Author Archives: BeTheChange

My Adventure at Harmony Movement

Growing up in rural northern Alberta, equity wasn’t high on my radar and there wasn’t a lot of diversity.  I knew that kids in my school were not likely to come out and were more likely to hide their sexual expression until they moved away.  The one student who was half-black was nicknamed the ‘n’ word in what appeared to me to be a loving way – at least he didn’t seem to mind. Whenever the hockey team from the reserve came to play the local team everyone just expected that there would be fights and extra police around.  At the time this just seemed to be the way things were.  If you don’t fit in you just move away from the pond to a bigger lake as soon as possible, which is exactly what I did.

After doing some traveling and living in a few different cities I ended up in Toronto. In this big city there seemed to be so much anonymity, you could get away with anything if you had enough confidence.  It didn’t seem to matter what race, gender or sexual orientation you were, people could find their place.  After living in the city for a while though I saw the same issues as everywhere else and in some ways even worse, women getting groped on the bus, well-meaning warnings to stay away from certain unsavory neighbourhoods, people sleeping on the streets.  These were things that just didn’t seem to happen in my small country town.

After hanging around the city a bit, I finally hit the books, sick of being a watcher and needing to know how we can fix things. I dove into Equity Studies.  School was great at giving me all kinds of knowledge about the what, why and how things were happening, things my privileged identity had often hid from me. The legacy of slavery in Canada, the Chinese head tax, the imprisonment of the poor, the police raids on gay clubs…everything made sense and everything was interconnected.  I could now see how that student who stayed in the closet throughout high school suffered and in going to a big city, still dealt with negative attention and comments.  I could see how the lack of knowledge about treaties led to the perception of Aboriginal people getting lots of handouts and how Canada’s failure to uphold the treaties has led to increased poverty for Aboriginal populations.  It all seemed connected and important, I could never settle on just one issue to work on. And I was still left wondering what I could do with this knowledge and this need to make a difference.

Through a chance encounter at an event I ran into Roz Espin, she tells about the organization she works for called Harmony Movement, “I’ve never heard of you before” I say, “but the work sounds amazing!”  Following the event, I rushed home and immediately looked them up. I messaged Roz knowing immediately that I had to be a part of this place!  A place that does it all, that recognizes the interconnectedness of all these issues that I can’t separate in my own head, that is working with youth to engage them to make the change, that has a vision and mission for a better more inclusive place where everyone can succeed and we can all be in Harmony, a place where diversity leads to strength instead of division.  I found my place, the answer to everything I was searching for, I found Harmony Movement.

Now as our time here comes to an end, I am so grateful for the learning it has provided me.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to be surrounded by so many individuals of different backgrounds and knowledge. Harmony Movement has afforded me the ability to be a part of the change I want to see in the world. It has been inspiring to see how far so many youth have come in accepting differences and taking action to create more inclusive schools.  Though there is still so much more to be done, we have partnered and collaborated with so many individuals working tirelessly to change our schools, societies and create opportunities for youth voice to be amplified. Most of all my colleagues here have shown me how to have courageous and difficult conversations with grace and openness.

Though it is with sadness we shut down operations, the legacy of Harmony Movement continues through each and everyone one of us who has been a part of this organization: our youth, educators, our staff and board, interns and volunteers and so many more. Harmony Movement is an awareness, a commitment and a passion for social change. May it’s legacy continue to inspire and transform.

Janelle Yanishewski has worked at Harmony Movement for the past five years in a variety of administrative, communicative and project management roles. Over the past year she coordinated 13 conferences all across Canada which took her to places like Yellowknife, Moncton, Edmonton and Montreal repping Harmony Movement. 

Harmony Movement Closes After 25 Years

Harmony Movement Closes After 25 Years

Toronto – March 11, 2019

After 25 years of service to the community, Harmony Movement will cease operations on June 30, 2019. Drastic funding cuts from the Ontario government in equity and inclusion have had a devastating effect to the entire education community as well as the agencies that serve them.

“Harmony Movement’s operation is no longer viable without annual funding from the Ministry of Education,” said board chair Bernice Carnegie. “It’s with sadness that we say goodbye to our passionate team, one that has advanced equity and inclusion in Canada.”

The social enterprise, Harmony@Work, will continue to focus on workplace diversity, equity and inclusion training. Since 2016, Harmony@Work’s workplace training has impacted over 2,000 professionals and leaders in the social service, government, manufacturing, labour and tech sectors.

Community leaders Mary Anne Chambers, Gordon Cressy and Dr. Joseph Wong founded Harmony Movement in 1994 to combat racism and discrimination, and the “us vs. them” mentality that was pervasive at the time.

“Harmony Movement was a game changer when it first arrived on the scene,” said Chris D’souza, equity consultant and former educator at the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board. “It has had a long- term, significant impact on tens of thousands of students and educators in the province.”

During its first decade, Harmony Movement concentrated on public education, carrying out the national project “Them = Us: Photographic Journeys Across Our Cultural Boundaries” that toured 60 communities from St. John’s to Victoria. The project had two offshoots: a photography book, Harmony Harmonie; and a resource kit for educators, Exploring Harmony.

Beginning in 2005, Harmony Movement delivered diversity workshops to Ontario schools, culminating in a collaborative relationship with the Ontario Ministry of Education to support the implementation of its Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy.

Since 2012, Harmony Movement has delivered student and educator training programs to 59 of 60 English school boards across the province.

Over the past nine months, with funding support from Canadian Heritage, Harmony Movement organized and conducted 13 youth conferences, one in each province and territory, in its Voices of
Canadian Youth project.

“We’ve had a brilliant run and we’re all proud of the organization’s legacy,” said Cheuk Kwan, Executive Director. “This legacy will live on through the work of a whole new generation of ‘social changemakers’.”

Harmony Movement expresses our deepest gratitude to our educational and community partners, sponsors, donors, board and staff past and present, as well as to everyone who has supported us through the years.

International Women’s Day 2019: Let’s Talk About Intersectionality

This year, on International Women’s Day, we have got to talk about intersectionality – in deep and meaningful ways that shift conversations and engage critical thinking. As educators, we have the incredible privilege and responsibility of guiding conversations that expand minds and ultimately move social change.

Intersectional feminism is by no means new. Indeed, it was coined back in 1989 by Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe the lived experience of being female and Black. According to Crenshaw, traditional feminist and antiracist policies fall short for individuals experiencing intersecting oppressions. For Crenshaw, her experience as a woman cannot be separated from her experience as a Black person.

It’s not difficult to understand the ways in which traditional feminism has failed women of colour, women with disabilities, or trans women, for example. A very quick Google search of history + feminism delivers photo after photo of women who pretty much look exactly the same (i.e. are white, middle-upper class, and follow prescribed gender norms). When these images become the prototype, critical thinking can turn off. We passively talk about women’s right to vote without adequately acknowledging that the suffrage movement betrayed Black women and that Indigenous women in Canada, for example, got the right to vote 53 years after the first white woman.  We do these movements a complete disservice when we gloss over these very real truths. Not only that, but we perpetuate the ongoing oppression of those who continue to fight for the human rights of women with diverse lived experiences.

Discussions around intersectionality have been given larger platforms in recent years, particularly as the Women’s March on Washington took off in 2017. Understanding intersectionality means the recognition that women with disabilities, for example, are 25 percent more likely to live in poverty than men with disabilities (who, unsurprisingly, are more likely than able-bodied men to live in poverty). It is the understanding that for women of colour in Canada, there is a pay gap within the pay gap. Gender-based violence, which was at the forefront of Dr. Crenshaw’s development of intersectional analysis, is still an epidemic in Canada, with half of all women having experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence after the age of 16. When these numbers are compounded by systemic racism (intersectionality), we are faced with the grim reality that upwards of 4,000 Indigenous women have been murdered or are missing in this country.

This International Women’s Day, we implore you to have deep, courageous conversations about the history and future of the women’s movement. Read about diverse women who have been fighting for their rights for decades – often without the recognition awarded to those who more neatly fit within the historically rigid definition of “feminist.” Have women across history helped move women’s rights forward? Sure. Have they experienced (sometimes self-imposed) blind spots? Absolutely. It’s time to push ourselves – and our students – to acknowledge history’s shortcomings and to explore intersectionality. It’s time to actively seek out the bold voices that are shaping the women’s movement into a space of authentic inclusion.

Lesson Plan (60 minutes +):
Note that this plan has been developed with Grade 9 students in mind; that said, it can be modified for your classroom needs.

1. Start the class with an open discussion on International Women’s Day. What do your students already know about the day? What are their impressions of IWD? This can be a brief discussion that helps gauge initial understanding. 5 minutes.

2. Print off or project 4-5 images of the women’s movement throughout history. We strongly encourage including images from the Canadian context in order to help students identify the ways in which women’s rights and intersectionality are reflected in their communities. Try to find images that are prototypical. See this website for a few gems. Others can be found

Ask students to reflect on what they see. What are commonalities? Whose voices are present, and whose are excluded? 5-minutes.

3. Ask if anyone has ever heard of the word Some may have, but the room may very well be silent. Not to worry! We’ve got you covered with this video from Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Centre.

After watching the video, check for understanding. 5 minutes.

4. Having reviewed historical photos of Canadian feminism, and having discovered a bit about intersectionality, ask students to consider how intersectionality applies to IWD. What is missing when we view the day through a one-dimensional lens? As a class, focus on two well-known women (examples include Malala Yousafzai or Michelle Obama). How do the intersections of their identities inform their experiences as women? And why do their voices – as intersectional women – matter? For a visual of what this might look like, click here10 minutes

5. Give students a chance to explore diverse individuals who have made significant (and very awesome) contributions to women’s rights across the globe. What about Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan woman who spend her life planting trees and leading democracy? What about Sylvia Rivera, a queer Latinx activist who spent her life advocating for trans rights? Or how about Mia Ives-Rublee, disability rights activist? It can be safely assumed that the vast majority of students will not have heard about these activists – women from a range of backgrounds who have spent their entire lives advocating for the full recognition of diverse lived experiences. Looking for more inspiration? Check out Virgie Tovar and Edna Chavez and Winona LaDuke. Select women whose struggles are current, thereby ensuring that IWD isn’t viewed as an issue left in history. If you’re looking for someone your students might know, start with Serena Williams – perhaps the greatest tennis player of all time who still faces both sexism and racism as an athlete.

Allow students to select an individual they’d like to learn more about. If they have someone else in mind, let them run with it. Feel free to give them sites to read or else allow them to explore on their own. Print a photo of the individual on a piece of A3 paper along with the diagram included in this blog (of concentric circles). In small groups, students can complete the diagrams as well as discuss the following questions:

• Who is ___________________?
• What are/were her intersecting identities? How did they inform her worldview?
• What was the impact that she has made on the world?
• What voices does she help amplify? Why does this matter?

Print a photo of the individual on a piece of A3 paper along with the diagram included in this blog (of concentric circles). Want an idea of what this might look like? Check out our example here.

Posters can be displayed around the room, with 10 minutes at the end of class for a gallery walk.
35 minutes.

6. End the class by giving each student a post-it. On the front board, hang a piece of chart paper where students can post questions and “wonders” about these women or about IWD in general. By asking them to post a “wonder,” it keeps the inquiry process moving and encourages students to continue thinking critically about the intersecting movements that make up International Women’s Day. Feel free to start classes with a brief 5-minute discussion on any one of the “wonders” so that students continue coming back to the lesson and the key takeaways.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: Lesson plans for meaningful reflection

In a few short weeks, Jewish communities and allies across the world will recognize International Holocaust Remembrance Day. During a time of heightened political tribalism – you vs. me, them vs. us – taking time to reflect on the consequences of othering is of incredible importance. The date, January 27th, is not arbitrary – it is the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. While gross human rights abuses are not to be considered on a single day and then forgotten, having a marked day intentionally rooted in history gives us a chance to honour Jewish victims of the Holocaust as a global community. It is imperative, however, that we honour the past while also recognizing the role it plays in our present.

For many Jewish Canadians, news that antisemitism is on the rise is hardly news at all. With reports of antisemitic graffiti in North York as well as the recent attack of four Jewish youth making headlines, growing hate in our communities simply cannot be ignored. The recent shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh sent waves of grief across North America, making this January 27th a particularly difficult one. A government report on 2017 police-reported hate crime, released at the end of November 2018, reveals that the rise in hate crimes nationally is driven largely by incidents in Ontario and Quebec. Between 2016 and 2017, hate crimes against the Jewish population increased 41 per cent in Ontario alone. Nationally, they rose from 221 in 2016 to 360 in 2017 and accounted for 18 per cent of all hate crimes in Canada.

As educators, we have an immense responsibility to not only make sure our students are safe, but to teach our students how they can build safe communities for others. International Holocaust Remembrance Day provides us with an authentic segue into critical discussions on human rights and growing antisemitism. Here at Harmony, we’ve partnered with FAST (Fighting Antisemitism Together) to bring you detailed resources that you can use in your classroom.

Choose Your Voice (www.chooseyourvoice.ca) provides free online teaching tools for students in grades 6, 7, and 8. Unit 1, Bursting the Voices of Stereotypes, provides an age-appropriate overview of the impacts of stereotypes and bias. The site provides a detailed lesson plan, video, and guided discussion questions that help you bring meaningful content to your classroom. Moving through the site, teachers will find additional plans, program materials, and student resources across multiple units.

Voices into Action (www.voicesintoaction.ca) includes free curriculum-based teaching resources for teaching about prejudice, human rights, and social justice to high school students. Chapter 1 of Unit 2, for example, asks students to critically consider the rise of Nazism in Germany. What motivated people living during the reign of Hitler to conform or dissent against the acts of the Holocaust? Students are encouraged to consider the role of bystanders and are later given the opportunity to explore the power of Holocaust art (Unit 5).

Both sites are free to educators – now and always – and simply require registration with site administrators. As human rights educators, facilitators at Harmony Movement approve of and endorse the content developed by FAST; we are grateful to have partnered with them and to be able to share their incredible work.

With so many resources available, and with antisemitism become an increasingly dangerous threat to all of our communities, we have to recommit ourselves daily to recognizing and responding to all forms of oppression. The International Holocaust Remembrance Day is a chance for us to take meaningful first steps toward acknowledging the past while working toward a more just present and future.

Discussing World AIDS Day and Resilience

On the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day, the theme is Know Your Status, but the key word is resilience. People living with HIV/AIDS and those that survive them and fight for their rights have lived through a world that repeatedly tries to ignore their existence. They’ve been denied medication, denied basic respect, and have been treated by society as though they have the plague.

Canada has come a long way in the past 30 years, but there is still work to be done. Globally, 25% of HIV-positive people are unaware of their status,1 a statistic that UN AIDS is determined to change. Currently, in Ontario, infection rates have reached almost 30,000 according to the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care.2 Stigma still exists despite the fact that HIV education has existed longer than World AIDS Day. But what does that mean for us, in our classrooms, for our students?

First, acknowledge that HIV is still a reality. With the Ontario government returning to a physical health and sex education curriculum that is 20 years old, our role as educators is more important than ever in this area. New treatments & prevention tools are only a part of the advancements health care and medicine have made, and safer behaviours are still an important part of healthy sexuality. Common myths and misperceptions persist about HIV, as demonstrated by a survey done in the United Kingdom which found that 1 in 3 young people were not sure whether kissing spread HIV.3

What Can I Do?

Resilience is the key word 30 years after the start of World AIDS Day and 35 years since the fight against HIV/AIDS began in earnest. Teach your students about prominent HIV activists. Teach them about stigma so that they can recognize it and challenge it.

  • Advocates for Youth is a DC-based organization that provides fact sheets and resources specifically for youth work. It also includes links to youth-led projects and the ways in which AIDS activism intersects across identities.
  • The AIDS activist history Canada project sheds light on the past and present of the fight against AIDS in Canada. Readers can listen to interviews and view archived materials from posters to pamphlets to meeting minutes. Use these resources to discuss where we’ve been and what work there is to do from here.
  • AIDS Action Now covers 1987-2008 and outlines important dates in timeline format. This activist organization also celebrated its 30th anniversary this year4 and continues their fight against stigma and for an end to criminalizing people with HIV.

Perhaps most importantly, let your stuents know that while phobias may still exist, there is no reason to fear people with HIV. They can join the fight for HIV positive people and help make this world better for everyone.

1http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/featurestories/2018/september/20180917_WAD_theme
2http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/hivaids/charact_epidemic.aspx
3https://www.worldaidsday.org/schoolscolleges/
4http://www.aidsactionnow.org/?page_id=38

2018 Scholarship Recipients

Monica Basilli
Dr. Charles Best Secondary School, Coquitlam, British Columbia
University of Alberta

Monica founded the Force of Nature Club, which promotes fair and just treatment of Indigenous groups in British Columbia. She is a member of the Youth Arts council and helps foster inclusive dialogue within and between marginalized communities. Monica is an active volunteer with her school’s UNHCR club as a fundraiser and translator. She also works with Coquitlam Heritage to teach about the history of discrimination and colonization in her community.

 

Zoe Bertrand

Zoe Bertrand
Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School, Beamsville, Ontario
McGill University

As the founder of BT Pride, a Gay-Straight Alliance, Zoe has led several anti-bullying campaigns as well as helped establish gender-neutral washrooms in her school. She is a volunteer mentor at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital, where she helps peers build self-confidence and leadership skills. Zoe is a member of the Niagara Public Health Youth Advisory Committee and advocates for LGBTQ + youth by ensuring that their voices are present during public health discussions.

 

Rylie EssingtonRylie Essington
West Island College, Calgary, Alberta
Queen’s University

As the sole creator of her school’s first Peer Mentorship Program, Rylie has made significant contributions to the well-being of students in her community. She has successfully developed an anti-bullying framework that pairs mentors and mentees together in order to build empathy and meaningful relationships amongst students. With the support of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, she arranged multiple workshops within the school on mentorship training and living with mental illness.

 

Reese FindlerReese Findler
Seycove Secondary School, North Vancouver, British Columbia
Simon Fraser University

As the sole organizer of the sold-out benefit concert “Perform for Pride,” Reese raised close to $2,500 for Rainbow Refugee, a community group that supports persecuted LGBTQ+ asylum-seekers. She is the co-president of her school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance, which helped establish the first gender-neutral washroom in the district. In addition, she helped create Catch the Flow, a charity that partners with local women’s organizations and ensures equitable access to menstrual products.

 

Emma JohnstonEmma Johnston
Churchill Secondary School, Vancouver, British Columbia

Emma is a peer tutor who also helps support displaced youth from conflict regions as they resettle in Canada as refugees. She is co-founder of the We Believe in Pink Club, a service club that supports women in Vancouver’s inner-city neighbourhood. The club hosted various events that raise awareness of extreme poverty and commercial gentrification. In addition, Emma coordinates workshops and events on international social justice issues through the UNICEF Club.

 

Emily LamEmily Lam
Dr. Charles Best Secondary School, Coquitlam, British Columbia
Simon Fraser University

Emily is a trailblazer who has participated in projects ranging from participation in her school’s UN Refugee Club to Peer Counseling. She received national recognition for her work spearheading a community-wide campaign to create a library at a local alternative high school. She is also the creator of a website that addresses gender inequity and provides education on intersectionality, a collaboration that she developed with the support of local community experts in gender studies.

Vanessa LewisVanessa Lewis
St. Mary Catholic High School, Pickering, Ontario
Carleton University

As a member of First Nations/Métis/Inuit (FMI) Awareness, Alliance for Compassion, and the Black History Student Committee, Vanessa has dedicated her high school years to amplifying the voices of all students in her community. Through FMI Awareness, she has organized campaigns to recognize missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. She has led drives for homeless LGBTQ+ youth and has continuously strived to foster a school community in which everyone belongs.

 

Justin MoorlockJustin Morlock
Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, Red Deer, Alberta
University of Alberta

Justin is a founding member of the City Wide Student Advisory Council, which meets with the Board of Trustees bi-monthly in order to engage diverse student voices in the development of educational policy. He has been instrumental in the establishment of the district’s LGBTQ Policy, which has been ranked the best in the province by Public Service Alberta. In addition, Justin spent his high school years tutoring ESL students, many of whom were refugees.

 

Ravicha RavinthiranRavicha Ravinthiran
Victoria Park Collegiate Institute, Toronto, Ontario
University of Waterloo

Ravicha is the founder of the FEM Project, a community-focused approach to gender equity. Through FEM, young women are given a space to attend workshops and build the confidence necessary to lead community projects ranging from environmental stewardship to mental health. As an advocate of Reconciliation, Ravicha has hosted a conference on Indigenous history led by Indigenous speakers. Her initiatives aim to encourage fellow community leaders to be agents of change.

 

Airoh WalkerAiroh Walker
Orillia Secondary School, Elmvale, Ontario
University of Toronto – Mississauga Campus

Airoh is a member of their school’s equity team, Airoh has delivered professional development workshops to principals and educators on creating safe spaces for transgender and nonbinary youth. They have led several anti-bullying and mental wellness initiatives in their school while also delivering speeches for events run by CMHA. Through their own visibility as a trans student, Airoh works to create inclusion for all students who seek to redefine social norms.

Ivan Coyote

2018: Ivan Coyote

2018 Harmony Community Educator Award

Ivan Coyote

Ivan Coyote is the author of eleven books, the creator of four short films, six full-length live shows, and three albums that combine storytelling with music. He is a seasoned stage performer, and over the last two decades has become an audience favourite at storytelling, writer’s, film, poetry, and folk music festivals from Anchorage to Amsterdam and Australia.

The Globe and Mail called Coyote “a natural-born storyteller.” Ottawa Xpress reported that “Coyote is to Canadian literature what k.d. lang is to country music: a beautifully odd fixture.”

Ivan often grapples with the complex and intensely personal issues of gender identity in their work, as well as topics such as family, class, social justice and queer liberation — but always with a generous heart, a quick wit, and the nuanced and finely-honed timing of a gifted raconteur. His stories remind of us of our own fallible and imperfect humanity while at the same time inspiring us to change the world.

Catholic Central High School

2018: Catholic Central High School

2018 Harmony School of the Year Award

Catholic Central High School

Windsor, Ontario

By Danielle Desjardins-Koloff, Principal

The students at Catholic Central represent a global and diverse population — all having arrived with unique stories and under unique circumstances. We recognize that each of our students deserves a voice and that some students’ voices are more readily offered than others. We work endlessly to create opportunities that assist students in finding their voices and becoming advocates, mentors and changemakers.

Our African Canadian Cultural Experience initiative provides our students of African descent, regardless of their country of origin or birth, opportunities to connect with peers and adult-mentors to explore pathways, potential, and possibilities. Students are challenged to create and to articulate goals, to share experiences and to see themselves of agents of change in their own lives and in the lives of others.

The group, Dare to Dream CommUNITY, was created in order for our newcomer females to develop friendships and voices. The girls attend mental wellness programming, aikido classes, drama as a second language workshops and leadership camps.

GLOW is a program that was created after many of our international students expressed feelings of alienation and disconnect with the school community. In response, we created a credit course that partners Canadian students with international students. Rather than complete formal tests, students are challenged to participate in project-based inquiries focused on improving school culture and cultural understandings.

In addition, our school celebrates its thriving Gay Straight Alliance. Last year we hosted a board-wide GSA conference during which we celebrated our unique authentic selves alongside local celebrities and one another.

At Catholic Central, we are always searching for new and creative opportunities for every student and every member of our school community to celebrate one another. We are proud to share our educational journey as part of the Harmony Awards Gala.

 

Danielle Desjardins-Koloff is passionate about finding opportunities to connect youth to community supports and experiences. She is concerned with the promotion of education surrounding equity, diversity, and social justice in her school, in her community, and within the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board.  She has also worked provincially on projects and initiatives that support the well-being of LGBTIQ students in Catholic schools. 

Michelle Coutinho

2018: Michelle Coutinho

2018 Mary A. Samuel Harmony Leadership in Education Award

Michelle Coutinho

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

By Bruce Campbell and Max Vecchiarino

Michelle is all about compassion, respect and dignity. But she does not shy away from necessary, courageous conversations in her drive to help us all better understand and embrace the empathy.

Michelle is gentle yet unrelenting and elegantly forceful — keenly aware of what it means to a leader in the beautifully diverse society to which we all belong. As a member of the Policy, Strategy and Global Learning Department, Michelle expands the significance and impact of the equity education, working tirelessly and collaboratively with all stakeholders as a catalyst for positive change.

Every day, Michelle challenges us to reject the status quo and to display courage in our decision making. She implores us to dig deeper in order to fully understand the root causes of inequity so that we can grow as staff and as a system.

Michelle’s relentless positive energy, infectious enthusiasm, and her strategic approach to breaking down societal and institutional barriers to inclusion make our board a more welcoming and inclusive place to learn and to work.

Bruce Campbell is General Manager of Communications & Community Relations and Max Vecchiarino is Superintendent of Police, Strategy & Global Learning at Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board.

David Walls

2018: David Walls

2018 Harmony Educator Award

David Walls

Windsor-Essex Catholic School Board

By Jason Georges

David Walls is one of Catholic Central High School’s best educators — in no small part because of his passion for teaching, coaching, and student equity. These traits have become the hallmark of his educational credo, and they have defined him as a person.

Catholic Central High School is an exceedingly diverse school, one where more than 70 per cent of students are English Language Learners. David has taught our students to value every teammate, and he has promoted the ideas of shared respect, shared goals and shared love for all citizens. He is the embodiment of the Canadian Spirit.

As an educator, David is able to lead daring discussions that help youth critically navigate their lives as teens and consumers. In addition, he encourages students to not only explore but celebrate their heritage and cultures, to learn about themselves and proudly share their identity with others.

David has been an exemplary educator, and a man whose convictions, beliefs and moral strength has provided many at our school the power to overcome ignorance, bias, and fear. The impact that he has on his students cannot be overstated, and the Catholic Central community is stronger and more unified because of him.

 

Jason Georges is Vice Principal at Catholic Central High School and an educator with over 20 years’ experience with the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board as an educator, mentor, and Student Success Teacher.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau Equity Council

2018: Pierre Elliott Trudeau Equity Council

2018: Harmony Social Changemakers Award

Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School Equity Council

By Evaan Shetye and Rachel Kwok

The Equity Council is an intersectional collaboration of student leaders in grades 9 to 12 from a range of social justice groups. Members represent the Muslim Students Association, Trudeau Pride, the African-Canadian Students Association, and Circle of Friends, among other equity-focused clubs.

Over the past year, the Council has undertaken a variety of projects — from facilitating discussions between police and students to leading critical explorations of Indigenous history and Reconciliation. During the spring of 2018, the Council delivered equity-related workshops on LGBTQ+ inclusion, Reconciliation, and anti-racism and ableism to elementary schools throughout region.

To ensure student representation within the community, the Equity Council has hosted a series of Town Hall meetings to address hate speech and work toward inclusion. In addition, members have met with the school’s administrative team to present student concerns and work towards creating sustainable solutions collaboratively.

This year, the Equity Council delivered workshops to all Grade 9 students on the first day of school. In addition, they have been actively involved in the creation of an equitable dress code for all students.

Evaan Shetye is a Grade 12 student at Pierre Elliot Trudeau High School and member of Trudeau Pride. Rachel Kwok is a Grade 10 student and member of Circle of Friends, a club for students with physical and developmental differences.

Mandi Gray

2018: Mandi Gray

2018 Harmony Award

Mandi Gray

By Kelly Showker

In activist and feminist communities, we often hear the bromide “the personal is political”, but few embody this phrase to the benefit of others as boldly as Mandi Gray.
I met Mandi in late 2015, a month before she was scheduled to begin testifying in a sexual assault trial. What I saw in the following months and learned from Mandi appalled and saddened me — it also made me realize how brave Mandi truly is.

When her university refused to act following the arrest of her colleague for sexually assaulting her, she marched across campus with a sign saying “Rape Survivor”, demanding the university take her seriously. Mandi and her colleagues formed the campus-based group Silence is Violence in order to fight for justice and battle institutional resistance to responding to sexual violence. Multiple branches of Silence is Violence formed, opened by survivors at different universities.

Later that year, she filed a human rights complaint against York University for systemic gender discrimination. Her complaint resulted in the university partnering with a sexual assault centre to provide free counselling services to all university campus members who had experienced sexual violence.

During the criminal trial and the ongoing human rights complaint, Mandi allowed us into her life. As we filmed with lawyers, therapists, experts, a sexual assault evidence kit nurse and others, I saw Mandi’s dedication to helping victims of assault. Even with strangers making hateful threats, she stayed focused on the goal of eradicating institutional rape culture and supporting survivors.

The documentary, Slut or Nut: The Diary of a Rape Trial, premiered at Hot Docs and has now screened at universities in nearly every province in Canada. The film explains how the legal system handles sexual assault and urges society to re-examine beliefs around rape culture. Mandi tours with the film, speaking to groups of students, educating the public, and working with activists to provide resources for women reporting sexual assault. She also attends trials to support victims and works with student groups.

By organizing and speaking publicly, by using legal tools to force change, and by engaging with the media, Mandi has created a new paradigm for survivors of sexual assault — one that is not broken or meek but is powerful and persuasive, unafraid to demand justice — one that is no longer a victim, but a victor.

Kelly Showker is a documentary filmmaker and public speaker focused on the impacts of gender-based violence.