Making a difference for Indigenous peoples around the world

Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2019

Portrait of a student standing, smiling

Zoé Boirin, a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Law, has chosen to share the stories of Indigenous peoples around the world, particularly those in Canada. So it’s not surprising she was one of the recipients of an Allan Rock Scholarship, awarded by the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement. The scholarship promotes engagement among uOttawa students and recognizes students for their volunteer activities.

An international student from France, Zoé has quite an interesting academic background. She obtained a licentiate in law—equivalent to a bachelor’s in France—from the Université catholique de Lyon. She then completed the first year of her master’s in public law at Aix-Marseille III, specializing in Indigenous rights. This was followed by a one-year exchange at the University of Ottawa, during which time she became involved with the Native Women’s Association of Canada. She then completed the second year of her master’s jointly at the Université Paris Nanterre and the University of Ottawa. Boirin went on to complete a second master’s in energy regulation and law at Aix-Marseille III. She eventually returned to the University of Ottawa, to undertake a PhD in law. The research for her thesis focuses on the right of Indigenous peoples to be consulted about mining projects that would affect them. She also puts her advocacy skills to good use during her community engagement placements to help Indigenous community organizations. She has also travelled to Siberia and India to do field work with different Indigenous groups.

Zoé is involved with Legacy of Hope Foundation (LHF). The Foundation’s goal is to raise awareness among Canadians about the intergenerational impact of residential schools on survivors and their families. Zoé helps translate documents that make it possible for the LHF to do this work, especially in schools. Her second placement is with the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). The UNPFII is the main UN body that deals with Indigenous issues. Zoé is assisting the UNPFII chair by carrying out a study on tuberculosis among the world’s Indigenous peoples. The Forum hopes this study will help raise awareness on the topic within the UN and, as a result, help the organization develop strategies for eradicating TB that respect the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Once she completes her PhD, Zoé would like to teach or perhaps become a consultant. She realizes how fortunate she is to have had the opportunity to go so far in her studies. She’s also grateful for the financial security that the Allan Rock Scholarship Fund provides—it really helps relieve some of the financial worry most doctoral students experience.

Taking part in community engagement activities allows students to leverage their skills and strengths to help others who may not necessarily have access to the resources they need. Zoé was interested in the Allan Rock Scholarship Fund because it awards students, like her, who become involved on campus or in their communities. She encourages each and every student to seek out opportunities and to be open to the possibilities to get involved. By offering some of your time and skills, you can build strong ties with a particular organization, community or group. Everyone wins when you use your time and skills to help others!

By Andrew Heath

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