UpAlong: How Kaila Mintz Has Been Changing the World Since Leaving Newfoundland

Boogie nights, early rides, and fighting sexual abuse on an international scale. Corner Brook's Kaila Mintz does it all.

Boogie nights, early rides, and fighting sexual abuse on an international scale. Corner Brook’s Kaila Mintz does it all.

Mintz reminds me of a mullet. The haircut, I mean. Business in the front, party in the back. Like the dual realities of the late night dance party lover who is also the co-ordinator of a global advocacy campaign on ending impunity for sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel. To look at her Instagram posts, you’d think Mintz was a professional athlete and adventurer, biking and skiing while travelling or hanging with dogs in her off time.

You wouldn’t be totally wrong, sporty adventures being what she mentions first when I ask her what she likes to do when she’s not doing her tough and important work. Her “everything but the kitchen sink” list of chosen sports even covers snowshoeing.

It’s a hedonistic athleticism, the late night dancing followed by early morning cycling or running with the Cabbagetown Cycling Club or Night Terrors Run Crew in her home base of Toronto. She enjoys a challenge.

This sort of energy and passion is often found in people working to improve global circumstances. Mintz tells me her parents were active in progressive causes through her Corner Brook upbringing, and joined in community marches and protests. Through this, Mintz developed an interest in how community groups and non-governmental agencies could influence government policy.

Leaving Newfoundland before her last year of high school to attend Pearson College outside Victoria BC was tough for a young Mintz. But the progressive and idealistic school attended by students from over a hundred and fifty countries deepened her interest in global policy and the complexity of the world outside Canada.

A liberal arts degree at York University’s Glendon College followed, then time as a legislative intern. Joining the Foreign Service at age 23, she spent two of her seven years there in Ethiopia at the Canadian Embassy working on, among many things, refugee and humanitarian affairs and human rights issues.

Challenging but rewarding, she mentions a repressive political climate and extreme poverty but also the independent, hard working, and giving nature of the communities she experienced. She fed hyenas and enjoyed the best macchiatos of her life.

In 2013 Mintz decided to attend Ryerson for a Masters of Immigration and Settlement Studies. During this time she took a job as research assistant to distinguished visiting professor Stephen Lewis, whose work she already admired, and whom she credits with encouraging her to be outspoken and fearless in her pursuit of social justice.

Lewis co-directs AIDS Free World with Paula Donovan, and after Mintz was done her Masters, she moved on to her current position at the international advocacy organization. There she co-ordinates Code Blue, a campaign addressing sexual abuses by UN personnel. AIDS Free World examines how gender inequality, sexual violence, and other human rights abuses make marginalized groups more vulnerable to the virus and fights for justice and accountability.

Through Code Blue, Mintz is working towards a world where victims can demand justice, and receive it, and where abusers don’t evade justice. Cool Mintz indeed.

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