Amnesty commemorates Rights of the Child

The Grim Reaper came for students last Thursday and Friday, not to spread death and pain, but to help stop it.

The University of Calgary Amnesty International Association held a mini-fair featuring a 10-foot-tall Grim Reaper in MacEwan Student Centre to promote their causes and the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“We want to raise awareness on campus for abused children’s rights,” said U of C Amnesty Co-executive Director Leanna Jenkins.

The current U of C Amnesty campaign has three main points of contention: the recruitment of children to fight in armies; the abuse of authority and the juvenile justice system in the United States.

“An important part of this is that people don’t realize how much children are affected,” said Jenkins. “We don’t always realize how children are affected in situations of war. A lot of people don’t realize that children are being recruited into these armies and used to fight wars.”

“These really extreme fundamentalist groups recruit children because they are easy to manipulate,” said Communications Director Ruth Mitchell. “Children as young as seven are being taken into the army against their will.”

That very idea is what the Grim Reaper represents.

“It represents children in armed conflict,” said Jenkins.

“In general, the Grim Reaper represents Amnesty’s stance against the death penalty,” said Mitchell, who added that in the US, children sometimes receive the death penalty.

The fair was displayed to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Only two countries, Somalia and the us, have yet to ratify the document, which strives to guarantee a certain quality of life for children worldwide. Members of the campus Amnesty group have their theories on why the us has yet to sign the convention.

“I think that they [the us] know that they are still contradicting a lot of the convention,” suggested Jenkins.

The response to the fair and the campaign was largely positive, with many students stopping by to offer support and their thoughts. As well, several petitions to various world leaders such as Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy have been filled with signatures.

“We’ve got tonnes and tonnes of signatures,” said Jenkins. “It’s the first thing people do usually when they come, because they know it’s a way they can make a difference.”

“We’re going to be sending them off tonight [Friday night],” said Mitchell. “We’re really excited about that.”
Many students stopped to view the displays.

“I knew a lot of this stuff already,” said fifth-year Social Science student Chadwick Dawes. “But I think it [the display] would’ve grabbed my attention anyway.”

For more information, e-mail iamnesty@ucalgary.ca.