Category Archives: News

2017: Itah Sadu

2017 HARMONY COMMUNITY EDUCATOR AWARD

Itah Sadu
Co-Owner, A Different Booklist Cultural Centre

By Oscar Brathwaite

Itah’s objective is simple and to the point: to work with organizations that engage in programs for youth with the focus on education, pathways to success and community economic development.

Itah’s youth entrepreneurship program designs have been adapted as models for job placement opportunities, skill development and leaders-in-training programming. One such program was the Fresh Elements/Fresh Arts initiative designed for youth to develop technical and production skills in the cultural industries.

Featured on the African Canadian History 2011 Poster, Itah has contributed to the legacy of African Canadians with the naming of Toronto sites in honour of their contributions. She is a bestselling children’s author, whose books have been adopted by schools for curriculum and adapted to film.

Itah is the co-owner of A Different Booklist, one of the few independent bookstores left in Toronto that reflects the diversity of Toronto.

Oscar Brathwaite is a founder and principle consultant at Technical Education and Training International and Canadian Association for Business Economics. He is also a mentor to Itah Sadu.

Video: Itah Sadu award acceptance.

2017: Jeewan Chanicka

2017 HARMONY LEADERSHIP IN EDUCATION AWARD

Jeewan Chanicka
Toronto District School Board

By Camille Logan

As a school administrator, Jeewan has established strong relationships and worked collaboratively with the students, staff, families and community to build a positive school climate. As an Education Officer with the Inclusive Education Branch of the Ministry of Education, Jeewan lead the development of Inclusive Design – an intentional and holistic way of supporting all students and communities.

Currently, Jeewan serves as Ontario’s first Superintendent of equity, anti-racism and anti-oppression with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). Here, he brings knowledge and proven leadership to the board’s Integrated Equity Framework Action Plan.

Jeewan has influenced many fellow educators by igniting passion and leading them through an inspirational journey of building positive traditions, establishing a strong sense of community and ensuring that student voice is always at the heart of our work in schools.

As a recipient of this award, Jeewan continues the legacy of ethical and servitude leadership. His continuous efforts to advance equity and inclusivity for all students, staff and families remain his mission. Jeewan demonstrates the possibilities of positive outcomes for every child!

Camille Logan is Superintendent of Education, Student Achievement, School Operations at the York Region District School Board. She is the recipient of the 2013 Harmony Leadership in Education Award.

Video: Jeewan Chanicka awards acceptance.

2017: Derik Chica

2017 HARMONY EDUCATOR AWARD

Derik Chica
Toronto District School Board

By James Campbell

Derik is the complete package of a social justice educator. He strives to make his classroom safe and inclusive, knowing it isn’t enough if he’s not working outside school to dismantle the systems that put students in danger; he spends hours supporting student equity groups, knowing that isn’t enough if he’s not also training and supporting teachers across the province to transform entire schools.

As a younger teacher at risk of being “bumped”,” Derik has always put justice over job security. From challenging anti-black racism as Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Latin American Education Network, to pushing Toronto’s public and Catholic boards to better serve undocumented students, Derik is sometimes the only teacher speaking out in rooms full of principals and superintendents.

As a union activist, Co-Chair of the OSSTF provincial Human Rights Committee, and co-founder of his local Indigenous and People of Colour Committee, Derik is constantly pushing the labour movement to do and be better.

Derik hopes that winning this award would remind others that demanding justice is always right, whether we win or not.

James Campbell is a member of Educators for Peace and Justice and an educator at University of Toronto Schools.

Video: Derik Chica award acceptance.

2017: Toronto Unity Mosque

2017 HARMONY AWARD

El Tawhid Juma Circle: Toronto Unity Mosque

Troy Jackson’s story:

We started El Tawhid Juma Circle, or Toronto Unity Mosque, out of necessity and of love. ETJC went from a bright idea to reality, because we believed, and still do, that all people are equal in and before Allah/God.

Starting in May 2009, El-Farouk Khaki, Laury Silvers and I started meeting in my office every Friday afternoon. Every Friday for two years, I would push out my office furniture into El-Farouk’s office so people could gather to pray and find community there.

We created ETJC because we wanted a mosque space which affirmed the dignity of all peoples; where diversity is celebrated not merely tolerated, where women exercise equal divine agency, and where LGBTIQ people are affirmed. We all enter the world through a woman. To exclude the female voice from the chorus of our collective narrative is to silence more than half of the collective stories of the human race.

Our mosque is an affirming space where people are celebrated and not just tolerated. It is part of a growing movement for the manifestation of an inclusive, compassion-centered Islam. Our journey since 2009 has been long, sometimes difficult, frustrating, frightening, and even lonely. Our mosque/ movement is a manifestation of the adage “Build it and they will come”. I recall the many Fridays when it was only El-Farouk, Troy and I. Now, alhamdulillah, our Friday service draws between 24 to more than 50 attendees.

ETJC is a healing space for some of our community members. Those who have experienced trauma in the name of religion and in the name of Islam in particular, can come to be healed and to reclaim their Islam. Many are incredulous that such a mosque exists. We regularly witness tears, especially from new congregants, simply because we do exist. Now, ETJC has affiliated communities across Canada and the United States, and has resourced similar, inclusive mosque spaces globally.

ETJC is a transformative space and I am honoured to being a part of it.

Troy Jackson is a co-founder of ETJC and an Afro-Metis singer, writer and social commentator.

Sabat Ismail’s story:

The ETJC Toronto Unity Mosque is many things to me. It’s a place of spiritual healing where you can be yourself and come as you are, no matter who you are.

The ETJC is unconventional in comparison to other mosque spaces, while the rituals, prayers and structuring of the space continue to be rooted in traditional Islamic practices. The space is reformative in comparison to other mosque spaces and provides a space for unity for God and her creation.

The mosque has provided me a place where I can be empowered by my faith and community. Leading prayer, delivering the athaan (call to prayer), and sitting side by side with all congregants has been empowering and enriching. For me, the mosque is a place of spiritual healing and learning. Considering the spiritual trauma I experienced in other mosque spaces, I could not imagine the strengthening and deepening of my faith without my community and family at El-Tawhid.

Sabat Ismail is a Canadian of Ethiopian descent and a member of the Toronto Unity Mosque.

Farheen Fathima Ahmed’s story:

Throughout my life, I learned of countless examples of Islam being a compassionate, free religion. The Quran stated that God is the most compassionate and merciful. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) loved and married a strong, independent businesswoman. He once sought help from a Christian king who drew a line in the sand and told Muhammad (PBUH) that only such a line divided their religions. Regardless of gender and regardless of faith, we are all the same in God’s perspective.

Toronto Unity Mosque promotes the compassion that Islam encourages. Differences between Muslims and other religions are celebrated. We, the community, are shown that we all have something to contribute to Islam. It’s a safe space for all of us. It’s why I keep coming back.

Farheen Fathima Ahmed is new member of the Toronto Unity Mosque. She is of South Asian descent and a student at the University of Toronto.

Video: El Tawhid Juma Circle/Toronto Unity Mosque award acceptance.

2017 Scholarship Recipients

Tsahai Carter

Pierre Elliott Trudeau Secondary School, Markham, Ontario
University of Ottawa

As a three-time President of the Trudeau Pride Club and founder of the community Gender and Sexuality Alliance group for Markham Youth, Tsahai has been a committed advocate for social justice and inclusion within her school and greater community. Tsahai is a student representative on the Minister of Education’s Student Advisory Council, an executive member of the West Indian Student Association and volunteered with the Nubian Book Club for five years.

Kitty Cheung

Johnston Heights Secondary School, Surrey, British Colombia
Simon Fraser University

As a child of an immigrant, Kitty has seen the struggles new Canadians face and worked to helped others in this situation. She helps student facing socio-economic barriers by volunteering with the breakfast program, organizing thrift shops and mentoring newcomer students. Kitty is an active member of her school’s Anti-Racism Committee where she helped promote and organize “Cross-Cultural Connections”, a youth symposium in celebration of Black History Month and Indigenous reconciliation.

Elly Choi

R.E. Mountain Secondary School, Langley, British Columbia
University of Pennsylvania

Co-Founder of the Langley Youth Homelessness Initiative, Elly raised over $820,000 for Langley’s first youth shelter. Passionate about equity and inclusion, Elly is Co-President of the Langley Leadership, Experience, Opportunity Club where she spearheaded projects to arrange holiday hampers for homeless youth. Elly was selected as one of Three Dot Dash’s Global Teen Leaders for 2017.

 

Deborah Dada

Weston Collegiate Institute, Toronto, Ontario
Yale University

As the Youth Councillor of Ward 12 on the City Youth Council of Toronto, Debbie created and organized Find Your Path, an event to inspire youth academically and professionally. After receiving incredible positive feedback, Debbie went on to co-found the Find Your Path grassroots organization aimed at embracing diversity and closing gaps in student achievement. Debbie’s leadership in the African Canadian Leadership Committee also culminated in her directing and producing the annual African Heritage Month Assembly.

Erum Hasan

Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute, Toronto, Ontario
Ryerson University

When Erum isn’t leading campaigns as Co-Chair of the Robotics club, she is busy organizing events for her school’s Because I Am A Girl group. As president and founder of the group, Erum works with her peers to raise awareness about gender inequality both globally and locally. In addition, as Facilitator of the YOUCAN Peacebuilder Conflict Resolution program, Erum facilitates training modules for conflict resolution management with youth in her community.

Nicole Si Min Hou

Eric Hamber Secondary School, Burnaby, British Columbia
Queen’s University

Nicole founded the Learning Disabilities Career Conference, a free event for high school students with learning disabilities. The conference offered workshops to help students wanting to acquire job skills and connect with professionals who understand how to overcome the barriers and challenges they face. Nicole also launched the Reel Causes’ Youth Advisory Council to create a platform for youth aged 13-18 to learn about and take action on social justice issues using film.

Gurleen Kaloty

Central Peel Secondary School, Brampton, Ontario
University of Waterloo

Gurleen is the National Ambassador for the Foundation for Student Science and Technology and organizer of her school’s Girls’ Night In – Empowering Young Female Engineers. She uses her passion for science, technology, engineering and math to encourage and empower more women to consider careers in these fields. Gurleen also founded Peer Assisted Learning, an after-school tutoring program that aims to help newcomer students adjust within the Canadian education system.

Patrick Lynn

Fredericton High School, Fredericton, New Brunswick
Ryerson University

Through his work with the Fredericton High School Safe Spaces (formally referred to as Gay-Straight Alliance), Patrick has played an integral role in organizing his school’s Pride Week and its first Trans Week of Remembrance. Both in school and in his greater community, Patrick actively advocates for the queer community by organizing various events and panels to build awareness of transgender and gender minorities issues.

Lorenzo Penate Lara

Bishop Marrocco Thomas Merton, Toronto, Ontario
York University

As President of the Peer Leaders and Safe Schools Action Team, Lorenzo has been a leader in bringing together his peers and actively working to make his school a safe and inclusive place for all. Lorenzo has been involved in bringing workshops and building awareness in areas of substance abuse, healthy relationships, bullying, impaired driving and peer mentoring.

 

(Eva) Wan Yu Ren

Eden High School, St.Catherines, Ontario
McGill University

As the Federation of Canadian Secondary Students Vice Chair of Equity Diversity and Inclusivity, Eva worked to strengthen and amplify the voices of all students. She worked with school board staff to create a Speak Up Forum that prioritized the voices of often marginalized, immigrant and newcomer youth. Eva is also Co-Founder of My Voyage, an initiative that offers interactive peer-to-peer mentoring to newcomer students in her school.

 

World Mental Health Day – Classroom Tips

World Mental Health Day – Classroom Tips

Do we need a global conversation on mental health?

The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) says, “Yes.” On October 10th we will be marking the World Mental Health Day, founded in 1992 by the WFMH, in order to raise awareness on mental health issues for all people. This year’s theme – Mental Health in the Workplace – is an opportunity to look at our work environments through the lens of mental health and speak openly about what promotes and what hinders wellbeing in the workplace.

With 60 percent of Canadian adults spending two thirds of their waking hours at work, the need to address mental health in the workplace cannot be overstated. The WFMH explains that although one in four adults will experience mental health difficulties in their lifetime, prejudice and discrimination are significant barriers that prevent people from opening up and reaching out for support. For many organizations, ensuring that all people who experience mental illness feel safe enough to discuss their realities and needs with dignity requires a significant shift in workplace culture.

The Facts

Research indicates that mental illness is the leading cause of disability in Canada. With 34% of Ontario high-school students indicating a moderate-to-serious level of psychological distress (symptoms of anxiety and depression), it should come as no surprise that approximately 70 per cent of young adults living with mental health problems report the symptoms started in childhood.

Working Together to Create Safer Spaces

As educators who spend on average 900 hours a year with students, teachers have a very important role to play in helping students understand their thoughts, feelings, behaviours and affirming that like physical illness, mental illness should not be looked at any differently. Like physical or physiological illness, mental illness requires timely and appropriate treatment.

As educators, it is important that promoting mental health and discussing the complexities of mental illness takes priority in the classroom. Equipping students with this awareness from an earlier age means that they are not only able to identify their illness and seek out the appropriate treatment sooner, but they will be more likely to develop a healthier outlook on mental health which can benefit them greatly in their adult life.

In order to break the cycle of misconception surrounding mental health, educators can:

  • Help students form the appropriate language to express themselves
    • Ask students how they are feeling. Get them to name their feelings and think about where these are coming from so that they can get into the practice of talking about their feelings. Being able to name feelings and where they are coming from is a skill.
  • Facilitate conversations about mental health
    • Mental healthrefers to your overall psychological well-being. It includes the way you feel about yourself, the quality of your relationships, and your ability to manage your feelings and deal with difficulties.
    • Good mental healthisn’t just the absence of mental health Mental and emotional health is about being happy, self-confident, self-aware, and resilient.
    • People who are mentally healthyare able to cope with life’s challenges and recover from setbacks. But mental and emotional health–requires knowledge, understanding and effort to maintain.
  • Teach them about various methods and forms of self-care
    • Meditation, deep breathing, silent reflection
    • Art as a mode of expression
    • Exercise
  • De-stigmatize mental illness
    • Sensitize students to the various forms of mental illness and the treatments available
    • Discuss and debunk the stigmas and negative stereotypes that surround mental illness. Explain that everybody has to actively work on their mental health

Helpful Resources:

World Mental Health Day: Strategies for a Healthier Workplace

World Mental Health Day: Strategies for a Healthier Workplace

Do we need a global conversation on mental health?

The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) says, “Yes.” On October 10th we will be marking the World Mental Health Day, founded in 1992 by the WFMH, in order to raise awareness on mental health issues for all people. This year’s theme – Mental Health in the Workplace – is an opportunity to look at our work environments through the lens of mental health and speak openly about what promotes and what hinders wellbeing in the workplace.

With 60 percent of Canadian adults spending two thirds of their waking hours at work, the need to address mental health in the workplace cannot be overstated. The WFMH explains that although one in four adults will experience mental health difficulties in their lifetime, prejudice and discrimination are significant barriers that prevent people from opening up and reaching out for support. For many organizations, ensuring that all people who experience mental illness feel safe enough to discuss their realities and needs with dignity requires a significant shift in workplace culture.

Mental health promotion and prevention: the benefits

Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression, more than 260 million are living with anxiety disorders, and many of these people live with both, according to data provided by the WFMH. Despite these numbers, a 2008 report by the Canadian Medical Association showed that only 50 per cent of Canadians would tell their friends or co-workers that they have a family member with a mental illness, compared to 72 per cent who would discuss a diagnosis of cancer, and 68 per cent who would talk about a family member having diabetes. This shows that despite the prevalence of mental illness in our society, stigma and discrimination towards mental illness persists.

In order for people get the help they need, we need to break this stigma.

In addition to the human cost, untreated mental disorders are also a financial cost to both employers and employees in the form of reduced productivity at work, increases in workplace accidents and higher staff turnover, among other impacts. The World Economic Forum estimates that for every US dollar put into improving access to treatment for common mental challenges there is a return of four dollars in improved health and productivity.

Workplaces that recognize the importance of promoting emotional and mental wellbeing and supporting people experiencing mental issues are not only more resilient to such challenges but are also better positioned to attract and retain top talent.

Working together to promote a culture of wellbeing

How can I have an honest and frank discussion with my superiors about my mental state and still have them trust me to get things done and value me as an employee?

This question is on the minds of many employees who are going through a difficult time and wondering if it would cost them their job.

To make it easier for employees to discuss their mental health needs, employers need to make meaningful investments in mental health promotion and initiatives. Employers should also be proactive in addressing and resolving key organizational issues that are likely to impact employees’ morale and wellbeing. These include:

  • unclear tasks or organizational objectives
  • inadequate health and safety policies
  • poor communication and management practices
  • limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work
  • inflexible working hours
  • low levels of support

Employers also have the power to help de-stigmatize the topic of mental health in the workplace, and there are many different strategies that can contribute to this. Here are just some examples:

  • hosting workshops, speakers and “lunch and learns” on topics of self-care and wellbeing
  • negotiating discounted access to gyms and other perks that promote wellbeing
  • posting resources and telephone numbers of mental health services in common areas
  • starting conversations and challenging negative or disempowering ideas and language
  • ensuring mental health days are incorporated into office culture
  • deciding collaboratively with employees what resources and office practices would be helpful to promote mental health in the workplace

Employees also have a key role to play in maintaining a physically and psychologically health environment by paying attention to and responding to their needs and taking advantage of supports and services available to them. Putting in place a personal support system inside and outside of the workplace can make a significant difference during a personal crisis.

Many workplaces have an Employee Assistance Program that provides counselling and support with life transitions. A Human Resources representative can help direct employees to the right resources and advise about the supports, adjustments or accommodations available as part of their employment.

Regardless of the level of your position, everyone has a role to play in promoting a healthy workplace culture that respects the dignity and diversity of every employee.

Celebrate the World Mental Health Day by signing the Workplace Mental Health Pledge and having a conversation with your colleagues about how your organization is doing in promoting a mentally healthy workplace.
Additional Resources:

Information about common mental health disorders

http://cmha.ca/document-category/mental-health/National Standard of Canada for

Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace

https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/national-standard

Workplace Strategies for Mental Health

https://www.workplacestrategiesformentalhealth.com/

The Role of Health and Safety Committee

https://www.workplacestrategiesformentalhealth.com/Psychological-Health-and-Safety/Planning

Not Myself Today® helps companies build mentally healthy workplaces

http://www.notmyselftoday.ca/=

Huffington Post: What Happens When People Reveal Their Mental Illness to Their Boss?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-rauch/what-happens-when-people-reveal-their-mental-illness-to-their-boss_b_9961536.html

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/