Category Archives: News

You may have heard of the 60s Scoop, but did you know…

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is August 9th. To acknowledge this day we wanted to share an initiative working to create social change across Ontario and Canada that you can do in your schools, with friends or in the community.

The Moccasin Project’s goal is to eradicate racism, reduce the number of Indigenous children in foster care, reunite families and rebuild communities by engaging in education and citizen action.  The project is bringing awareness to the issue of First Nations, Metis and Inuit children in foster care by creating a pair of moccasins to represent each of the 163,000 children affected.

So what can you do?

  1. Get the facts – get awareness of the issue and spread that awareness to others, knowing a few key statistics goes a long way.
  2. Try to find a local First Nations advocate or Indigenous organization that could be part of your project.
  3. Make Moccasins – you can get templates or buy a kit from the website
  4. Contact your MPP, the Premier and/or the Prime Minister calling them to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action around Child Welfare, respond to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling and fully implement Jordan's Principle.
  5. Spread the word – share the project with others. If you do it in your school or community, see if local media will cover it. Or, include it in the school newsletter, post your actions on social media (tweet using #waiting4ucanada or #ItStartsWith Us) or challenge your friends or other schools to see who can make the most moccasins.

See these resources and many more at The Moccasin Project website.

There are many exciting ways to take action to address this huge inequity in Canadian society.  You can be a part of the change.  Use your power and privilege for good, make some moccasins, share your story and get others involved. 

“True reconciliation begins when everyone gets involved and works together to make a difference.” – The Moccasin Project

Did you know?

350 Indigenous children are taken away before they are  one month old.

There are more children in care today than were in residential schools.

48% of all children in foster care are Indigenous, even though they account for only 7% of the overall child population.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission recognized the child welfare system as a legacy of residential schools and as a barrier to reconciliation and made five recommendations to address the system.

“In a landmark ruling released on January 26, 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that the Canadian government is racially discriminating against 163,000 First Nations children and their families by providing flawed and inequitable child welfare services ("FNCFS Program") and failing to implement Jordan's Principle to ensure equitable access to government services available to other children.” - First Nations Caring Society

Workplace Tips: National Aboriginal History Month and Canada 150 – 3 Rs for Leading Courageous Conversations

National Aboriginal History Month and Canada 150 – 3 Rs for Leading Courageous Conversations

by Ilaneet Goren

National Aboriginal Day (NAD) on June 21st is a celebration of the diverse cultures, contributions and stories of First Peoples in Canada. The theme of Canada 150 has permeated many of the festivities this year, sparking critical conversations.

While NAD has been proclaimed as an official holiday in 1996, it wasn’t until 2009, not that long ago, that the House of Commons voted to recognize the month of June as National Aboriginal History Month. This was an important decision, but it also came astoundingly late considering that Indigenous people were the original inhabitants of the place we call Canada and were part of its creation together with the with the British and French colonists.

This is an example of a much larger issue:  systematic exclusion of Indigenous narratives from Canada’s history, something we must grapple with amidst the slogans calling for us to celebrate our country’s 150th birthday.

As we celebrate Aboriginal History Month we are mindful that it is about more than putting up posters or attending events: it is also a call to think about the struggles of Aboriginal peoples to secure their human rights and land rights, which were codified in treaty agreements.

As a team of non-Indigenous educators who come to this conversation as allies, it has been of paramount importance for us to recognize our own relationship to this land as settlers who have participated, even if inadvertently, in the process of colonization. It’s been part of our own education journey to keep building awareness, knowledge, skills and relationships while also looking at our programs and organizational practices to identify and remove barriers that perpetuate inequity.

In our workshops, we use the image of an iceberg to help us think about the critical issues we might miss when we keep the conversation at a surface level. Many Indigenous leaders, educators and activists are speaking out about the problems with the Canada 150 narrative, calling our attention to what we’ve been missing because we’ve been uncomfortable to have these conversations.

How do we incorporate all of the pieces – the multiple experiences, histories, and narratives – so that we have a thoughtful and informed conversation about celebrating the centuries-long presence of First Nations peoples on Turtle Island (North America) while also celebrating our country’s 150th anniversary?

How do we help each other understand the ongoing discrimination Indigenous people continue to face?

And how do we create a respectful space for diverse, often competing perspectives and engage others in courageous conversations about the challenges with the Canada 150 narrative?

The idea is not to deter people from celebrating but to use it as an opportunity to reflect on Canada’s relationship with Indigenous communities, and our role in shaping these relationships for the next 150 years.

Our 3 Rs process – Reflect, Recognize, Respond – used with participants in our Social Changemakers programs, offers helpful guidelines for leading this process:

REFLECT – Before even starting the conversation it is important to reflect on our own identity and worldview. Ask yourself:

How do I relate to this issue and what connects me personally to this conversation?

How do I understand my own identity, power and privilege in connection to Indigenous history and peoples?

What are some misinformation, misconceptions or biases that might be influencing my thinking on this subject?

 

RECOGNIZE – In order to change something we must see it clearly for what it is. Recognizing the challenges with some of the messages around Canada 150 opens up a space for critical inquiry as well as collective growth and healing. Consider these questions:

How are anti-Indigenous racism, colonization and the trauma of residential schools impacting Indigenous communities today?

Do Indigenous people have equal and equitable access to essential services Canadians take for granted such as health care, education, and housing?

How do I educate myself about Indigenous ancestral history, culture and traditions?

During Aboriginal History Month and throughout the year, how do Indigenous people in my organization see themselves reflected and represented in meaningful ways?

 

RESPOND – Once we’ve reflected on our own identity and recognized the systemic inequities impacting Indigenous communities today, we can respond from a more conscious and informed place. Here are some questions to help guide the actionable steps:

What Indigenous community partners and resources can I draw on to get a more rounded perspective on Canada’s history?

How can I use Aboriginal History Month and Canada 150 as opportunities to have critical conversations about colonization, its legacy, and its impact on Indigenous communities?

How can I integrate Indigenous voices and perspectives within the organizational culture throughout the year?

Celebrating Aboriginal History Month must go beyond posters and artwork, although these are useful tools. Similarly, the way we talk about Canada 150 can make a difference between reproducing inequity and moving toward social justice and reconciliation. Using an “equity lens” and seeing beyond the tip of the iceberg can prepare us to have courageous conversations that have the power to inspire change.

 

Additional resources to explore:

National Aboriginal Day Resources  https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100013248/1100100013249

Know The Land – Territories Campaign http://www.lspirg.org/knowtheland/

Indigenous Corporate Training https://www.ictinc.ca/

KAIROS Blanket Exercise https://www.kairosblanketexercise.org/

 

National Aboriginal History Month and Canada 150

National Aboriginal History Month and Canada 150 – 3 Rs for Leading Courageous Conversations with Students

by Ilaneet Goren 

National Aboriginal Day (NAD) on June 21st is a celebration of the diverse cultures, contributions and stories of First Peoples in Canada. The theme of Canada 150 has permeated many of the festivities this year, sparking critical conversations.

While NAD has been proclaimed as an official holiday in 1996, it wasn’t until 2009, not that long ago, that the House of Commons voted to recognize the month of June as National Aboriginal History Month. This was an important decision, but it also came astoundingly late considering that Indigenous people were the original inhabitants of the place we call Canada and were part of its creation together with the with the British and French colonists.

This is an example of a much larger issue:  systematic exclusion of Indigenous narratives from Canada’s history, something we must grapple with amidst the slogans calling for us to celebrate our country’s 150th birthday.

As we celebrate Aboriginal History Month we are mindful that it is about more than putting up posters or attending events: it is also a call to think about the struggles of Aboriginal peoples to secure their human rights and land rights, which were codified in treaty agreements.

As a team of non-Indigenous educators who come to this conversation as allies, it has been of paramount importance for us to recognize our own relationship to this land as settlers who have participated, even if inadvertently, in the process of colonization. It’s been part of our own education journey to keep building awareness, knowledge, skills and relationships while also looking at our programs and organizational practices to remove any barriers that perpetuate inequity.

In our workshops, we use the image of an iceberg to help us think about the critical issues we might miss when we keep the conversation at a surface level. Many Indigenous leaders, educators and activists are speaking out about the problems with the Canada 150 narrative, calling our attention to what we’ve been missing because we’ve been uncomfortable to have these conversations.

How can we have more inclusive conversations about Canada’s history? 

How do we incorporate all of the pieces – the multiple experiences, histories, and narratives – so that we have a thoughtful and informed conversation about celebrating the centuries-long presence of First Nations peoples on Turtle Island (North America) while also celebrating our country’s 150th anniversary?

How do we help students and educators understand the ongoing discrimination Indigenous people continue to face?

And how do we create a respectful space for diverse, often competing perspectives and engage students in courageous conversations about the challenges with the Canada 150 narrative?

One of the key things we can do as educators is give students the tools to think critically about the messages they consume in the mainstream media and culture. The idea is not to deter people from celebrating but to use it as an opportunity to reflect on Canada’s relationship with Indigenous communities, and our role in shaping these relationships for the next 150 years.

Our 3 Rs process – Reflect, Recognize, Respond – used with students in Harmony Movement’s Social Changemakers programs, offers helpful guidelines for leading this process:

  1. REFLECT – Before even starting the conversation it is important to reflect on our own identity and worldview. Ask yourself:
  • How do I relate to this issue and what connects me personally to this conversation?
  • How do I understand my own identity, power and privilege in connection to Indigenous history and peoples?
  • What are some misinformation, misconceptions or biases that might be influencing my thinking on this subject?
  1. RECOGNIZE – In order to change something we must see it clearly for what it is. Recognizing the challenges with some of the messages around Canada 150 opens up a space for critical inquiry as well as collective growth and healing. Consider these questions:
    • How are anti-Indigenous racism, colonization and the trauma of residential schools impacting Indigenous students and their families today?
    • How do Indigenous students learn about their ancestral history, culture and traditions within the current education system?
    • During Aboriginal History Month and throughout the year, how do Indigenous students see themselves reflected and represented in school culture and curriculum?
  1. RESPOND – Once we’ve reflected on our own identity and recognized the systemic inequities impacting Indigenous communities today, we can respond from a more conscious and informed place. Here are some questions to help guide the actionable steps:
  • What Indigenous community partners and resources can I draw on to help students get a more rounded perspective on Canada’s history?
  • How can I integrate Indigenous voices and perspectives into student learning throughout the year?
  • How can I use Aboriginal History Month and Canada 150 as opportunities to have critical conversations about colonization, its legacy, and its impact on Indigenous communities?

Celebrating Aboriginal History Month must go beyond posters and artwork, although these are useful tools. Similarly, the way we talk about Canada 150 can make a difference between reproducing inequity and moving toward social justice and reconciliation. Using an “equity lens” and seeing beyond the tip of the iceberg can prepare students to have courageous conversations with their peers.

Additional resources to explore:

National Aboriginal Day Resources https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100013248/1100100013249

Know The Land – Territories Campaign http://www.lspirg.org/knowtheland/

KAIROS Blanket Exercise https://www.kairosblanketexercise.org/

Full Circle: First Nations, Métis and Inuit Ways of Knowing by OSSTF https://www.osstf.on.ca/full-circle-first-nations-metis-inuit-ways-of-knowing

Workplace Tips: 6 Canadian LGBTQ Activists that You Should Know About

6 Canadian LGBTQ Activists that You Should Know About

June is celebrated as LGBTQ* Pride Month in communities across Canada and the United States. This month celebrates sexual and gender diversity, promotes equal rights and increases the visibility of these communities. Pride month also brings attention to the discrimination and violence that people in LGBTQ communities face.

To celebrate the month, we want to share some courageous LGBTQ advocates that have made transformative change in Ontario.

Jim Egan is most famous for taking the case for same-sex couples to get spousal benefits to court starting in 1986. In 1994, the case reached the Supreme Court, though they did not rule in favour of extending spousal benefits to same sex couples. However, the judges unanimously decided to list sexual orientation in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a prohibited grounds for discrimination. Egan also wrote letters and commentaries in newspapers around gay issues starting in the 1940s.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Egan_(activist)

Jeremy Dias After coming out at his Ontario high school, Jeremy experienced bullying. When his school would not let him start a Gay/Straight Alliance or Rainbow Club he took the school board to the human rights commission and won. Dias used the money he received to start the Centre for Gender and sexual Diversity, formerly Jer’s Vision, an organization working to improve acceptance in classrooms and workplaces across the country. They also drive the Day of Pink initiative, which is celebrated internationally as the International Day Against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia, Transphobia and Transmisogyny.
http://dayofpink.org/
http://ccgsd-ccdgs.org/

Nancy Nicol is a documentary filmmaker, activist and professor at York University. Through her films she has documented the history of LGBTQ issues in Ontario and Canada. She is also doing research engaging with LGBTQ communities globally to explore how these groups fight for human rights and resist the criminalization of gender diversity and sexual orientation around the globe.
http://www.yorku.ca/nnicol/bio.html

Richard Fung As an artist and filmmaker, he looked into gay Asian sexuality and launched the Gay Asians Toronto group. His aim was to create a sense of inclusivity and belonging for gay Asian Canadians after attending the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights that was held in 1979.
http://www.clga.ca/gay-asians-toronto-0

Douglas Stewart is a gay rights activist and was the founding Executive Director of the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention. He works mainly within Black communities to provide awareness and support to issues around gay rights.
http://www.clga.ca/npc/subject/86
https://aidsactivisthistory.ca/interviews/toronto-interviews/#Stewart

Gloria Eshkibok is a two-spirit Indigenous activist from Wikwemikong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island. She is an actor who shares stories, is a lead vocalist for the Unceded Band, and sings with the Sweetgrass City Singers. As a victim of the 60s Scoop she also speaks out about her experiences.
http://www.clga.ca/npc/subject/27

These inspiring activists have shifted the conversations about LGBTQ rights in Ontario and Canada, by helping bring forward a multiplicity of narratives and experiences.

Workplace Tips: How can you inspire the next generation of activists?
• Create a safe space for gender and sexually diverse people in your workplace (like positive space signs or another employee driven initiative)
• Put up a rainbow flag in your work space and keep it up year round
• Create opportunities to participate in LGBTQ community events (like fundraisers, walks, or the Pride Parade. Click here for listings of Pride events in Ontario.)
• Always challenge inappropriate language such as ‘that’s so gay’ or other homophobic and transphobic comments.

How will you celebrate LGBT Pride Month at your workplace? We want to hear your ideas! Share them with us by emailing your stories to info@harmony.ca or tweet @harmonymovement.

Where to find more resources on LGBTQ issues:
Egale Canada – https://egale.ca/
Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity – http://ccgsd-ccdgs.org/
Rainbow Health Ontario – http://www.rainbowhealthontario.ca/
Queer Ontario – http://queerontario.org/
Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives – http://www.clga.ca/
LGBTQIA Resource Center – http://lgbtqia.ucdavis.edu/index.html
Queer Hall of Fame – http://www.qhalloffame.ca/
*LGBTQ are “the initials used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning and queer people. A broader range of identities is also sometimes implied or may be represented more explicitly by the initials LGBTTIQQ2SA, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, queer, questioning, 2-spirited and asexual.” Educator’s Equity Companion Guide, Harmony Movement, 2014. http://www.harmony.ca/shop/

Classroom Tips: 6 Canadian LGBTQ Activists that Students Should Know About

Classroom Tips: 6 Canadian LGBTQ Activists that Students Should Know About

June is celebrated as LGBTQ* Pride Month in communities across Canada and the United States. This month celebrates sexual and gender diversity, promotes equal rights and increases the visibility of these communities. Pride month also brings attention to the discrimination and violence that people in LGBTQ communities face.

To celebrate the month, we want to share some courageous LGBTQ advocates that have made transformative change in Ontario.

Jim Egan is most famous for taking the case for same-sex couples to get spousal benefits to court starting in 1986. In 1994, the case reached the Supreme Court, though they did not rule in favour of extending spousal benefits to same sex couples. However, the judges unanimously decided to list sexual orientation in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a prohibited grounds for discrimination. Egan also wrote letters and commentaries in newspapers around gay issues starting in the 1940s.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Egan_(activist)

Jeremy Dias After coming out at his Ontario high school, Jeremy experienced bullying. When his school would not let him start a Gay/Straight Alliance or Rainbow Club he took the school board to the human rights commission and won. Dias used the money he received to start the Centre for Gender and sexual Diversity, formerly Jer’s Vision, an organization working to improve acceptance in classrooms and workplaces across the country. They also drive the Day of Pink initiative, which is celebrated internationally as the International Day Against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia, Transphobia and Transmisogyny.
http://dayofpink.org/
http://ccgsd-ccdgs.org/

Nancy Nicol is a documentary filmmaker, activist and professor at York University. Through her films she has documented the history of LGBTQ issues in Ontario and Canada. She is also doing research engaging with LGBTQ communities globally to explore how these groups fight for human rights and resist the criminalization of gender diversity and sexual orientation around the globe.
http://www.yorku.ca/nnicol/bio.html

Richard Fung As an artist and filmmaker, he looked into gay Asian sexuality and launched the Gay Asians Toronto group. His aim was to create a sense of inclusivity and belonging for gay Asian Canadians after attending the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights that was held in 1979.
http://www.clga.ca/gay-asians-toronto-0

Douglas Stewart is a gay rights activist and was the founding Executive Director of the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention. He works mainly within Black communities to provide awareness and support to issues around gay rights.
http://www.clga.ca/npc/subject/86
Toronto Interviews

Gloria Eshkibok is a two-spirit Indigenous activist from Wikwemikong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island. She is an actor who shares stories, is a lead vocalist for the Unceded Band, and sings with the Sweetgrass City Singers. As a victim of the 60s Scoop she also speaks out about her experiences.
http://www.clga.ca/npc/subject/27

These inspiring activists have shifted the conversations about LGBTQ rights in Ontario and Canada, by helping bring forward a multiplicity of narratives and experiences.

Classroom Tips: How can you inspire the next generation of activists?
• Create a safe space for gender and sexually diverse students in your school (like a Gay/Straight Alliance, positive space signs, or another student driven initiative)
• Put up a rainbow flag in your classroom and keep it up year round
• Share the stories of LGBTQ people in the classroom curriculum
• Talk about current issues that the LGBTQ community is facing such as bullying, high suicide and murder rates, as well as homelessness
• Always challenge students inappropriate language such as ‘that’s so gay’ or other homophobic and transphobic comments. Create a campaign around educating students and staff about the power of words.

How will you celebrate LGBT Pride Month in your school and classroom? We want to hear your ideas! Share them with us by emailing your stories to info@harmony.ca or tweet @harmonymovement or using #PrideinSchool.

Where to find more resources on LGBTQ issues:
Egale Canada – https://egale.ca/
Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity – http://ccgsd-ccdgs.org/
Rainbow Health Ontario – http://www.rainbowhealthontario.ca/
Queer Ontario – http://queerontario.org/
Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives – http://www.clga.ca/
LGBTQIA Resource Center – http://lgbtqia.ucdavis.edu/index.html
Queer Hall of Fame – http://www.qhalloffame.ca/
*LGBTQ are “the initials used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning and queer people. A broader range of identities is also sometimes implied or may be represented more explicitly by the initials LGBTTIQQ2SA, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, queer, questioning, 2-spirited and asexual.” Educator’s Equity Companion Guide, Harmony Movement, 2014. http://www.harmony.ca/shop/

International Day of Pink – Workplace Tips

International Day of Pink – Workplace Tips

What is the International Day of Pink?

It started in a Nova Scotia high school in 2007 when two students, David Shepherd and Travis Price, witnessed a young gay student being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. The two boys intervened, but wanted to do more stop to homophobic and transphobic bullying in their school community.

In the space of a few days they rallied enough support from their school to persuade everyone to come to school wearing pink in order to show solidarity with the bullied student. The result was the first ever Day of Pink, which was the precursor to many others where students wore pink attire to school to show solidarity with their bullied classmates and stand up to bullying. Inspired by the initiative, Jer’s Vision founder and 2014 Harmony Award Winner Jeremy Diaz created the International Day of Pink in an effort to support students internationally with resources and tools for making their schools more inclusive.

The campaign has now grown into an international movement inspiring schools and organizations to come together on the second Wednesday of April to speak out against bullying and show support for those who are bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This April 12th is an opportunity to take a stand against homophobia, transphobia, and transmisogyny[1] in our workplace.

Here’s how you can get involved:  

  1. Visit the Day of Pink website to find out how you can get involved as an individual, school or organization.
  2. Download Day of Pink posters and resources, and post them in common spaces to raise awareness and start a conversation.
  3. Incorporate discussions about the Day of Pink and its meaning with colleagues, visitors and community members. Ask: “How do we practice inclusion of LGBTQ people? What are some gaps we need to address?”

Beyond the Pink: Promoting LGBTQ+ Inclusion 

It’s important to remember that the pink shirt is just a symbolic gesture. To be meaningful, the gesture must be accompanied by a true commitment to equity and inclusion expressed through actions all year round. One of the misconceptions about bullying is that it is something that only affects young people and schools. But according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, over a third of Canadian workers report having been bullied, with almost half of those targeted by bullying experiencing stress-related health problems. Homophobic and transphobic bullying is not only damaging to the workers’ morale, health, and wellbeing, it is also costly for the employers.

Here are some steps you can take to support gender and sexual diversity and promote an LGBTQ-positive workplace environment:

Supporting yourself through education

Some of us have experienced homophobia or transphobia in our lifetime. Some of us have not. Some have experienced other forms of discrimination based on our different intersecting identities. Regardless of where we locate ourselves on the spectrum of sexual and gender diversity, it is vital that we listen to the voices and perspectives of those directly affected by homophobic and transphobic bullying, because every individual story and experience will be different our response must take this into account. That said, each homophobic and transphobic incident as part of a larger oppressive system that recognizes only two genders and sees heterosexuality as the only acceptable norm; framing it that way can help take the blame and shame away from the victim and emphasize our collective responsibility for promoting equity and human rights for all. We can begin by asking ourselves: What do I need to be an effective ally?” Supporting ourselves through education and resources can help us put bullying in the right context and be more effective, informed and resilient allies to LGBTQ people.

Supporting others through action

Pink shirts don’t stop homophobic and transphobic bullying – people do. The most important thing anyone can do is not being a bystander. Becoming more attuned to what’s going on in our environment and not ignoring or minimizing offensive language (like “That’s gay”) can send a strong message that discriminatory language will not be tolerated. This sets boundaries as well as expectations regarding acceptable behavior in the workplace and in spaces shared by community members.  When it is not safe to intervene by yourself, call for support and involve others. Be sure to know your workplace code of conduct, human rights policy, and the process for conflict management and the right person or department to contact for information and support.

Supporting your organization through resources

The Day of Pink website has a great selection of resources, posters and awareness-raising materials. But it is good to be aware of other organizations and resources that can support your workplace Diversity and Inclusion work with respect to LGBTQ communities. Making a list of resources available and accessible to employees, service users and community members can help promote a safer and more inclusive community. We recommend this list created by the LGBT Youthline.

[1]Transmisogyny is the expression of hate and violence toward femininity and ‘female’ markers in trans women and male-assigned people. It results from the cultural belief that masculinity is inherently superior to femininity.

International Day of Pink – Classroom Tips

International Day of Pink – Classroom Tips

What is the International Day of Pink?

It started in a Nova Scotia high school in 2007 when two students, David Shepherd and Travis Price, witnessed a young gay student being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. The two boys intervened, but wanted to do more stop to homophobic and transphobic bullying.

In the space of a few days they rallied enough support from their school to persuade everyone to come to school wearing pink in order to show solidarity with the student who was bullied. The result was the first ever Day of Pink, which was the precursor to many others where students wore pink attire to school to show solidarity with their bullied classmates. Inspired by the initiative, Jer’s Vision founder and 2014 Harmony Award Winner Jeremy Diaz created the International Day of Pink in an effort to support students internationally with resources and tools for making their schools more inclusive.

The campaign has now grown into an international movement in which people come together on the second Wednesday of April to speak out against bullying and show support for those who are bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This April 12th is our chance to take a stand against homophobia, transphobia, and transmisogyny[1] in our school communities!

Here’s how you can get involved:  

  1. Visit the Day of Pink website to find out how you can get involved as an individual, school or organization.
  2. Download Day of Pink posters and resources, and post them around your school or organization to raise awareness.
  3. Incorporate activities and discussions about the Day of Pink and its meaning in your classroom. Check out this activity guide for teachers created by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).

Beyond the Pink: Promoting LGBTQ+ Inclusion 

It’s important to remember that the pink shirt is just a symbolic gesture. To be meaningful, the gesture must be accompanied by a true commitment to equity and inclusion expressed through actions all year round. Here are some steps educators can take to support gender and sexual diversity in their schools:

Supporting yourself through education

Some of us have experienced homophobia or transphobia in our lifetime. Some of us have not. Some have experienced other forms of discrimination. Regardless of where we locate ourselves on the continuum of sexual and gender diversity, it is vital that we listen to the voices and perspectives of those directly affected by homophobic and transphobic bullying, because every individual story and experience will be different. That said, homophobic and transphobic bullying are part of a larger system that recognizes only two genders and sees heterosexuality as the only acceptable norm. Supporting ourselves through education and resources can help us put bullying in the right context and be more effective, informed and resilient allies.

Supporting others through actions

Pink shirts don’t stop homophobic and transphobic bullying – people do. The most important thing educators and community members can do is not being a bystander. Becoming more attuned to what’s going on in our environment and not ignoring or minimizing offensive language (like “That’s gay”) can send a strong message that discriminatory language will not be tolerated. This sets boundaries as well as expectations regarding acceptable behaviour. When it is not safe to intervene by yourself, call for support and involve others.

Supporting your school through resources

The Day of Pink website has a terrific selection of resources, posters and awareness-raising materials. But it is good to be aware of other organizations and resources that can support your school’s equity and inclusion work. Making a list of resources available and accessible to educators and students can help promote a safer and more inclusive community. We recommend this list created by the LGBT Youthline.

 

[1]Transmisogyny is the expression of hate and violence toward femininity and ‘female’ markers in trans women and male-assigned people. It results from the cultural belief that masculinity is inherently superior to femininity.

Classroom tips: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The United Nations observes March 21st as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The annual worldwide event promotes the right of every individual to live with dignity and respect. March 21st is an opportunity to remember and protect that right. It’s a day to come together to speak out against racial discrimination in all its forms!

Come Together!

We are fortunate to live in a country where diversity is valued, respected, and celebrated. We know that multiculturalism is our greatest strength, and that our national identity is nothing without it. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees all citizens equal protection and benefit under the law. What’s more, Canada’s Human Rights Act prohibits any form of discrimination based on (among other things) race, ethnicity, national origin, and colour. Not too shabby, eh?

Does this mean our country is free of discrimination? No way! There is still a long way to go even in a nation as accepting as Canada. We are challenged on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to make sure our country is living up to the principles of equity and inclusion. Let’s get to work!

Create Change!

Everyone has the right to live a full and rewarding life no matter who they are or where they come from. We need to work together to stop the many forms of racial discrimination that deny so many people this basic right … and we must start today.

An easy way to get started is to brainstorm using three simple prompts:

Start!

  • What can we do to stop racial discrimination right now?
  • Can we create a school blog or newspaper for students to discuss racism they encounter in their community?
  • Can we create a book or documentary club to learn more about anti-Indigenous and anti-black racism (among others) in Canada?

Stop!

  • What can we do support students who experience racism?
  • How can we speak out against racist jokes?
  • How can we encourage others to do the same?

Continue!

  • How can we continue to oppose racial discrimination?
  • How are we already learning and educating others about racial discrimination in our communities?
  • How can we continue to improve our school culture so that it is safe for everyone?

Keep Keeping On – World Day for Social Justice

Keep Keeping On

The Significance of February 20th

It has been 10 years since World Day for Social Justice was declared by the United Nations.  February 20th is a reminder that gender equity, fair employment, economic justice and environmental sustainable are a few of the many things we need to feel safe and secure in the world.  Although this international gesture highlights the need for all nation states to ensure the social and economic wellbeing of its citizens, global events over the last decade show the limit of gestures.

An Eventful Decade

We have survived a global economic crisis that has further polarized wealth between the world’s wealthiest and the rest of us.  We have witnessed devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Japan that caused a severe loss of human life and ecological destruction.  We are seeing rising temperatures and alarmingly low levels of Artic sea ice as evidence to support that Climate Change is a real thing.  We are observing terrorist attacks from Beirut to Quebec City where the sanctity of human life is overrun by poisonous ideas.  We are realizing the human effects of political instability through a Global Refugee Crisis that should hold Western powers accountable for their foreign policies.

The last decade has also shown us the power of social movements in pushing back to power.  We have seen the Occupy and Anti-Austerity movements highlight economic inequality and the impacts of government policies that favour profits over people.  We have witnessed the power of everyday people to create pro-democracy movements across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.  We are hearing the voices of Black Lives Matter and Idle No More who remind us that systemic racism is a lived reality for Black and Indigenous Canadians.  We are further realizing the ecological cost of unsustainable economic growth through the courage of Water Protectors in South Dakota and Kinder Morgan protesters on the West coast.

Moving beyond Divisiveness

When we speak up against racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, environmental devastation and economic inequality, the counter response is to shut us down with the term Social Justice Warrior or dismiss the issues entirely.  This is an opportune moment to look back on decades of social movements and learn from our past mistakes.  We not only need to be united but also intersectional with regards to race, class, gender, ability and sexuality.

As World Day for Social Justice approaches, it is crucial for us to recognize that ordinary people are doing extraordinary things to create a better world.   It is also crucial for us to recognize that we still have a long way to go towards ensuring a fair and just world for everyone.

Looking to Get Involved?
The following links contain information about a number of organization in Ontario and Toronto that are working on a variety of campaigns.

http://canadianpeace.org/find-a-local-peace-group/#Ontario

Campaigns and Social Justice Groups
Looking for Social Justice Teaching Resources?
The following links contain reading and video resources on a variety of topics.

http://www.etfo.ca/Resources/SocialJustice/Documents/SJBWMBooklist.PDF

http://www.edudemic.com/6-videos-use-social-justice-lessons/

 

Black History Month in Canada

Classroom Tips: Black History Month in Schools

By Koryn Stanley & Ryan Singh

As we reach another February, we as educators know that it’s time to celebrate another Black History Month.  But have you ever asked yourself why we need a Black History Month?  What are the benefits to having Black History Month?

Although we know there is a strong need to celebrate Black Canadians, Black culture and the contributions of Black people in Canadian History, it’s important to question why there is a strong need for this.  When we limit celebrating any culture or people to just one month, what are we telling the people who identify as part of that group?  How are we separating them from the rest of their fellow Canadians or from Canadian society in general?  It is important for us as social justice warriors to really consider these questions as we move into this February.

Black History Month as ‘Othering’ Black Canadians:

Anyone who is not white can attest to this question being asked of them almost anytime they meet a new person: “where are you from?” (or “what is your background?”) and when that person answers “Canada” or “Canadian” the follow up response is usually “well ok ya, but like where are your parents from?” or “where are you really from?” These types of microaggressions are forms of othering.  When we say othering we are describing the act of separating one group from the rest of society and setting up the ‘us’ vs ‘them’ mentality. Psychologists refer to othering as “any action by which an individual or group becomes mentally classified in somebody’s mind as ‘not one of us’.”1

If you’re not from European or even more so British descent, you are not considered fully Canadian. If your skin is white, you may still occasionally get the first question but once you answer Canada, most are willing to leave it at that. We draw this parallel because when we set aside a month to celebrate Black contributions in Canada it makes it feel somehow different from the rest of Canadian history and not an important part of the whole country’s history.  If it is a part of Canadian history, then it is a part of the history, period.  Why does it need to be celebrated differently? This is how it others Black Canadian history and people from the rest of Canadian history. It turns Black History into ‘THEM’ and the rest of the year (European history) is ‘US’.  This is just part of the reason that many Black Canadians do not feel like they can fully participate in Canadian society.

If we really want an inclusive Canada, then Black history should be celebrated and taught all throughout the year and not just given one month to be discussed and have students learn about all the amazing things that Black people have brought to this country and how they have enriched it.

Black History Month is important:

It is extremely unfortunate that Black Canadians in 2017 still fall victim to racism, both individual and systemic, on a daily basis. A recent example of this happening individually is York Region Trustee Nancy Elgie using the N-word to refer to a Black parent.4 Right now, Black history is needed and has its place of importance in our society. Many people in our society still need to unlearn ideas they have about black Canadians. BHM is in some ways a method to force our society to celebrate Black Canadians. It can also function in a way to give many Black Canadians a voice, and a place to see themselves within society.  Until we can come together as a society without separating and segregating each other based on skin colour and ethnicity we will need Black History Month. We need to ensure that Black contributions get celebrated and talked about and not overlooked as they have been for too long in the past.

Nevertheless, a truly inclusive society requires more than allocating a month to a group of people who have been, as the Ontario Black History Society has explored, a part of Canadian society since the 1600s.2 As we move forward, it’s time to incorporate all of Canadian history into our history lessons and not leave people out based on skin colour or ethnicity.

How to do Justice to Black History during February and throughout the year:

As educators, I encourage you to find more connections to your history lessons and look at where you can add, not just Black, but other cultures that have contributed to Canada’s rich history and make a point to integrate them throughout the year.  For example when discussing Thomas Edison and how he invented the electric lightbulb you can also bring up Lewis Latimer (a Black man) who also invented the patent for a method of producing carbon filaments which made lightbulbs last longer, more efficient and cheaper.  You can also mention Latimer when talking about Alexander Graham Bell, as he assisted in the drawing required for the patent of the telephone.3

When you are planning your BHM celebrations, think as broadly and inclusively as possible about current and ongoing issues regarding the Black experience in Canada.  Maybe you can have some conversations about Black Lives Matter activism and work. Janaya Khan of BLM Toronto has an interesting video on having conversations with people who challenge or push back on the work/advocacy of Black Lives Matter. An engaged conversation on the content of the video and what issues emerge would provide a great tie-in to Black History Month & the ongoing need for education around why Black history month is needed and how we hope one day it will not be. However, we need to eliminate stereotypes and racism before we can let go of it. Let’s use Black History Month to help make Black people an important part of Canadian society and their school community.

 

1 https://therearenoothers.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/othering-101-what-is-othering/

2 http://www.blackhistorysociety.ca/news.php/news/30

3 http://atlantablackstar.com/2013/10/23/100-black-inventions-over-the-last-100-years-you-may-not-know-part-1/

4 https://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2017/01/24/pressure-grows-for-york-trustee-to-step-down-over-racial-slur.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Do We Talk to our Youth about Donald Trump?

How Do We Talk to our Youth about Donald Trump?

We are back in a new year and a new semester of school. 2016 was a tumultuous time, and as students are coming back to a potentially challenging year ahead. In this piece, we wanted to think through some strategies for addressing issues that have arisen since the election of Donald Trump, including new rhetoric that has come from some political party leadership candidates and what the impacts could be (and have already been) on ourselves, our country and our youth.

Over the long months of the U.S election campaign, as many of us watched from the relative security of Canada, it became increasingly important to consider how to talk about the politics of Donald Trump with children and youth.

Having run a toxic, vicious campaign for 18 months, Mr. Trump now faces the enormous task of seeking to unite a divided country in which a majority of voters selected one of his opponents. In the immediate aftermath, however, the Southern Poverty Law Center documented 867 hate incidents (as of Dec. 2, 2016), including graffiti, harassment and violent attacks. How do we tell students that someone who stoked such fear, anger and hatred is soon to be the most powerful person in the world?

There is no one way to have a difficult conversation. Children and youth could be feeling all manner of emotions regarding the state of the world, which means beginning by checking in with them is important. Further, knowing that students will have been dealing with challenges related to the violence Trump stoked, but not stemming directly from his election. These issues are interconnected, and acts of discrimination exist regardless of who the President of the United States is. However, there is a clear connection between his campaign and an increase in xenophobic behaviours.

Some Strategies

  1. Ask questions, such as
  • Have you heard about the U.S. election?
  • What are you feeling?
  • What do you feel about Donald Trump?
  • Are you experiencing challenges or difficulties since Election Day?
  • What have you seen around town or in the media?

It is incredibly important to hear our youth out, so listening will be important in this step as well. Allow their open expression of their feelings (including some that may believe this election is a positive step) and encourage them to share and let more conversation take place. Listen more than you speak, really allowing students to say what they need to.

  1. Talk about activism and change

Youth should have the chance to see what can be tangibly done to change what they see as wrong. Perhaps they want to push back against an issue in the school. Maybe they would like to know (or already do) the name of their Member of Parliament so they can write a letter in an attempt to influence policy. Or they could want to go international and show solidarity across the border with students or a particular group. Show them videos on YouTube. Help them find the contact info and edit their letters. Talk about a poster campaign or assembly on inclusion. What are their ideas? Discuss what can be implemented quickly and what may require a bit more work. Seek out your colleagues and join forces class-by-class.

  1. Discuss equitable treatment of each other

Remember that even when major political figures say the things Trump has said or talk about behaviours Trump has claimed, it does not excuse violating your school’s code of conduct (or basic decency). Reinforce that your classroom and school community are spaces that do not tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism etc. If something occurs, remind them how they can take action and how you are here to support that.

There is much more that can be considered. Direct acknowledgement that this may be an uncertain time, but that there are strategies for change is helpful. During the campaign, tape of Trump was released showing him bragging about sexually assaulting women. This makes it as good a time as any to discuss consent with your class. What does it mean? What action can students take to create a stronger culture of consent? This is not only for male-identified students to know as behaviours to stop or never start, but for female-identified (or appearing) students to understand they can resist and stand up against without being in the wrong.

Further, a conversation about the Canadian experiment in multiculturalism could be on the docket. Has it been successful? How do we know? What challenges does it still face and how can we meet them? Is use of multicultural policy a possible resistance to the autocracy, fascism and xenophobia of Donald Trump?

This is an ongoing conversation that did not start when Trump entered the race, continues once he takes office, and does not end once his presidency has ended. For now, the time spent with students will be important for these discussions and the work of resisting policies coming our way is very important. We wish you the best for 2017 as you make these choices and carry on these dialogues with your students and offer them whatever support is possible.

Share this Tweetable: It is increasingly important to consider how to talk about the politics of Donald Trump w/ children and youth. ow.ly/6472307gU4Y #socialchangemakers

 

Classroom Tips: Widening the Lens on Accessibility: Reflections for International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Classroom Tips: Widening the Lens on Accessibility: Reflections for International Day of Persons with Disabilities

by Ilaneet Goren 

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) celebrated on December 3rd is a great opportunity to talk to students and fellow educators about disability issues and rights, and reaffirm our collective commitment to advancing equity and inclusion for people with diverse abilities. It’s also important is to recognize that disability is only one aspect of the individual’s multifaceted self. Accessibility should therefore encompass the whole person as well. As we celebrate IDPD, let’s reflect on the ways in which the idea of accessibility has become more intersectional to include other dimensions of diversity to help ensure we meet a wider range of people’s diverse abilities, needs, and lived realities.

Imagine you are entering your school for the first time…

Will you be able to access the building without any trouble or assistance?  Can you get around inside the building, move between the classrooms, offices and floors easily?

Will you have to worry whether the building has an accessible washroom or a gender-neutral washroom where your gender won’t be questioned?

Will you see images of people who look like you on the walls or in text books?

If someone isn’t nice to you, could you be certain it had nothing to do with your skin colour, sexual orientation, or ability? And at the end of the day, will you be leaving the school feeling that all parts of your identity were equally welcomed and valued?

These questions are based on the work of the renowned American author and anti-racism educator, Peggy McIntosh, titled “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” We’ve used this checklist in some of our equity training to helps guide participants toward greater awareness and understanding of social privileges, which – let’s face it – most of us take for granted. If we don’t acknowledge and critically examine our privileges, they can create blind spots that cause us to overlook barriers to equity and inclusion that hinder student wellness and success.

Doing this imaginary “walk of privilege” helps us think beyond our own needs and put ourselves in the proverbial shoes of students who experience barriers based on disability as well as race, gender, sexual orientation, and other aspects of identity. It also expands our understanding of accessibility, inviting us to think about other ways in which spaces can inadvertently exclude and marginalize people.

Applying an intersectional lens to accessibility in schools means recognizing that students with disabilities may experience other forms of social exclusion including sexism, racism, and homophobia to name a few.

When planning for accessibility then, we must consider students’ multiple experiences and their fundamental need to be able to bring their whole self into the classroom.

Removing physical barriers can help a student get through the doors of their school, but it is the attitudinal barriers that prevent many from engaging in activities and contributing to their school community. Such barriers are deeply entrenched within our mainstream culture, and are often invisible to those who do not directly experience them.

Attitudinal barriers can manifest themselves in the form of:

  1. Unconscious bias, limited assumptions about students’ strengths and abilities
  2. Ableism – prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that able-bodiedness is the desired norm.

These are all part of a larger system of oppression that people with visible and invisible disabilities face.

Other layers to inaccessibility that can go unnoticed:

Spaces with cultural sameness can feel uninviting and exclusionary to people from diverse ethnocultural backgrounds. When advertising events or programs in your school community it’s  important to include images that represent our multicultural society. Similarly, a space where the “R” word is frequently used without anyone addressing or challenging it is not a welcoming space for students with intellectual and cognitive disabilities, their family members, and friends. Diverse representation and a safe and inclusive environment are an inseparable part of ensuring accessibility.

Classroom Tips for Educators:

When planning a school event, a lesson, or an activity, it is helpful to visualize students’ diverse needs as a flower with many colourful petals, each petal representing a different aspect of human diversity. Then imagining these petals as they overlap with each other, reminding us of the intersectional nature of students’ needs. Widening the lens on accessibility means thinking about it in more inclusive terms, practicing empathy to imagine the experiences of others, and addressing not just physical but attitudinal barriers as well through ongoing reflection and education.

For more information on Harmony Movement Equity, Diversity and Inclusion education visit:

Resources for enhancing inclusion and accessibility in your school:

Accommodating Students with Disabilities Face Sheet – Ontario Human Rights Commission
http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/accommodating-students-disabilities-roles-and-responsibilities-fact-sheet

Rick Hansen School Program
www.rickhansen.com/Our-Work/School-Program

How to make educational resources accessible by the Government of Ontario
https://www.ontario.ca/page/how-make-educational-resources-accessible

Planning an Accessible Event Guide by Access Ontario
https://accessontario.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Planning-Accessible-Events-May-2016.pdf

R-Word – Spread the Word to End the Word
http://www.r-word.org/

Positive Space Action Kit – ETFO
http://www.etfo.ca/Resources/ForTeachers/Documents/ETFO%20LGBT%20Kit%20-%20English.pdf

United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities
http://www.un.org/en/events/disabilitiesday/