Expert in human rights becomes first Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law
By Pascal Zamprelli
In 1948, McGill Law professor John Humphrey penned the first draft of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Dec. 10 marked the 60th anniversary of the Declaration’s adoption, and McGill still finds itself at the forefront of human-rights law, with the arrival of François Crépeau. One of the world’s foremost experts in the field of international human rights, refugee law and globalization, he is, as of this month, the first Hans and Tamar Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law.
“I think we’re much farther than people ever thought would be possible when we signed the Declaration in 1948,” Crépeau said. “There is plenty of room for optimism, but we have to understand that is we are optimists, it’s because the job isn’t done.”
Crépeau speaks from years of experience. He graduated from McGill Law in 1982 and went on to complete his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in France, returning to Canada in 1990 to become a professor and founding director of the Centre d’études sur le droit international et la mondialisation at UQAM. In 2001 he joined l’Université de Montréal, where he held a Canada Research Chair in International Migration Law, and became the scientific director of the Centre for International Studies of the University of Montreal. He has also participated in observation missions in Palestine and El Salvador, and has acted as vice-president of the Canadian Human Rights Foundation.
As Oppenheim Chair, Crépeau’s research will focus on how international laws are implemented domestically, the relationship between human rights and migration laws, and the importance of international norms in national law.
“After a search that took the Faculty of Law to the four corners of the globe to find the person best placed to take up the Oppenheimer Chair, we were lucky to find François Crépeau right here in Quebec,” said Faculty of Law Dean Nicholas Kasirer. “Professor Crépeau shares the Faculty’s ambition to bring students, scholars, civil servants and international organizations together to make international legal obligations part of a Canadian legal education.”
The Hans and Tamar Oppenheimer Chair in Public and International Law was officially established in 2006, to encourage law students to undertake careers in the international, national, provincial civil service. The Chair was endowed through a generous gift from Dr. Tamar Oppenheimer, a McGill alumna who held a number of other top UN posts over 40 years.