Lecture launches social justice program on an optimistic note

By Amber McMillan, Ring publications assistant

On Thursday Oct. 1 UVic’s new interdisciplinary undergraduate program in Social Justice Studies was launched with an inaugural lecture by Mary-Wynne Ashford MD, PhD, entitled “Changing the World: What Works?”

The faculties of human and social development, humanities and social sciences jointly offer the interdisciplinary minor and diploma in social justice studies. The diploma is offered through continuing studies and may be taken while a student is completing a bachelor’s degree. The aim of the program is to provide students with a thorough understanding of the range of ways to address and engage with issues of social inequity and injustice in the contemporary world from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

Ashford practiced medicine for 10 years in Victoria and has held adjuct professor appointments at UVic in the faculties of education and human and social development.

Her lecture, delivered to a capacity audience in the the Harry Hickman Building lecture hall, began on a surprisingly up-beat note with the statistic from the Human Security Report Project, based at Simon Fraser University, that “major wars and genocides have decreased 90 per cent since 1991.” This set the tone for the rest of the predominantly optimistic lecture.

Ashford continued with more relevant and equally inspiring statistics before concluding that “The world is turning away from war.”

Her most recent book, Enough Blood Shed (New Society Publishers), co-authored with Guy Dauncey, describes a series of successful non-violent interventions on the international stage of social justice and concern.

Ashford paraphrased a few of the more pertinent stories from her own experiences and travels. She began by telling the story of a recent landmines treaty negotiation, explaining how the project began at a grassroots level and eventually involved magazine sponsorship, television ads and a movie pitch to stimulate interest in the cause. While some work remains to be done, the use and production of landmines is now banned in the vast majority of all countries.

Ashford also included a story about a recent court case in the International Court of Justice regarding nuclear weapons use, explaining that she and her team have seen “success beyond [her] wildest dreams,” adding to the many positive changes to international law she has witnessed or directly contributed to.

Ashford continually punctuated her tales with references to the growing importance of women in these efforts, pointing to the overall success of non-violent projects as largely possible because of female involvement, adding a United Nations statistic that 70 per cent of workers for peace and social justice are women.

The evening concluded with a short panel discussion including Dr. Matt James (political science), Dr. Jo-Anne Lee (women’s studies), and Dr. Catherine McGregor (educational psychology and leadership studies), and a question-and-answer period involving the audience.

   
 
 
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