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Classroom Tips – Week of Solidarity with Peoples Struggling against Racism and Racial Discrimination

Week of Solidarity with Peoples Struggling against Racism and Racial Discrimination

March 21 to March 27 is the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples Struggling Against Racism and Racial Discrimination.   Declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979, March 21st is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which kicks off a week of action in support of addressing racism and supporting those who are facing and fighting against racism and racial discrimination.

An important starting point on this topic is to define and differentiate between racism and racial discrimination.  Racism is a system of power that provides privilege (unearned advantages) to the dominant white racial group while oppressing people of colour.  Racial discrimination is individual unfair treatment of a person or group of people on the basis of race.  The notable difference here is that racism is a systemic oppression that only afflicts those who aren’t part of the dominant group whereas racial discrimination is an interpersonal treatment that can afflict anyone.

How relevant is this to us in the Canadian context?  Do we have a racism problem?  Here is a brief look at what some recent research tells us.

  • Black students are almost twice as likely as their White peers to be suspended at least once during high school.
  • 4% of Black students are identified as gifted, compared to 4% of their White counterparts.
  • An average of 1,213 hate crime incidents reported per year over the last 10 years.
  • An Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Global News found that 25 per cent of Canadians say they have experienced racism — up eight percentage points from 2005.
  • The unemployment rate for Indigenous Canadians is more than twice the national average.
  • The incarceration rate for Indigenous Canadians is 10 times the national average.

These stats are but a tiny slice of the larger picture and there is much work to do in our own communities to combat racism but how?  A good place to begin is with understanding solidarity and the importance of solidarity work.  Solidarity is an understanding, agreement and commitment to action in support of and with others struggling to overcome obstacles. Solidarity in this context means standing with and lending support to people who are struggling against systemic racism and individual racial discrimination.   While many of your students will be eager to show solidarity it’s important to give them some basic understanding and tools that will ensure that they are engaging in a respectful and appropriate way.  Here are some important points to share with students and colleagues.

To act in solidarity with others one must first consider the following:

  • Listen to the voices of those impacted. They are the experts on what they are experiencing and what they need.  Don’t make assumptions about what others may be feeling or wanting.
  • Ask what you can do to support rather than assume.
  • Recognize your own privilege and what advantages you have been given that others have been denied.
  • Accept truths that you do not share or understand and never deny or question a person’s experience of oppression.
  • Act with or follow the lead of those fighting but never take over. It’s important to allow those who are afflicted with racism to lead the charge and discussion.

This March ask students to think about how they have been or can start to act in solidarity with those who are struggling against racism and racial discrimination.

 

Sources

Black student achievement advisory committee results in TDSB. Reported by CBC in 2017. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-students-race-based-data-1.4278303(2017)

Canadian Race Relations Foundation, Government of Canada.

https://globalnews.ca/news/3556823/racism-in-canada/

Canada’s race problem? It’s even worse than America’s.

Classroom Tips: World Day of Social Justice

World Day of Social Justice

Celebrate, Generate, Initiate, Elevate

February 18th is World Day of Social Justice, a day on which the United Nation’s invites one and all to engage in activities that support efforts to eradicate poverty, achieve gender equity and increase social well-being and justice for all.  Of course social justice work is not one day’s work but we can use this day to celebrate social justice achievements made by ourselves and others, generate much needed attention and conversation about important causes and initiate actions that create change and elevate the social Changemaking in our local and international communities.

What is Social Justice?

Before we can engage with World Day of Social Justice let’s first take a moment to examine what social justice is all about.  The United Nations defines social justice as “an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations.”[i]  This means promoting equity and removing barriers faced by people of all identities.  So how do we engage in this important work that affects all of us?

Two Ways to Engage.

Most approaches to social change can be broken down into two important categories.  The first approach we call the Charity Approach, which aims to address immediate needs and the second is the Social Change Approach, which addresses root causes for long-term social change.  Both can be applied to most issues and both approaches are important and necessary but what exactly is the difference?

  1. The Charity Approach is most popular because it addresses immediate needs and its impact is immediately measurable. The Charity Approach often treats the symptoms of a social inequity by implementing accommodations, supports, funding, labour and short-term solutions.  Food banks and donating to food banks are an example of a Charity Approach applied to the social inequity of poverty.  Food banks are important to meeting the immediate needs of those living in poverty but ultimately do not address the poverty itself.
  2. Social Change Approach includes initiatives that promote the eradication of poverty such as raising the minimum wage, increasing access to employment, addressing systemic discrimination in hiring practices, housing, health-care and the legal system. This approach is focused on long-term solutions to large and often daunting problems which often makes this a harder approach to choose.

Choose Both!

Students often engage in one approach or the other, and most frequently it’s the Charity Approach.

This year on February 18th why not engage your students with both approaches? Activity ideas!

Get them thinking about the root causes of inequity and how they can address those inequities for long-term change.

For example, if students are interested in LGBT rights and safety within their school, take them through a reflective exercise that allows them to identify what changes can be made to affect the immediate inequities faced by LGBT students at school such as starting a safe space club or adding a gender-neutral washroom.  Also get them to think about the root causes of discrimination faced by LGBT students at school and how those can be addressed such as challenging gender norms and hetero-normative values amongst staff, students and within the school curriculum and policy.

This type of change is slow but its impact is long lasting.

Social Changemakers have been changing the world using these two-tiered approaches and will continue to do so with your help!

[i] http://www.un.org/en/events/socialjusticeday/

 

Advancing Youth-Led Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives in Durham

Ontario Trillium Foundation, Fondation Trillium de l'Ontario

Advancing Youth-Led Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives in Durham

(Toronto, December 14, 2017) — Harmony Movement is pleased to announce the receipt of a three-year grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation that will support equity and anti-racism education and leadership development for youth in the Durham region.

The Youth Leadership for Equity and Anti-Racism in Durham project, or YouthLEADS, will provide 300 youth with experiential learning, skill-building and leadership development opportunities. This will help them to create their own projects and work with local organizations to address racism in their communities.

Guided by a Project Advisory Committee, the YouthLEADS will also engage educators, parents and caregivers, and diverse community partners in critical conversations about creating safe and inclusive environments where youth can grow and thrive as agents of social change.

Working collaboratively with Durham’s Catholic and public school boards and their community partners, the Harmony Movement team will engage youth in schools and in the community through student conferences, leadership building workshops and after-school groups. In the summer, a youth-led anti-racism leadership summit will provide opportunities for participants to present their projects, share ideas and network with other youth leaders.

Durham’s fast-growing population is 17% racialized, while the percentage of immigrants, currently at 20%, continues to grow.  Yet bullying, harassment, discrimination and racial disparity continue to have a negative impact on youth wellbeing and success:

  • One in two students believes bullying is a problem according to a 2015 report by Durham Department of Health while 35% of elementary students reported that they were themselves bullied;
  • 80% of teens have been exposed to racist or sexist content online, according to PrevNET;
  • Black students face significant disparities in access to academic opportunities (James and Turner, 2017)

“We have worked with both public and Catholic school boards in Durham for many years,” said Cheuk Kwan, Executive Director at Harmony Movement. “And we are happy to be collaborating with them again to go deeper into the community to promote equity and inclusion in the region.”

Founded in 1994 with a vision for all Canadians to value diversity and to foster a commitment to a just and caring society, Harmony Movement provides experiential education programs in diversity, equity and inclusion that empower and inspire positive social change in youth and adults.

For more information:

Ilaneet Goren, Harmony Movement, igoren@harmony.ca, 416-385-2660

Download PDF version here.

International Human Solidarity Day – Classroom Tips

International Day of Human Solidarity

Recognizing solidarity as an important factor in making global social change, the United Nations declared Dec. 20 International Human Solidarity Day. In fact, the “General Assembly, on 22 December 2005, by resolution 60/209 identified solidarity as one of the fundamental and universal values that should underlie relations between peoples in the Twenty-first century.” But what does solidarity mean in our classrooms? How do we acknowledge its importance without over-examining its meaning to labour, activism and many successful social movements throughout our history?

At the UN, solidarity is seen as a “basic premise” of global activism, going the organisation’s founding. And while an annual reminder is an important way to demonstrate a commitment, like many of these days, it is inside our action that the truth about solidarity comes to the fore.

In this new age of rising fascism, solidarity will mean more than teaching our students and children about meeting the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, although that was an initial impetus for this day. Let’s look at cases large and small in which how we see solidarity could play a role in changing the outcome.

Long Distance Solidarity

Out of the U.K., the Independent reports that over 5,00 000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh based on what UN officials have called ethnic cleansing. In this terrifying global case of human need, solidarity efforts can be shown in as small a way as denouncing the leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, for allowing this to occur in the first place. However, there are much larger conversations to be brought into our classrooms  regarding the hard work of supporting our fellow humans who need food, shelter and relief from an apparently genocidal regime.

The holiday season often puts people in a giving mindset, so in this case, human solidarity can look like organizing a donation drive in your school asking for a collective effort to support Rohingya refugees. Aid organisations will likely be seeking clothing as well as any monetary donations that can be brought together. However, social change is not always made on the charitable track, important as that track may be. Social Changemakers in your school may want to seek different results.

Solidarity then looks like organizing a letter-writing campaign to your MP or the prime minister calling on the government to more strongly condemn Myanmar’s action. Or perhaps it can take the form of a greater awareness of Islamophobia and actions that will combat anti-Muslim hate. The latter may not do much to stop what is happening in South Asia, but it can help strengthen cross-cultural connections in your school as well as in our communities.

Local Solidarity

Closer to home, the recently ended college strike across Ontario gave us quite a glimpse into the complexities of solidarity. While yes, many students stood resolutely with their faculty on the hunt for a fair deal and fewer contract positions, it is understandable that a number of them wanted the strike to end and were upset at their faculty for striking at all. The fight against precarious work in post-secondary teaching is a major one, and another place where our students and co-workers can learn to think through the needs of human solidarity more concretely.

Taking Action

As we are in the midst of the holidays and wondering how to show up for our neighbours, classmates or colleagues, International Human Solidarity Day gives us a starting point to discuss, question, and notice where we are and in what direction the world is moving. How we seek change through solidarity is up to us, but we know there are many ways forward.

Job Posting: Program Facilitator – Workplace Diversity & Inclusion

Job Posting

Program Facilitator – Workplace Diversity & Inclusion

Are you a dynamic facilitator who is passionate about equity and inclusion? Do you love working with groups and helping adults learn (and un-learn)?

Harmony Movement is a leading provider of diversity education in Ontario. We are a non-profit organization that addresses equity issues and promotes inclusion by educating and empowering youth and adults in schools, communities and workplace settings to be agents of change. Working with school boards and the private and public sectors in Ontario, we provide diversity education and leadership development programs, conferences, and organizational support customized to participants’ needs.

Harmony at Work is our social enterprise that supports organizations in achieving their equity, diversity and inclusion goals through customized training programs, assessment, process facilitation, and consulting. For more information visit http://www.harmony.ca/training/

The successful applicant will report to the Director of Workplace Learning and Development and work closely with the Harmony Movement team to design and deliver workshops and other related activities that advance equity, diversity, inclusion and human rights in organizations and communities.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Plan and facilitate professional workshops and related activities working independently and with co-facilitators.
  • Work collaboratively with individuals and organizations to assess learning needs, identify goals and desired outcomes, and propose activities and resources that meet their needs.
  • Research and apply best practices in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and produce high-quality educational materials, resources, project reports and other related materials.
  • Nurture relationships with potential and existing partners, respond to queries, and follow-up with contacts as needed.
  • Support/participate in other Harmony Movement programs including, but not limited to, student conferences, educator workshops and community development activities.
  • Contribute to Harmony at Work newsletter; help research and generate content for blogs and other publications as needed.
  • Collect, collate and input data from evaluations and project activities.
  • This position requires flexible hours to include weekday evenings and occasional weekends, as well as regular travel within the GTA and Ontario with possible travel across Canada, and will often involve overnight stays.

Qualifications:

  • Post-secondary education in a related field combined with at least 3 years of relevant experience.
  • Knowledge of and experience applying adult education and experiential learning methods in diverse professional and community-based settings to meet diverse needs and learning styles.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of equity, inclusion, anti-racism, and human rights principles and ability to communicate theoretical concepts in accessible and practical ways.
  • Proven ability to provide training and facilitation for small and large audiences in a variety of formats including break-out sessions, plenaries, keynotes, etc.
  • Understanding of the lived realities of Black, Indigenous and racialized communities stemming from direct involvement and/or lived experience.
  • Familiarity with the Ontario Human Rights Code, AODA, Ontario’s Anti-Racism Strategy, TRC Report and Recommendations, and other key policies that apply to workplace settings in the context of equity, inclusion, and human rights.
  • Strong interpersonal, communication, writing, editing and proofreading skills with a demonstrated ability to produce high-quality materials for sharing with our audiences.
  • Excellent research, planning, and time and project management skills with proven ability to see projects and tasks to completion.
  • Clearance from a Vulnerable Sector Police Screening.

Salary range is 50-60K and commensurate with experience and education level.

If you are interested, please submit your resume, together with a cover letter (PDF or Word format) of no longer than one-page, summarizing why you are passionate about diversity education and why you would be an excellent candidate for this position.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

Harmony Movement is committed to fostering a workplace that reflects the diversity of the communities we work with. We strongly encourage applications from Indigenous people, Black and racialized people, people with disabilities, and members of LGBTIQ2S communities.

Accommodation will be provided in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code.\

Please send your a cover letter and resume to employment@harmony.ca

Only applicants that are shortlisted for an interview will be contacted.

 

 

 

Job Posting: Program Facilitator – Youth and Educator Programs

Job Posting

Program Facilitator – Youth and Educator Programs

Are you passionate about social justice work? Are you energetic and excited about engaging youth?

Harmony Movement (www.harmony.ca) is a leading provider of diversity education in Ontario. We are a non-profit organization that addresses equity issues and promotes inclusion by educating and empowering youth and adults in schools, communities and workplace settings to be agents of change. Working with school boards and the private and public sectors in Ontario, we provide diversity education and leadership development programs, conferences, and projects customized to participants’ needs. In line with the provincial anti-racism strategy, one of our priorities is to support and amplify the voices of Black, Indigenous and racialized youth and build healthy communities through education and leadership opportunities.

The successful applicant will work closely with the Harmony Movement team to develop and deliver programs and workshops that address fundamental equity and diversity issues. Our programs explore personal and group identities, stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, media literacy, historic inequity in Canada, and personal empowerment, as well as taking leadership for equity, inclusion and social change.  This position reports to the Director of Equity Education.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Plan and facilitate leadership, diversity and anti-discrimination education programs and workshops for youth in school and in community settings, working independently and with co-facilitators.
  • Develop and deliver workshops and programs for educators that support equity, inclusion, and student leadership and voice.
  • Collaborate with school and community partners to assess needs, identify learning goals/outcomes, and develop relevant content that appeals to diverse learning styles.
  • Work in collaboration with the other Program Facilitators and Managers to seek out, develop and maintain relationships and opportunities with partners in schools and organizations.
  • Support all operations relating to Harmony Movement programs including data gathering and evaluation, research, reporting, and various community development activities.
  • This position requires regular travel within the GTA and Ontario with possible travel across Canada, and will often involve overnight stays.
  • Other related duties as assigned.

Qualifications:

  • Post-secondary degree or diploma with at least one year of relevant working experience, or equivalent work experience in lieu of formal education
  • Experience facilitating workshops and interactive group activities, working directly with diverse youth and adults with a variety of learning styles and needs within a workshop, classroom or conference setting.
  • Have a personal and professional interest in teaching equity, inclusion and social justice issues to youth and adults, with working knowledge of anti-oppressive and anti-racism concepts and their application.
  • Strong presentation and workshop facilitation skills and ability to engage the audience in a classroom, community workshop or conference environment.
  • Strong communication, interpersonal, writing, editing and proofreading skills with a demonstrated ability to produce high-quality materials for sharing with our audiences.
  • Excellent research, planning, and time and project management skills with proven ability to see projects and tasks to completion.
  • Self-motivated with ability to work independently and as part of a team within a flexible professional environment, with minimal supervision.
  • This position involves flexible hours to include weekday evenings and occasional weekends.
  • Understanding of the lived realities of Black, Indigenous and racialized communities stemming from direct involvement and/or lived experience.
  • Clearance from a Vulnerable Sector Police Screening.

We are filling a number of full-time positions. Salary range is 45-55K and commensurate with experience and education level.

If you are interested, please submit your resume, together with a cover letter (PDF or Word format) of no longer than one-page, summarizing why you are passionate about diversity education and why you would be an excellent candidate for this position.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

Harmony Movement is committed to fostering a workplace that reflects the diversity of the communities we work with. We strongly encourage applications from Indigenous people, Black and racialized people, people with disabilities, people from diverse faith communities, and members of LGBTIQ2S communities.

Only those selected for an interview will be contacted. If contacted regarding a job opportunity, please advise if you require accommodation.

Please send your resume to employment@harmony.ca

Only applicants that are shortlisted for an interview will be contacted.

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

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