A student of the Faculty of Law doctorate program receives an Ontario Trillium Scholarship

Posted on Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Faculty of Law is proud to announce that a student of the Faculty of Law’s Ph.D. program has received an Ontario Trillium Scholarship.

Each year, the province of Ontario awards 75 Trillium scholarships, a value of 40 000$ per year, to the best students studying at the doctorate level worldwide in order to support their education in Ontario. These scholarships can be renewed for a maximum of four years.

Zoé Boirin-Fargues, a phD candidate at the Faculty of Law, under joint supervision with the Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, received the scholarship for her project entitled “Projets extractifs et développement durable : la mise en cohérence du cadre légal des projets extractifs avec les droits au consentement et à la consultation des peuples autochtones et des populations locales”, directed by professor Sophie Thériault and French professor Mathias Audit.

Ms. Boirin-Fargues’ project is about, as she explains, the consistency of norms that companies mobilize to implement industrial projects, more specifically mining projects, with the rights to consultation and consent of local and indigenous populations. “When a company arrives on a territory, it is subject to a certain number of obligations under investment and natural resources laws, but it is also subject to a set of standards of human rights which are more stringent, especially concerning the rights to consultation and consent of local and indigenous populations. Certain multinational companies submit themselves to the respect of these human rights in their internal policies. The application of all of theses obligations can be problematic. An example: the companies should consult indigenous peoples while respecting their political and cultural system.”

Her objective is thus to understand what are the structural obstacles with which may be confronted a company in the application of the best standards in terms of rights to consultation and consent of local and indigenous populations.  “Certain mining rights dictate that if the company has not started exploration work before a given date, it will be subject to penalties; and if it finds nothing before a given date, it will lose half of the field on which it holds exploration rights. So what to do if the population on the land on which the company wishes to pursue its activities needs one, two, or three years to make a decision? It seems interesting to me to identify these type of incoherencies that hinder the effective respect of the rights of indigenous populations.”

Ms. Boirin-Fargues’ project was born from her various professional experiences: firstly, in the field of indigenous rights, notably with the Groupe International de Travail pour les Peuples Autochtones and with populations affected by projects in Russia and India, as well as in the private sector. She completed an internship at the department of Human Rights in the French oil company Total, and then an internship with the Energy and infrastructure team of a law firm working on the implementation of big projects in the energy sector. Through these experiences, Ms. Boirin-Fargues was able to put into perspective the coexistence of the business world and human rights : “The exchanges with various actors allowed me to better understand how projects are implemented, what practical difficulties exist in the implementation of human rights by companies, what languages speak operationals in relations to the languages used by NGO’s, etc. Apprehending the implementation of human rights from the perspective of the company seems to me particularly important in that companies are increasingly called upon to play a role with local and indigenous peoples, and with the same intensity as that played by the state. And that doesn’t mean defending the states disinvestment with regards to its obligations in terms of human rights, in the contrary, but to try to clear things up in light of what is happening on the field.”

This is a topical subject in Canada, the issues linked to mining projects and local populations subject to a lot of questions. Two initial stays in Ottawa as an exchange student, the expertise of the university on these topics, as well as the quality of the relationships with the faculty convinced Ms. Boirin-Fargues to return for her doctorate studies. “I was lucky to be particularly well surrounded and supported in the application process for the award, especially by my director Sophie Thériault and professors Lucie Lamarche and Pascale Fournier and my tutor at Orrick lawyer Bruno Gay. This award gives me the opportunity to devote myself entirely to my research and I am extremely grateful to the University of Ottawa and the Ontario government."

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