone finds support and opportunities to prosper.”

I was able to work in the human rights field all summer and with subject matter that I care about deeply!” – Sara Gibson, MHR Practicum Student

“The practicum stream is such a valuable opportunity and all students should take advantage of it if possible,” said Gibson. “I had the chance to work at the Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties, a Winnipeg-based non-profit. As someone who had only ever worked in the public sector, this was such an eye-opening experience and I learned how non-profits function.”

Practicum placements and topics presented were as follows:

Human Rights and Mental Health

Victoria Weir
Practicum Site: Initiatives for Just Communities
Title: Offenders with FASD and the Case for Carceral Abolition

Aayushi Bana
Practicum Site: Public Interest Law Centre
Title: Right to Mental Health; A Scoping Review of Social and Cultural Barriers to Accessing Mental Healthcare Services for Refugee Women in Winnipeg

Omobolanle Sodipo
Practicum Site: Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth
Title: Rethinking Mental Health Legislation to Provide Protection for Children and Youth at Imminent Risk of Harm: A Human rights approach

Human Rights and Education

Stephanie Zirino
Practicum Site: Manitoba Association of Rights and Liberties (MARL)
Title: Mental Health as a Human Right: A Review of Mental Health Policies in Winnipeg School Divisions

Sara Gibson
Practicum Site: MARL
Title: Gaps in Human Rights Knowledge among Canada’s Youth

Mitchel DeFehr
Practicum Site: MARL
Title: The right to Tell Stories: Human Rights Narratives and the Digital age

Indigenous Rights

Michael Campbell
Practicum Site: National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR)
Title: Preserving the Right to Truth at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

Amy Cherpako
Practicum Site: Wa Ni Ska Tan
Title: Nature’s Rights are Human Rights: Revitalizing Indigenous Land Stewardship through Legal Personhood

Perspectives on Human Rights

Natasha Tomchuk
Practicum Site: Manitoba Human Rights Commission
Title: The Effects of COVID-19 on the Manitoba Human Rights Commission

Sabbontu Abdushekur
Practicum Site: MARL/Human Rights League Horn of Africa
Title: The Hidden War in Oromia (Ethiopia)

Piper Larsen
Practicum Site: Immigration Partnership Winnipeg
Title: Permanent Residents and the Right to Vote

Discrimination – Race, Gender, and Disability

Raisa Salima Amin
Practicum Site: Sexual Violence Resource Centre, UM
Title: Sexual Violence against Students with Disabilities on Campus: A Review of Resources and Accessibilities.

Kimberly Lenz
Practicum Site: Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (Montreal)
Title: Accelerating Global Efforts to Eradicate Gender-based Violence against Women: The Prospects of an International Binding Treaty

Jessie Thind
Practicum Site: Her Code Camp
Title: Artificial Impartiality: The Insidious Role of AI in Reinforcing White Supremacy in Canada


The Master of Human Rights program at the University of Manitoba offers both a thesis stream (16 – 24 months of full-time study) and a practicum stream (16 months full-time including a practicum of at least three months). Complete information about the program is on the Faculty of Law website. The annual deadline for applications is December 1st each year.

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