Axworthy calls for university engagement

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It all started when a 17-year-old boy heard Lester B. ‘Mike’ Pearson, the future Prime Minister of Canada, give a call to use his Canadian education and resources to give back to those who have less. More than 60 years later, Lloyd Axworthy continues to heed that advice.

After obtaining an MA and PhD in Political Science from Princeton University, Axworthy was first elected in 1968 and had a 27-year career in elected public service. He served as Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs (1996-2000). He was President of the University of Winnipeg (2004-14) and currently serves as the Chair of the World Refugee Council, and also Chair of the Ambassadors Council of the Scholars at Risk Network.

Axworthy was on campus to give Western’s annual Scholars at Risk Lecture, to promote the work of the Scholars at Risk Network, an international network of institutions and individuals working to promote academic freedom and to defend the human rights of scholars worldwide.  

During his lecture, Axworthy talked about the unique role that universities can play in dealing with social justice questions.

“Why aren’t we as Canadians saying, ‘Let’s go for it.’? Why aren’t law schools and others getting together to be part of the solution?” Axworthy asked. “People in conflict need support by people who live in places where there is peace and calm. It will be up to journalists, universities, to churches and mosques to fill this role.”

Axworthy became internationally known for his advancement of the human security concept, in particular, the Ottawa Treaty, a landmark global treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. For his leadership in this area, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. For his efforts in playing a pivotal role in establishing the International Criminal Court and the Protocol on child soldiers, he received the North-South Prize of the Council of Europe.

Western is a founding member of Scholars at Risk (SAR) Canada, in which Canadian universities work together to open the door to scholars facing severe human rights abuses in their home country so that they may continue their work in a safe environment. Western’s faculty, staff, and students have come together to provide financial and institutional support to bring SAR Scholars to campus to provide them the freedom to think, question, and share ideas – something denied to scholars in countries where that freedom is threatened.

Four Scholars at Risk have been hosted here at Western. The current SAR Scholar, Shuchi Karim, is based in the Department of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities.