Eric Cheng

Eric Cheng YLIP Intern


Having developed an extensive research focus on Canadian foreign aid and the intersection of mining and human rights, working with LRC was a perfect opportunity to learn how I can apply myself as a young Canadian lawyer, while also grounding my practice firmly with my client and communities, no matter where our cases might take us.

My work at the LRC ranged widely, from civil procedure to indigenous rights to WTO law. I have been continually amazed at the LRC’s willingness to apply my contributions in comparative and international law to the very leading edge of international advocacy beyond the courtroom, which included a surprising Canadian connection collaborating with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) via the LRC’s membership in the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO).

Highlights of my placement included presenting Canadian and American jurisprudence on crowd control weapons to the Marikana Commission of Inquiry’s Panel of Experts, conducting site inspections and interviews at Lindela Repatriation Centre alongside the South African Human Rights Commission, and conducting prison visits across the country to investigate torture allegations. I spent my final two weeks at the LRC working with Xolobeni, a mining-affected indigenous community on the Wild Coast, to understand the face of free, prior and informed consent from the ground up.

I came to South Africa to find a young nation seeking to decide its future a mere generation after liberation, observing LRC submissions on withdrawing from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court at the same time as the daily struggles of Fees Must Fall campaigners in nearby Braamfontein. Despite the almost-weekly court challenges by various political and government actors and vibrant dialogue, democracy in the streets still draws a stark contrast with the lunchtime stories of apartheid from George Bizos. Despite its troubles, the people of South Africa still embrace the ideals of the ongoing constitutional project. I am thankful to CBA, Global Affairs Canada and most of all the LRC for this opportunity and the inspiration to continue serving as a better advocate in the future.