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Dispatches from Broadbent's 2017 Public Policy Interns


This summer, the Broadbent Institute welcomed two Public Policy Interns to our Vancouver and Ottawa offices: Chuka Ejeckam and Somaya Amiri. The internships are one way we are building the leadership capacity of a new generation of progressive leaders. In addition to learning practical skills, working on the day to day work of the Institute, both Chuka and Somaya are being mentored through their own independent research projects. Learn more about them and their projects below.

Somaya Amiri

My name is Somaya. I am studying Political Science and International Development at McGill University and am currently a Loran Scholar. My passion for politics and policymaking originate in my journey as an Afghan refugee to Canada. This experience directly fuelled my interest in shaping a more fair and equal Canada and to contribute to policymaking myself.

It’s been five years now that I have lived in Canada. Coming here I benefited from amazing programs that helped me with my transition into Canadian society, such as the Engaged Immigrant Youth Program and the support of my English as a Learning Language (ELL) teachers. I was welcomed by organizations such as Kinbrace that introduced me to a compassionate Canadian society.  

Despite the many positive parts of my experience, I also faced real challenges: for example in the process of family reunification; through cuts to healthcare funding that had provided me health insurance coverage; cuts to language support programs or changes in social services and programs available to support my transition.

At times, “policies” made me feel like a second-class citizen.

For my parents, not knowing English led them to work in unsafe and exploitative work environments. Furthermore, funding cuts and program changes in language services, caused them to be on long waitlists. In short,  many aspects of my daily life were subject to changes outside of my control, without my being able to influence them or even being aware of them.

This is one of the reasons why I applied to work with the Broadbent Institute. I am inspired by its vision of a fair, equal and compassionate Canada and to its goal of promoting progressive values and fighting for progressive policy change. Working with the Broadbent Institute exposes me to different progressive policy approaches and ways to influence policy outcomes. I hope to learn about how the Institute uses research and strategic advocacy to influence policy and I’m excited to be help organize the relaunch of the Institute’s Policy Fellows program.  

This summer I will be conducting research on immigration policies that are affecting unaccompanied refugee minors in Canada. Like my own experience, I have friends in refugee families who came to Canada as unaccompanied refugee minors, and I am interested to learn more about the  family reunification process for unaccompanied refugee minors and to highlight how and whether the current system creates barriers and challenges for this vulnerable population.

Canada has projected a role to the world of welcoming refugees, of valuing inclusion and diversity. But is this the reality?  My research project looks to put this image to the test by looking at the challenges facing one of the most vulnerable populations of people living in and entering Canada: unaccompanied refugee minors.

I hope my experience at the Institute will help contribute to my professional goal of becoming an immigration lawyer.  

Chuka Ejeckam

My name is Chuka. I’m a Public Policy intern in the Broadbent Institute’s Vancouver office. I hold a BA in rhetoric from the University of Winnipeg, and am currently pursuing a second BA in political science and philosophy at the University of British Columbia. I’ve also been a research assistant with UBC’s Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions, and helped with the Centre’s Summer Institute for Future Legislators.

In certain aspects, my politics have been motivated by the historical currents I learned of as a child: the Scramble for Africa and the ongoing exploitation of the African continent; the Atlantic slave trade and the continued struggle of Black people in the United States; British colonization of Nigeria, and the Biafran Civil War. These led me to issues of labour, liberty and self-determination. As I aged, these grew into broader concerns over the influence that private wealth, corporate power, and path dependency have had in societal organization. This eventually birthed in me an interest in social democracy, and in utopian politics that speak of a new world.

Prior to enrolling at UBC in political science, I spent a few years working in advertising agencies. This time displayed to me some of the bevy of anti-labour tactics employers can, and often do deploy against workers – though it took me some time to recognize them as such. 

I was drawn to Broadbent because of the Institute’s interest in justice, be it political, economic, social, or environmental. Recent years have impressed upon me the humane (or inhumane) implications of policy – how offshore tax havens can result in the defunding of necessary services; how a powerful country’s campaign finance regulations can end up stalling international efforts to combat climate change; or how ‘tough on crime’ laws can be used to produce a prison labour force.

While interning with Broadbent, I’m conducting a directed research project into the role of money in BC politics, focusing on conflicts of interest and threats to democratic accountability. The project seeks to develop specific means to both properly and reliably identify conflicts of interest and effectively guard against them. This will involve specific considerations for the provincial Conflict of Interest Commissioner, restrictions on the post-office practices of elected officials, and critical analysis of the BC Members’ Conflict of Interest Act, including comparison to the federal Conflict of Interest Act and similarly intentioned legislation in other democracies. 

I intend to follow my time at UBC with graduate studies in global politics. I am most compelled by issues of wealth inequality, political corruption, drug prohibition, and tax evasion – each an international issue that has significant impact on the domestic politics of numerous countries, including Canada.

I wish to learn how to help free people from the restrictions placed upon them by their socio-economic circumstances. That education starts now.