Internship Spotlight: Emilie Villemaire - Ligue des Droits et Libertés

After completing my second year of studies at McGill University, I was left wondering how I might engage in some meaningful work experience, not only with the school, but also with the Montreal community at large. Discovering the Arts Internship Office and the opportunities it provided to work for a valued organisation through McGill proved to be exactly what I was looking for. As a student majoring in Political Science, and double-minoring in International Relations and Quebec Studies, my interests in history, research, and rights were all fulfilled when I came across the internship opportunity offered by the Ligue des Droits et Libertés.

Established in 1963, the Ligue is a not-for-profit human rights organisation originating in Montreal, whose mission includes defending the rights of the public, spreading awareness on the issues affecting them, and promoting the universality and indivisibility of the rights recognized in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To further their mission, the Ligue has been working in tandem with other local montreal-based organisations, such as l’Autre Montréal and the Écomusée du Fier Monde, in order to create an exposition commemorating its founding, alongside the 75th anniversary of the UN’s historic Declaration. Working as their intern, I was able to participate in the creation of that exposition, engaging in a detailed research of Montreal’s human rights battles, the history and the politics behind the various struggles, and the key figures behind the successes. Over the course of my internship, I produced reports on a variety of Quebec’s most historic figures and locations, studying icons from Thérèse Casgrain and Léa Roback to the famous Place Émilie-Gamelin and gay village.

There were several highlights to interning with the Ligue des Droits et Libertés; being able to stay in Montreal over the summer and visit a large number of its significant landmarks was but one of many. The independent research component of my internship allowed me to create a schedule of my own choosing, with work hours that remained flexible so long as I finished the required tasks on time. The combination of remote and in-person work was also another major highlight; getting to meet the team at the Ligue during one of the test expeditions was a great delight, and added an interactive touch to work that had, up until then, been mostly independent and online. Yet working for the Ligue des Droits et Libertés was also not without challenges. At the start of the internship, as with the start of any new major task, I felt somewhat unprepared and intimidated by the new challenge before me. These worries, however, were quickly assuaged once the regular meetings with the team at the Ligue began, and the work of the upcoming months became clear. Once everything was laid out and the nature of the work was understood, interning for the Ligue went about as well as I could imagine.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that my university experience has been greatly enriched after interning with the Ligue des Droits et Libertés. Having the chance to work for an organisation that really cares about human rights and the people’s understanding of them was a privilege I am honored to have taken part in. Visiting the locations of Montreal’s great human rights battles and seeing firsthand where history was made was an experience like no other. My research for the Ligue also helped put into perspective many of the things I had already learned from previous courses at McGill; combining the insight gained from my Political Science classes and the understanding of my internship experience, it became clear how rights groups had to navigate the political arenas of their times, how governments either created or alleviated the obstacles they faced, and how specific groups stood to benefit at the expense of others.

Overall, my time interning with the Ligue des Droits et Libertés this summer was time I will not soon forget. I am honored to have had the chance to take part in something so influential and meaningful, and am grateful to McGill’s CRIEM and Arts Internship Office for having provided me with this opportunity. Working for the Ligue has granted me a form of relevant work experience that I know will help open doors in the future, and I am eager to see where those paths lead.

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