Author Archives: nikkibakes

FREE public lecture

I came across the following event and it caught my eye. I thought it may be of interest to other students of law, who are similarly intrigued by considerations surrounding international law and global justice. Rather than write about another captivating event after the fact, I thought I’d first share the opportunity to attend with all of you!
Maybe I’ll see you there!

Just a quick housekeeping note – although this event is in fact free and public, please make sure you reserve your seat online, at the following link.
Reserve online here.

Fairness and Legitimacy in International Law-Making
Thursday, January 31, 3:30 pm
IRMACS Theatre, ASB 10900, Burnaby campus

Dr. Thomas Christiano, Philosophy, University of Arizona, will be speaking at the President’s Dream Colloquium on Justice Beyond National Boundaries.

Sample of Thomas Christiano:
A Democratic Approach to the Legitimacy of International Institutions

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Dr. Thomas Christiano’s Lecture Abstract:
I will explore one of the main worries concerning the idea that state consent is at the basis of the moral legitimacy of institutional law and institutions. One frequent charge against the legitimacy of contemporary international institutions such as the World Trade Organization is that though they were consented to by member states, they are the product of wealthy countries taking unfair advantage of poor countries’ vulnerabilities. This charge is intuitively quite strong but it is rarely given a careful theoretical articulation.

I will construct and defend a general moral conception of fairness as a standard for assessing agreements like contracts. In my presentation, I will give an account of the nature of unfair advantage taking in the making of agreements and criticize the traditional common law standard of fairness in agreements as the avoidance of force and fraud.

My argument defends an egalitarian and procedural account of the standard of fairness in the making of agreements. The idea is to characterize an ideal in which agreements are fairly arrived at when the parties have equal opportunities to avoid the agreement. Unfair advantage taking takes place when and to the extent that one party takes full advantage of the lesser opportunities of the other party to extract benefits from the agreement. The better-placed party need not entirely erase the differences in opportunities in order to avoid unfair advantage taking. It need only make a reasonable contribution to the enhancement of the capacity of the other party to have a say in the making of the agreement.

I will proceed from a defense and articulation of a general account of fairness and unfair advantage taking and then applies it to the special context of international agreement making.   This context is distinctive in a variety of ways that are relevant to the assessment of the fairness of the agreements and unfair advantage taking.

My presentation gives an account of the distinctive characteristics and then shows how the basic standards of fairness apply. I then proceed to determine whether and how unfair advantage taking in the process of securing the consent of the state parties can reduce the legitimacy of the institutions that are created through the unfair process of agreement.  Once fairness is thought of as a constitutive part of the legitimacy conferring process of international law making, the notion of legitimacy must itself be enriched in various ways the paper articulates.

I will also makes some recommendations for enhancing the legitimacy of the process of institution building in international law-making.

It’s 2013!

Here’s hoping the break from school has given you time to relax, reflect and reconnect with all those you hold dear!

Regardless of how fruitful or fruitless 2012 has been for you, remember the wise words of Winston Churhchill:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Wishing you all the courage to continue, along with a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

– n

A couple of neat events

This term I had the opportunity to check out a neat extra curricular events pertaining to my legal interests.


What an awesome event this was! Not only did the TED event bring over 2300 people from across the province together at the Orpheum Theatre,  it also featured two of its 14 speakers who shared a legal paradigm. This was the perfect avenue for merging my love for innovative ideas with my love for all things legal!

The first legal speaker was Doug Schmitt, partner at Alexander Holburn Beaudin & Lang LLP. With a scientific and legal background highlighting more than three decades of experience practicing maritime law, he is additionally one of the few who have been published on meteorite law. Did you know there are over 5000 meteors headed for earth?! I certainly did not! His startling presentation noted the potential consequences if meteors are not studied as extensively as they should be. Although this interesting piece of international law was indeed novel, my ear was certainly captured by the second legal speaker to take the stage.

Natalie DeFreitas is a counsellor and self proclaimed alternative justice advocate. “Imagine the worst thing you’ve ever done is put on display for the world to see…People are worth more than the worst thing they’ve ever done.” Having spent years volunteering and working closely with individuals and groups who have been incarcerated, DeFreitas indicates that the current system isn’t working.  She spoke on need to reform Canada’s prison system and shift focus on to restorative justice rather than incarceration, punishment and stigma. “Being tough on crime, promotes crime,” she indicated while illustrating the high rates of ricidivism once a person is released from prison.  Demonstrating insights beyond her years, DeFreitas concluded, “Justice isn’t something that happens to you, it’s something that is built.” Her ideal is developing a system that focuses on offenders taking accountability, taking action to create positive change, and redefining their self identity.

All in all, the TED was an all around success and I left with several nuggets of inspiration. To learn more about TEDxVancouver 2012 visit where the overall agenda from the day can be seen.



Defending Human Rights: Presentation by Helen Mack Chang

“What we want is justice as proof that governmental arbitrariness will not continue; justice as a condition for the development of democratic relations free of fear and coercion.” – Helen Mack Chang

SFU’s 2012 David Hopper Lecture was an incredible presentation by Helen Mack Chang. Ms. Chang is a Guatemalan business woman whose life forever changed the day her sister, Myrna Mack, was assassinated.

Chang  spoke eloquently and passionately describing her plight and struggle to prove her sister’s death was a political crime. She told of her 12 year long journey, navigating the legal system, fighting against her government to seek justice. Her advocacy work fighting for human rights and against impunity continues to this day. Chang helps others  seek justice, conquer impunity and work within the legal system in Guatemala to bring about change. She has helped dozens of similar cases be brought to justice. Because of her contribution and tireless effort she is the decorated recipient of many international human rights awards and has received noteworthy recognition.

Not only was this lecture a lesson in the current political climate and judicial system in Guatemala, but it was also an inspirational example of one woman’s courage and commitment to justice, in the face of monstrous obstacles.

More Than Just a Pretty Face –

I can’t believe how quickly this term is going! Where has the time gone?

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life on campus at UBC, it’s easy to get caught up in creating routines, putting the blinders on, and settling into new surrounds and experiences. It’s easy to write off these new surroundings and experiences as merely ‘the norm’. It’s somewhat funny and somewhat tragic, how quickly we adjust and transition our mindset.

Not that long ago it seems I was a grad student eager to enroll in a law school class, mystified by the possibility “law school” held. Appreciating the competitive process to even just get a seat in a law class, and hoping there was a spot for me. On my first day on campus I remember being overwhelmed with a feeling of how lucky I was, how fortunate.

On that first day, I couldn’t get over how beautiful the law building – Allard Hall – was. It may have helped that I visited UBC a few years ago and remember what the previous law building was like. It also may have helped that the sun was shining and it was a gloriously warm September day for the first few week on campus in 2012!
In reality, it’s important for me to still remember – even on a chilly, rainy November day –  how fortunate I am.  Allard Hall is stunning! See for yourself!

Allard Hall Building

Allard Hall from Road

Study & Event Space in Allard

Symbols of Justice – Lady Justice with Scales

The building itself is tastefully decorated with many artistic pieces portraying various symbols of justice and inspirational words. These act as gentle reminders of the ethic of the profession and the importance of action by both its students and its practitioners. The layout is airy, open and very conducive to student-friendly study and work, and the interchange of ideas.

On one occasion several weeks ago, as I was studying at the couch clusters on the third floor, I overheard a very interesting impromptu conversation with other upper year law students and faculty whom I had never met before. Before I knew it, I was engaged in the dialogue too!

From that experience and other interactions with those around Allard Hall, I am continually pleasantly surprised with the open and welcoming faces at UBC Law. Being a visiting student,  a self-labelled  “outsider,” I was curious, perhaps even cautious, as to what I should expect and how my presence would be assessed.

But consistently,  I’ve come to be greeted with with friendly, welcoming and supportive experiences, whether it be with students, staff, faculty, or even the Dean. Sharing of information between fellow classmates, cups of coffee and conversation at the Law Cafe, and open doors and helpful service at every level of faculty and administration; it’s safe to say UBC Law is more than just a pretty face and beautiful space. It has a pretty fantastic, warm-hearted group of people within its walls too.

– n