October 21, 2016

Webster hosts webinar with former French Minister of Justice

Le Centre Francophone (the Center for French Speakers) at Webster University hosted the webinar lecture “Justice in the Service of Equality” with Christiane Taubira on Oct. 10.

Taubira spoke at the University of Chicago, but the event was live streamed to several different colleges, including Webster University. The former French Minister of Justice answered several questions by viewers both on site and online.

Lionel Cuille hosted the event in the East Academic Building. Cuille is a professor of French and literature at Webster University. He also teaches in the human rights program.

Cuille created Le Centre Francophone with an endowment from the Jane and Bruce Robert Endowment in 2012. The organization promotes the French heritage of St. Louis, organizes cultural events and hosts workshops.

“We want to enable our students to be exposed to another worldview,” Cuille said. “What we’ve seen here tonight with the ex-Minister of Justice is that we understand why she does not favor affirmative action.”

During her speech, Taubira said she did not believe in affirmative action, but equality in the eyes of the law. Taubira was the first person of African descent to be Minister of Justice in France.

Sophomore student Brandon Jackson agreed with Taubira’s stance.

“I like her reason for it,” Jackson said. “After a certain point when we are properly integrated, affirmative action doesn’t have a place, and I think she acknowledges that. For someone who is part of a minority, I think that is great.”

Jackson is a business administration and computer science cybersecurity double major. He speaks both English and French. Jackson said that Taubira brought up important topics that needed to be discussed during the webinar.

“So we can’t be talking about these issues with tag line political phrases,” Jackson said. “Build a wall. Ban all Muslims. It’s way more complicated than that.”

Taubira was born in French Guiana, and was deputy of the National Assembly for 19 years. She later served as the French Minister of Justice from 2012 to 2016. During her time in politics, she helped pass a law recognizing the Atlantic slave trade as a crime against humanity and formally introduced marriage equality as Minister of Justice.

Cuille said Taubira comes from a family of political activists. He also said that Taubira created a political party that advocated for the rights of the people of Guiana.

Taubira resigned as French Minister of Justice after a policy dispute with French President Francois Hollande. Cuille said this was over surveillance and stripping citizenship from convicted terrorists  in the aftermath of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan attacks.

Extremists connected to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula killed 12 journalists at the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015. According BBC News, they were upset about the newspaper’s cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. On November 13, 2015, extremists connected to the Islamic State killed 130 in three coordinated attacks in Paris, according to the New York Times.

“When that happened, the French President wanted to show that he was strong and protecting French citizens,” Cuille said. “What the Minister of Justice said is that she wanted to strike a balance between protecting the citizens and surveilling those who are preparing to commit a terrorist act.”

Taubira said that we must not given into bigotry and xenophobia in the wake of these attacks during the question and answer session. Jackson said that he agreed with Taubira’s comments.

“We can’t be silent on their obviously discriminatory remarks,” Jackson said. “We have to act against that, and we have to use the law against it.”


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