Ultra Vires


Letter to Our Readers

Dear Readers,

Mid-way through this second term, three-quarters of the way through this bizarre and challenging school year, we, the Rights Review Editorial team, wanted to bring to the forefront of this issue the importance of care, compassion, and patience, particularly in the area of human rights law and activism. 

In this current issue, the themes of health and human rights permeate our articles, but one area of health and human rights that warrants special attention is that of mental health. Undervalued by society writ large, and under-protected by even the most progressive healthcare systems in the world, mental health too often slips through the cracks in our lives. Awareness may be raised and sentiments shared, but if our systems do not meaningfully rise to this healthcare challenge, our communities remain vulnerable. 

We know by now that intersectionality plays a role in exacerbating negative health outcomes. The mental health crises in our society uniquely affect Black, Indigenous, and other racialized peoples, people with disabilities, those suffering from substance use and abuse, and those living in poverty at greater levels, for instance. This is in large part due to histories of oppression, marginalization, and settler colonialism, and these forces of subordination also hold back solutions to mental health crises in marginalized communities. Indigenous communities, for example, remain horribly under-resourced and the intergenerational trauma created through colonialism worsens with year after year of continued neglect. 

These challenges affect advocates calling for change, as well. The vicarious trauma and the personal traumas experienced by human rights defenders, activists, and other forms of advocates are real and damaging — again intensified when the identities of the individuals in question are intersectional. In our fight for a more just world, we must ground our learning and our practice in care, compassion, and patience, aware of the emotional and psychological burdens weighing on our friends, allies, and ourselves. 

But just like the systems overall, we need more than mere words to face this issue. We, as members of Rights Review, members of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law community, and members of our local communities, pledge to continuously re-centre mental health and compassion in our work and our lives. This means practicing solidarity and taking up the responsibility to care for each other when our institutions refuse to. This means giving space to talk about hard topics or space not to, maintaining a stigma-free platform to share when needed, and putting forward work that remains as mindful of these challenges and the intersectional burdens as possible.

This stance should be taken by all institutions and organizations, which, in turn, should affect the way society values time, community, and mental well-being. We can start by giving ourselves the care, compassion, and patience we hope to give to others and continue that practice together. Although in isolation, we are not alone.

In Solidarity,

The Rights Review Editorial Board

A version of this article appears on Rights Review’s website here.

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