On Civil Liberties (G20 WIDEN), September 22 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 4:00-6:00 pm, Gradroom at Grad House, 66 Harbord St, Toronto. All are welcome. No advance registration is required.

G20 WIDEN was curated by Morgan Vanek & Jessica Duffin Wolfe in response to the G20 weekend in Toronto in June 2010.


Civil Liberties in Comparative Perspectives: G20 Under the Lens of Global South Studies

Hicham Safieddine, Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations

The G20 events shed an extremely critical light on our understanding  of the rule of law, the upholding of civil liberties, the perimeters  of policing, and the right to freedom of expression in a free country.  These pillars of liberal democracy were shaken in the minds of many  yet remained a point of reference for both state and society,  including dissenters. While much was said about the violation of the norms of liberal democracy, little was said about the implications of  what happened on our understanding of the same concepts in relation to countries in the global south. I will explore this relationship and reflect on the lessons we can draw about our Canadian society and how it frames questions of security, democracy, rule of law, as well as violent versus peaceful means of change in the global south.

Making Civil and Political Rights Real: Issues, Tactics, and Concerns

Aditya Badami, Law

Provisions aimed at advancing equality are entrenched in laws, constitutions and international agreements, but individuals experience large gaps in the enjoyment of these provisions and have vastly unequal political voice to claim them. My presentation investigates how the gap between legal rights on paper and their equitable implementation in practice can be bridged. More specifically, we shall explore how the civil and political rights guaranteed in constitutions and legislation can be made real on the ground. What are some of the background factors that make the rights they guarantee meaningful? What are the mechanisms that can increase their impact? What civic action needs to be taken in order for these rights to be claimed? In sum, my presentation will seek (provisional) answers to these questions by examining the evidence in the literature of what it takes to get the civil and political rights that are outlined in legislation and constitutions implemented in practice.

How to Do Things with Words: “Unlawful Combatants,” and Civil Liberties

Michael Donnelly, English

Loaded phrases such as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” a favourite of the Bush administration and Post-9/11 media establishments, or “refined interrogation,” the preferred term for the Waffen-SS, destabilize the distinction between lawful persuasion to reveal and unlawful coercion under duress–or “torture.” I argue that since the late eighteenth century an increasing degree of semantic play has been employed to violate agreed upon rights conferred by exploiting the definitional incompleteness of “torture.” In my talk, I shall direct Post-9/11 discussions of democratic torture towards the influences of semantics, and excavate how phrasing has shaped administrative procedures and redefined the limits of civil liberties in the supposed “new paradigm” that George Bush claims we live.

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