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The 49th Annual Conference of the

Canadian Council on International Law


Keynote Speakers


Thursday, October 1st

Kick Off Webinar

12:30 - 13:30 ET

Armed Conflict, Crisis and COVID-19: What Can International Law Do?

Thursday, October 15


12:30 - 13:30 ET

Is the Phoenix Still Rising in 2020? International Human Rights Law and Corporate Accountability in Canada

Thursday, October 29

Virtual Conference - Day 1

13:00 - 17:00 ET

Welcome and Opening Remarks

Keynote: Gillian Triggs

Simultaneous Sessions

NEW:  Virtual Reception with a recognition of the 2020 Public Sector Award Winner Colleen Swords followed by small networking groups.

Friday, October 30

Virtual Conference - Day 2

10:00 - 15:00 ET

Keynote Speakers: Prof. Irene Watson and Dr. Sharon Venne

Simultaneous Sessions

Annual General Meeting

Career Panel

Thursday, November 12


12:30 - 13:30 ET

US Elections and International Law

Thursday, November 26


12:30 - 13:30 ET

Climate Change

Keynote Speech

Thursday October 29, 2020 (13:00-14:00)

70th Anniversary of the Refugee Convention: Asylum and COVID-19

Dr. Gillian Triggs

Assistant High Commissioner for Protection at the Office of the UN High Commission for Refugees

Gillian Triggs is UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection. She was appointed on 9 August 2019. Triggs is a highly renowned expert in international law who has held a number of eminent appointments in service to human rights and the refugee cause, including most recently as the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission and the ViceChancellor’s Fellow and Emeritus Professor at the University of Melbourne. Triggs oversees UNHCR’s protection work for millions of refugees, internally displaced, stateless and other people of concern. An Australian national, she has previously held a number of leadership roles, including as President of the Asian Development Bank Administrative Tribunal, Chair of the UN Independent Expert Panel of Inquiry into Abuse of Office and Harassment in UNAIDS, Dean of the Faculty of Law and Challis Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney and as Director of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law in London. Triggs has been closely associated with a number of not-for-profit organizations throughout her career, including most recently as Chair of Justice Connect, an organization that connects 10,000 lawyers to provide pro bono advice to asylum-seekers and others in need of legal support in Australia. She is also the author of many books and papers on public international law

Closing Keynote

Friday October 30, 2020 (11:30-12:30 PM)
Going Forward in International Law and Indigenous Rights

Professor Irene Watson

Professor Irene Watson belongs to the Tanganekald, Meintangk Bunganditj First Nations peoples of the Coorong and the South-east of South Australia and is the Pro Vice Chancellor: Aboriginal Leadership and Strategy, the David Unaipon Chair, and Professor of Law at the University of South Australia. Over many years, Irene has worked with First Nation Peoples across Australia in advancing Aboriginal rights. As Professor of Law, her research focuses upon Indigenous Peoples in domestic and international law, and has published Aboriginal Peoples Colonialism and International Law

Dr. Sharon H. Venne

Dr. Sharon H. Venne (Notokwew Muskwa Manitokan) is a Cree woman. She has worked at the United Nations prior to the establishment of the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples in 1982. The background research to the many clauses on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is included in her book: Our Elders Understand Our Rights: Evolving international law regarding Indigenous Peoples. Sharon worked to secure a UN Study on Treaties from the first introduction of the resolution in 1983 until the report was finalised in 1999. She worked to ensure that the report reflected Indigenous laws and norms. She recently published “Manufactured Consent – how state governments manufacture consent and use it against Indigenous Nations at the domestic and international level” in a book edited by Dr. Irene Watson: Indigenous Peoples as subjects of international law.

Join Prof. Irene Watson and Dr. Sharon Venne as they consider and compare how far Canada and Australia have travelled post UNDRIP in the recognition of Indigenous Peoples.

Conference Theme:  International Law in 2020: Fit for Purpose?

In a world facing ever-changing challenges, many look to international law for answers. Still there are those who believe that international law and the institutions that operate within it are unable to meet these challenges. The year 2020 gives us an opportunity to reflect upon the purpose(s) of international law, to critically examine whether international law is equipped to meet those objectives and look into the future for sustainable solutions


Important challenges permeate many areas of international law and call for common or coordinated responses from the international community. The issues are vast and varied: climate change regulation and the difficulties in implementing change, trade wars and attacks on multilateral trade institutions, actions that undermine mutual defense and collective security, set backs in dealing with nuclear proliferation, threats to human rights and indigenous rights, new technologies (including artificial intelligence) and their disruptive effects, issues of efficacy and legitimacy of international dispute settlement, amongst others.


The Canadian Council on International Law (CCIL) invites international law scholars, decision and policy-makers, practitioners, and students of international law at its 49th Annual Meeting in 2020 to reflect upon whether international law is ‘fit for purpose’. Some questions participants may wish to reflect on globally or concerning any area of international law, include:


  • Which aspects of the current system are fit for purpose? And which are not?

  • How is international law adapting to meet the needs of our global community? How can international law be made more agile, while maintaining its resiliency? How to avoid paralysis?

  • How might the role of various players within the world order change or evolve in order to achieve varied objectives?

  • How would changes to international law’s institutions or architecture help successfully meet the challenges of our time?

  • Are States paying more or less attention to their international obligations today than in the past? Do we expect international law to do too much?


We look forward to seeing such questions addressed from a variety of perspectives.

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