April 3, 2023

Law student wins best paper prize at research symposium

The Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP Best Submission Award at the inaugural University of Toronto Faculty of Law Students' Research Symposium was award to a third-year student

Mirabelle Harris-Eze, a third-year student at UCalgary Law, was awarded the Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP Best Submission Award at the inaugural University of Toronto Faculty of Law Students' Research Symposium, which took place March 24 and 25, 2023.

"Avenues for Redress for African Women: Corporate Accountability for Environmental Injustice in Rural Nigeria," posits the following research question: What would litigatory environmental justice, informed by critical theories and praxis, look like for women suffering environmental harms heightened by Canadian- and UK-based MNCs in rural Nigeria? Using unequal exchange theory, feminist legal theory, and critical race theory to ground its analysis, the paper explores historical and current power imbalances, the ineffective regulation of MNCs in Nigeria, the gendered impacts of environmental degradation and climate change, and the judiciary's role in realizing corporate accountability. The paper closely considers how the landmark Nevsun Resources Ltd. v Araya decision issued by the Supreme Court of Canada, Vedanta Resources PLC and another (Appellants) v Lungowe and others (Respondents) decision issued by the UK Supreme Court, and Centre for Oil Pollution Watch v NNPC decision issued by the Supreme Court of Nigeria have opened up more avenues of redress for environmental harms propagated by extractive industries in rural Nigeria. The paper also considers reforms that would increase access to environmental justice, from legislatures creating causes of action for international acts of corporate complicity to courts reducing procedural hurdles to bringing environmental claims.

"Being awarded for a paper that feels so close to home is really special. I'd been wanting to write this paper for years but felt I didn't have the language to do so. I grew up hearing about oil spills in the Niger Delta that had and were decimating farming and fishing communities, and increasing maternal and child mortality rates. Attending law school and taking part in a Directed Research project gave me more tools to better understand what litigatory environmental justice could look like for the communities I'd grown up hearing about," says Harris-Eze. 

"I was very fortunate to have Dean Evaristus Oshionebo as my research supervisor as he challenged me to consider novel legal issues, multi-jurisdictional case law, and unique perspectives. His guidance played a huge role in me concluding my Directed Research project with a paper deserving of a Best Submission award. I'm also thankful to Nik Khakhar who founded the U of T Faculty of Law Students’ Research Symposium and hope more UCalgary students participate in the future!" she adds.