Montreal·2021 Black Changemakers

Her journey from Senegal to Europe to Quebec City inspires her work as a teacher

Before settling in Quebec City with her family, Ndeye Dieynaba Ndiaye spent a decade living in Italy, where she says she witnessed the racist treatment of African migrants. Those experiences shaped how she teaches migration law, and have motivated her to help change things.

Ndeye Dieynaba Ndiaye's lived experience offers a different perspective on migration law

Ndeye Dieynaba Ndiaye teaches migration law at Université du Québec à Montréal and refugee law at Université Laval in Quebec City. (Université Laval)

CBC Quebec is highlighting people from the province's Black communities who are giving back, inspiring others and helping to shape our future. These are the Black Changemakers.

Ndeye Dieynaba Ndiaye has lived on three continents in the past 20 years, and is fascinated by the rules that govern different societies.

That's why she teaches law. She loves it, even though she says many laws can sometimes be unfair, even racist. By teaching those laws, however, she hopes to be able to inspire the minds that will change them.

"For me, the transfer of knowledge contributes to the advancement of knowledge," Ndiaye said.

In the early 2000s, Ndiaye moved from Senegal to Italy.

In the decade that followed, she travelled regularly between Italy and France for her studies, and she says she witnessed the racist treatment of people who migrate from Africa. 

Ndiaye moved to Quebec City in 2012. 

After five years as an associate professor at Université Laval in Quebec City, she completed her PhD, and now teaches migration law at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM).

What she experienced in Europe has motivated her to teach her students more than what's written in black and white. She's in a position to show them how laws affect the lives of migrants and refugees.

"For me, it's about offering the course content, but with a different perspective, and that different perspective, the added value, is the lived experience," Ndiaye said. "I bring that added value to push them to think critically about migrant rights."

She's also trying to spark change outside the classroom, by helping fill what she considers to be a gaping void in migration law research.

Her PhD thesis focused on European countries' efforts to reduce irregular migration, and how those have been detrimental to migrant rights.

In 2018, she founded OMIRAS, a research observatory that aims to encourage African scholars to shed light on the challenges migrants face.

"It's my little baby," she said, referring to OMIRAS. "Countries that are most affected by migration have to be able to do research on migration."

As far as Ndiaye is concerned, too many of the studies on African migration come from Western Europe and North America. 

"Migration particularly affects poorer countries. Canadians are not the ones dying in the Mediterranean Sea. These are Africans," she said. "I couldn't understand why there weren't many [African] researchers."

Through OMIRAS, she is steadily building a network of professors and students. 

The project and her teaching career keep her busy, but Ndiaye wouldn't have it any other way.

It's how she hopes to make a difference.

"It's in everyone's best interest to have an egalitarian society.... It's doable, we just have to start with education, raising awareness," Ndiaye said. 

"Society needs clear rules, and individuals, men, women, have to contribute to these norms that apply to everyone."

The Black Changemakers is a special series recognizing individuals who, regardless of background or industry, are driven to create a positive impact in their community. From tackling problems to showing small gestures of kindness on a daily basis, these changemakers are making a difference and inspiring others. Meet all the changemakers here.