Canada has never had a voice on the UN's disability committee. Meet the legal scholar tapped to change that

A University of Windsor professor could become the first person to represent Canada on the United Nations' committee on the rights of persons with disabilities.

If elected, Laverne Jacobs would be the first Canadian on the committee

University of Windsor law professor Laverne Jacobs appears in a 2018 file photo. (Jason Viau/CBC)

A University of Windsor law professor could become the first person to represent Canada on the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The federal government announced last week that Canada has nominated disability advocate and legal scholar Laverne Jacobs as a candidate to serve on the committee.

The 18-person committee features experts from all over the world. If Jacobs is elected at a conference in June of next year, she would serve a four-year term.

Jacobs, who joined CBC Radio's Windsor Morning on Monday, said she was "honoured and humbled" to have been selected.

Listen to the full interview below: 

The committee plays an important role in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Jacobs explained. It reviews reports on different countries and provides recommendations on the convention, and it also receives complaints and conducts inquiries related to allegations of human rights abuses.

It would be significant for Canada to gain a seat at the table because it would be the first time, Jacobs said.

"It's important for us to share our experiences and also have the opportunity to learn from the experiences of other countries," she said.

Windsor-Tecumseh Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk, who announced Jacobs's selection as Canada's candidate on Thursday, called it a historic moment for the country and the region.

In a news release, Kusmierczyk said it was a "terrific day for the empowerment of Canadians with disabilities and the advancement of a barrier-free Canada."

Jacobs is the associate dean for research and graduate studies with the law faculty at the University of Windsor, and founder of the university's Law, Disability and Social Change Project. 

"I'm a committed scholar and academic and person, quite frankly. I'm very committed to the rights of persons with disabilities," she said. "I have experience both working with the disability community and government."

Jacobs also pointed to the intersectional lens she could bring to the position.

"I'm a Black woman, in addition to being a person with a disability, and so I'm aware of the challenges that exist ... for people with disabilities from intersectional backgrounds," she said.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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With files from Windsor Morning