I am not a veteran myself. I have never been to a conflict zone. I am, instead, a career legal academic. In that role, I have written and lectured and studied a great deal about law and armed conflict. And I have had the privilege of instructing a considerable number of Canadian Forces active service members and veterans.
I have found these people to be amongst the most focused and reflective of my students. They often come with vast life experience and I hazard I may have learned more from them than they have from me.
I believe that being a military lawyer is among the hardest jobs in law. I also believe that international humanitarian law – and more generally the law of armed conflict – is amongst the most important and difficult areas of law.
This is the law that determines how military force can be used, how civilians and other non-combatants are to be protected and treated and what sorts of weapons can be used. Lives literally depend on the answers to these questions -- law is not silent in times of armed conflict. It speaks loudly. In the last decade, it should have spoken even louder.
I believe Canada is and should be a centre of excellence in refining international humanitarian law. I also believe we need more excellent minds dedicated to this task, and none more than the minds of those who have served in the armed forces themselves. These people bring a practical experience to the abstractions of law. We have also asked a lot of those who have served in the Canadian Forces over the years, and especially over the last decade. They might reasonably ask something of us.
As a legal educator and currently president of the CCIL, I am in a position to act on these beliefs. And so I am strongly supporting the creation by the CCIL of a scholarship for a Canadian Forces veteran to study law, with a focus on international humanitarian law.
And now, we are raising the funds for this award. Among other things, I hope to attract donations through participating in a series of endurance sporting events -- including the Boston Marathon and the inaugral Mont Tremblant Ironman triathlon. You can follow my progress here. Donations to the CCIL Veterans Scholarship specifically in response to my "four seasons of moving vigorously" may be made via my personalized donation page, located here.
Our goal is both limited and perhaps also extremely ambitious. The CCIL scholarship will likely be a modest one – maybe no more than what is required for one person to go to law school. But we are trying to raise money to put that skilled and deserving mind through law school in the hope that that individual, later sitting at the shoulders of a tactical officer, or advising a prime minister on whether to deploy military force, or providing excellent legal analysis to a humanitarian group, will save lives that might otherwise be lost. Put another way, we want to give a talented veteran a chance to study law in the hope that he or she can help give us wisdom on some of the weightiest questions any society can ever ask.
This is our way of supporting the troops. We hope also that it entices you, and that you will consider making a financial contribution to the scholarship.
Vice Dean & Associate Professor
Faculty of Law (Common Law Section)
University of Ottawa