Unit 1 Human Rights

Overview Why are Human Rights Important?

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Ask yourself:

  • What are human rights? Why are they necessary?
  • How do we make them a reality in our world today?
Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors

Did You Know?

  • Thomas Jefferson wrote 82 drafts before the Declaration of Independence was published.
  • The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was written largely by the Marquis de Lafayette, a veteran of the American War of Independence and a friend of Thomas Jefferson (who may have helped him write the French Declaration).
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) has been translated into over 400 different languages and is the most translated document ever, according to the Guinness Book of Records.
  • The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms influenced the South African Bill of Rights written into its constitution following the end of the apartheid era.
Professor Irwin Cotler

Former Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada - Interview on Human Rights

Action 1

Do 

Quiz to test your knowledge:
Match the excerpts with the documents by putting the number on the line
Excerpts from the documents:MatchDocuments
Match the excerpts with the documents by putting the number on the line
Excerpts from the documents: Match Documents

A. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

_____

1. Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982

B. Men are born free and remain free and equal in rights….These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression

_____

2. American Declaration of Independence, 1776

C. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood

_____

3. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, France, 1789

D. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

  • freedom of conscience and religion;
  • freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression;
  • freedom of peaceful assembly; and
  • freedom of association
_____

4. American Declaration of Independence, 1776

Action 2

iSearch 

John Peters Humphrey
  • Which of the human rights documents is connected to the work of Canadian legal scholar John Peters Humphrey? (Answers are at the end of the overview.)

What Are Human Rights?

According to the United Nations “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.”
Source: www.ohchr.org

Universal Declaration of Human Rights - http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

  1. We Are All Born Free and Equal
  2. Don’t Discriminate
  3. The Right to Life
  4. No Slavery
  5. No Torture
  6. You Have Rights No Matter Where You Go
  7. We’re All Equal Before the Law
  8. Your Human Rights Are Protected by Law
  9. No Unfair Detainment
  10. The Right to Trial
  11. We’re Always Innocent Till Proven Guilty 
  12. The Right to Privacy
  13. Freedom to Move
  14. The Right to Seek a Safe Place to Live
  15. Right to a Nationality
  16. Marriage and Family
  17. The Right to Your Own Things
  18. Freedom of Thought
  19. Freedom of Expression
  20. The Right to Public Assembly
  21. The Right to Democracy
  22. Social Security
  23. Workers’ Rights
  24. The Right to Play
  25. Food and Shelter for All
  26. The Right to Education
  27. Copyright
  28. A Fair and Free World
  29. Responsibility
  30. No One Can Take Away Your Human Rights

Think 

As you explore the cases here are some additional questions to ask yourself:
  • Which of the 30 UDHR human rights are accepted? Which are denied?
  • Can Canada be proud of its human rights record?

Action 3

Think 

Historical Graph: Timeline with Attitude!

We often construct graphs exploring the relationships between price and demand in economics and sets of demographic data in geography.

Historical graphs add a dimension to traditional timelines by helping us explore the nature of significance and chronology (change over time) in rigorous and meaningful ways. We can see patterns over time and recognize that history is not an unbroken line of progress.

Historical graphs push us to construct meaning from the graph through making connections between the abstract nature of data and the people and events that lay behind it.

Do 

Procedure for Building a Timeline Graph

Begin with a blank 8 1/2” x 11” or 11” x 14” paper.
The horizontal axis usually represents an element of chronology such as: decisions by a leader or a group, or a series of events around a common theme (e.g. strikes, inventions, diary entries or public speeches by an historical figure).

The vertical axis represents some comparative criteria such as:

  • unimportant—very important
  • more push factor—more pull factor
  • good example—poor example
  • strongest influence—weakest influence
  • more or fewer examples
  • more welcoming—less welcoming.
Timeline Graph

Place the events or a number corresponding to each event on the graph depending on their assessment of the degree to which the event, quote, feeling, decision, etc., meet the vertical axis criteria.

In this unit, the vertical axis represents a continuum towards the achievement of human rights. The horizontal axis can represent key dates relevant to the cases studied.

After the graphs have been constructed, discussed and defended, you can write position papers on critical questions such as:

  • Has the struggle for human rights been a steady smooth one?
  • What is the trend in the past century / millennium / recorded history in the recognition of human rights?
  • How do you account for the trends you have determined in the struggle for universal human rights?
Extensions and Resources

In chronological order the horizontal axis has many options. The significance of historical figures in the struggle for human rights (world history).

The examples below are political/military but we could substitute philosophers, writers, or artists from Confucius to Mary Wollstonecraft.

Historical graph for major figures

Here is a hypothetical example of an historical graph for major figures in the history of human rights

Timeline Graph 2

If you join the lines you see that progress is not smooth.

Other places for using historical graphs include:

  • A chronology of Supreme Court decisions (American history) or cases in Canadian law (Canadian history).
  • Key documents in world history such as Magna Carta and the Petition of Rights in England or the Edict of Nantes in France.
  • A clipping thesis of events over a period of two weeks to one month. In this case there could be several graphs representing economic rights, religious rights, or any of the 30 rights identified in the United Nations’ UDHR.

And for some terms such as “Genocide” a graph such as the one below would generate much discussion.

Timeline Graph 3

www.youthforhumanrights.org introduces you to a world of resources and ideas for teaching human rights, using the UDHR as the standard. The kit, including poster, DVD, lesson guides, student books, and more are free for teachers.

A more detailed and academic treatment of the development of human rights is Lynn Hunt’s Inventing Human Rights: A History. Published in 2007 by W.W. Norton. It looks at the context and implications of the creation of the Declaration of Independence, Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Action 4

iSearch 

Learn about your province’s Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Laws

CANADIAN PROVINCIAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONS

Canadian Legal Information Institute

Search and examine human rights laws and legislation in this free website: Canadian Legal Information Institute. www.canlii.org
To browse the site:

  1. Enter “human rights” in the first field called “Document text”
  2. Choose a province or Canada (Federal) under Jurisdiction on the left
  3. Results will show from the Supreme Court of Canada. Click on each one that is relevant or useful to you. You can choose by All, Cases, Legislation or Commentary (top listing under the empty fields)

Answers to the quiz:
A- 2, B-3, C-4, D-1 
John Peters Humphrey wrote the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Unit 1 Human Rights

Chapter 1 Examining the Holocaust

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Ask yourself:

  • Why are personal stories so valuable in considering and reconsidering history?
  • Should we continue to search for leaders involved in past “crimes against humanity”?

This chapter examines the Holocaust through a survivor’s story retold by a close relative. The horror of this historical crime is revealed as we encounter the events in the life of Evie Abeles. This is followed by a timeline of the events leading up to the Holocaust, and a summary of the Jewish population in the countries involved in the Holocaust.

Max Eisen – Holocaust survivor

This really happened!

The Story of Evie Abeles

by Joan O'Callaghan

Young, blonde, Jewish girl with yellow star on her chest stands before a few piles of wheat. enlarge image

Evie Abeles
Permission: from author

The china cabinet in my dining room houses a collection of delicate little dishes. Made of porcelain and hand-painted with colorful scenes reminiscent of fairy tales and the innocence of childhood, they are intended to be used by little girls hosting tea parties for dolls and for friends. The dishes come from Bohemia, where they were made, probably in the 1920s or 1930s.

A photograph of the owner of the dishes sits nearby. It is an old photograph, taken in 1939. She is a pretty little girl, twelve years of age. Her hair, the color and texture of corn silk, is pulled back from her forehead, and cut evenly below the ears. She is squinting a little into the sun. But there is something unusual about the photograph, a note which jars the senses. It is the dress she is wearing. An ordinary dress in every respect—except for the large Star of David stitched on the front.

Her name was Evie and she was Jewish. In the Czechoslovakia of 1939, there was no place for little girls with corn silk hair and hand-painted dolls' dishes, if they happened to be Jewish. Evie is dead. Branded by the insignia on her little dress, she was rounded up, along with her parents, and taken to Auschwitz, where she died. Evie was my first cousin, but I never knew her. She died before I was born. I don't know exactly when she died, or how. But I do know where she died. And why.

Rumors of Nazi war criminals and collaborators hiding out in Canada and living the good life here have abounded for years. Finally now the Canadian government has decided to move on some of these people and has stripped them of their Canadian citizenship. They will be shipped back to their countries of origin to confront their own pasts. Old sick men. Outraged family and neighbors. Leave them in peace. "What does it matter what happened seventy years ago?" is the indignant question posed by letters to the editor in newspapers across the country. “He’s not going anywhere,” Helmut Oberlander’s lawyer, Eric Hafemann huffed to the media.

There is a certain irony and double standard to these protests.

Here in Toronto, citizens are reeling after two weeks of violence. Torontonians were shocked by the cold-blooded murder of 15-year-old Jordan Manners in the hallway of C. W. Jeffreys High School and are calling for better security and other measures in our schools to prevent a repeat of this tragedy. When they turned on the news at night they saw footage of the trial of Daniel Sylvester, convicted of murdering his neighbour Alicia Ross because she called him a loser. Young people, both of them, Alicia Ross and Jordan Manners, with dreams and aspirations for a life they would never live.

Tragedies that outrage any human being with a sense of decency. The citizens of Toronto are right to take the Manners shooting and Sylvester trial to heart and to insist that justice be vigorously pursued. But trials and convictions will not bring back Jordan or Alicia, so vengeance can hardly be a factor in bringing their killers to trial. Then why bother?

Should we bother pursuing the murderer of Jordan Manners, and at the same time continue to cast a blind eye on those same old sick men, who for seventy years have succeeded in concealing their pasts and living the good life that Canada has to offer? The answer must be a resounding “yes”. We have an obligation to pursue the sick old men with the same vigor that we pursue the murderers of Jordan Manners and Alicia Ross.

Not because bringing them to justice will miraculously restore Evie and the other six million victims to life; or even from a sense of carefully nurtured vengeance. Not at all. We do this in the name of the kind of society that we as Canadians are trying to create, for ourselves, and more importantly, for our children.

Canadians want a society that is safe, decent, and just. But for whom? For some people and not for others? Is our society to be a twist on Orwell's Animal Farm, where some are held accountable but not others?

Is it right and proper to bring Daniel Sylvester to trial, but not to deport Nazi war criminals whose records bespeak deception and complicity in those heinous events? Is it right and proper to bring a suspect to trial for crimes committed three years ago, but if a suspect has succeeded in eluding justice for seventy years, should he be rewarded by being left in peace? Is a murder committed in Toronto more of a murder than a murder committed in a hell called Auschwitz many thousands of miles away? Is it acceptable to sit in the House of Commons and pass laws for the good government of this country, but apply them to some people and not others?

In other words, is justice some sort of a sliding scale or is it a constant? Our complacency; our distaste for making a fuss; our lace-curtain gentility and well-bred antisemitism are now being brought home to us in more ways than one.

The proliferation of racist incidents and the glorification of violence have forced schools to move these issues to the top of their agendas. This is a sad comment on our society. If racial tolerance and appropriate behaviors were taught in the home, it would not be necessary to address them in schools. But children learn from the example set by their parents.

Right wing groups, white supremacists, and Holocaust deniers have read the Canadian psyche very well. That is why they are flourishing here. They know full well that there is a significant number of Canadians who do not want these issues examined, because it might mean revelations that are unpleasant for themselves, their friends and families. And this poses a significant danger to us all.

And that is why we must pursue these sick old men. We need to wipe the slate clean for our children. We need to set an example for them. How hypocritical to teach tolerance in schools, but to turn around and let the sick old men off the hook, for no other reason than that they have succeeded in deceiving their neighbors for seventy glorious years!! We need to show our youth by our own actions that murder is not a sliding scale, that a truly just society continues to pursue and expose those who have blood on their hands, however well-hidden, regardless of where those crimes took place, and when. There are no rewards for deception or for longevity.

I have no pity for the sick old men. These same old men were once young men, strong, cruel, and unprincipled. They took advantage of their youth and strength to victimize the weak ones among them, the minorities, those who didn't "belong." They have lived long, full lives, here in Canada. But the piper must now be paid, and the past has to be confronted.

Had Evie lived, she would be in her seventies. Perhaps she would even now be watching her own grandchildren staging tea parties with the little hand-painted dishes. But Evie lies somewhere in Poland, in an unmarked grave with thousands of others like her. Her little dishes and a faded photograph are her only legacy.

Action 1  

Do

When a child’s life is cut short
  • No one knows where Evie’s body or ashes are buried. Given what you know about her, write a poem or an obituary, celebrating her short life and commemorating her death.
  • Are there children elsewhere in the world whose lives are at risk not because of what they’ve done, but because of who or what they are? Suggest steps that can be taken to ensure that these children do not meet the same fate as Evie.

Discuss  

Prosecution of Nazi war criminals
  • O’Callaghan maintains that Nazi war criminals should be deported and prosecuted for their crimes, regardless of their age and health, or how many years they have lived in Canada. Do you agree with her?

Do  

Can we create a just and moral society?
  • Use words, phrases and graphics clipped from magazines to create a collage depicting the kind of society you think Canada should have. Write a paragraph to explain to what extent you think we have achieved this and what areas we still need to work on.
  • Whose responsibility is it to inculcate the values of a just and a moral society: school? Home? Place of worship? Some combination of these? Write a paragraph explaining your thoughts.

History of the Holocaust - Timeline

YearEvents in History
Year Events in History
1933

The Nazi party takes power in Germany. Adolf Hitler becomes chancellor, or prime minister of Germany. Nazis 'temporarily' suspend civil liberties. The Nazis set up the first concentration camp at Dachau. The first inmates are 200 Communists. Books with ideas considered dangerous to Nazi beliefs are burned.

1934

Hitler combines the positions of chancellor and president to become “Fuhrer” or leader of Germany. Jewish newspapers can no longer be sold in the streets.

1935

Jews are deprived of their citizenship and other basic rights. The Nazis intensify the persecution of political people who do not agree with their philosophy.

1936

Nazis boycott Jewish-owned business. The Olympic Games are held in Germany; signs barring Jews are removed until the event is over. Jews no longer have the right to vote.

1938

German troops annex Austria. On Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” Nazis terrorize Jews throughout Germany and Austria - 30,000 Jews are arrested. Books with ideas considered dangerous to Nazi beliefs are burned. Jews must carry ID cards and Jewish passports are marked with a "J." Jews no longer head businesses, attend plays, concerts, etc.; Books with ideas considered dangerous to Nazi beliefs are burned. All Jewish children are moved to Jewish schools. Jewish businesses are shut down; they must sell businesses and hand over securities and jewels. Jews must hand over drivers’ licenses and car registrations. Jews must be in certain places at certain times.

1939

Germany takes over Czechoslovakia and invades Poland. World War II begins as Britain and France declare war on Germany. Hitler orders that Jews must follow curfews; Jews must turn in radios to the police; Jews must wear yellow stars of David.

1940

Nazis begin deporting German Jews to Poland. Jews are forced into ghettos. Nazis begin the first mass murder of Jews in Poland. Jews are put into concentration camps.

1941

Germany attacks the Soviet Union. Jews throughout Western Europe are forced into ghettos. Jews may not leave their houses without permission form the police. Jews may no longer use public telephones.

1942

Nazi officials determine the “Final Solution”—their plan to kill all European Jews—with the government officials. Jews are forbidden to: subscribe to newspapers; keep dogs, cats, birds, etc.; keep electrical equipment including typewriters; own bicycles; buy meat, eggs, or milk; use public transportation; attend school.

1943

February: About 80 to 85 percent of the Jews who would die in the Holocaust have already been murdered.

1944

Hitler takes over Hungary and begins deporting 12,000 Hungarian Jews each day to Auschwitz where they are murdered.

1945

Hitler is defeated and World War II ends in Europe. The Holocaust is over and the death camps are emptied. Many survivors are placed in displaced persons’ facilities.

 

Action 2

Do

Living Graph template
Living Graph

Look at the events of each year in the timeline. Place a dot on the above graph to represent the level of intolerance displayed. Link the dots to form a line graph.

Action 3

Do

Living Graph in your perspective

For each year displayed in the timeline, look at an event from around the world related to the theme of intolerance. Construct a living graph to compare levels of intolerance towards minority groups (Aboriginals, Blacks, Jews, etc.,) to the levels displayed towards Jews in Germany during the Nazi period. Can the rest of the world be proud or ashamed of this record during this period?

 

Action 4

Discuss

Thinking consequences

The timeline above concludes with the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Was this creation a direct result of the Holocaust or were there other reasons as well?

Action 5

Think

Thinking in time and place

This is a list of the countries where Jews were living and therefore targeted during the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942. The conference was for the organization and implementation of the “Final Solution”. This document is taken from the book Nazism, edited by Noakes and Pridham. The book indicates that this list was included in the official minutes of the meeting, page 537.

Also look at: www.aish.com

JEWISH PEOPLE
Country—ListedPopulation
Altreich [Germany pre-1938] 131,800
Ostmark [Austria] 43,700
Eastern territories [incorporated from Poland] 420,000
General Government [also in Poland] 2,284,000
Bialystok [White Russia] 400,000
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia 74,200
ESTONIA—Free of Jews
Latvia 3,500
Lithuania 34,000
Belgium 43,000
Denmark 5,600
France: occupied territory 165,000
            unoccupied territory 700,000
Greece 69,600
The Netherlands 160,000
Norway 1,300
Bulgaria 48,000
England 330,000
Finland 2,300
Ireland 4,000
Italy including Sardinia 58,000
Albania 200
Croatia 40,000
Portugal 3,000
Romania including Bessarabia 342,000
Sweden 8,000
Switzerland 18,000
Serbia 10,000
Slovakia 88,000
Spain 6,000
Turkey (European part) 55,500
Hungary 742,800
USSR 5,000,000
Ukraine 2,994,684
White Russia excluding Bialystok 446,484
Total Over 11,000,000

Recommended reading

Arato, Rona The Last Train, 2013
The true story of the Auslander family who, along with thousands of other Jews were trapped on a freight train in the middle of Germany, awaiting their ends at the hands of the Nazis.

Bennett, Cherie and Jeff Gottesfield Anne Frank and Me, 2002
Nicole Burns believes the Holocaust is ancient history and doesn’t grasp why she needs to learn about the period. Through time-travel, the young girl finds herself a privileged daughter in a Jewish family living in Nazi-occupied Paris during World War II.

Birnie, Lisa In Mania’s Memory, 2012
This novel is about the memories of a German woman caught up in the lunacy of the Third Reich in 1938. The author describes the relationship between the young teenager and a SS guard who looks out for her and gives her hope that she will survive.

Boyne, John The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, 2006
The novel is told from the point of view of a young boy, Bruno, who moves with his family to a place called “Out-With” (Auschwitz). When Bruno goes exploring, he meets Shmuel, a Polish Jewish boy who feels the first-hand suffering of life in a concentration camp.

Corell, Dana Fitzwater.My Mother’s Ring: A Holocaust historical novel, 2013
The Mathausen camp is brought to vivid detail as one survivor recalls the pain of subsistence in this story about a mother and seventeen year old son.

de Rosnay, Tatiana Sarah’s Key, 2008
A ten year-old girl is brutally arrested with her family by the French police, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in her family’s apartment, thinking she will be returning in a few hours.

Feldman, Ellen The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank: a novel, 2006
Peter van Pels and Anne Frank shared an awkward first love in the annex where they were hiding. In this novel, Peter attempts to bury his past, denying his persecution in the Holocaust and his identity as a Jew.

Gallaz, Christophe; Illus. Robert Innocenti. Rose Blanche, 1985
A young German girl watches the streets of her town fill with soldiers and tanks.

Spinelli, Jerry Milkweed, 2003
When Misha, a young Polish boy is taken in by a group of Jewish group of orphans, he must avoid the German troops while living in the streets

Voorhoeve, Anne. C. My Family for the War, 2012
Escaping Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport changes one’s girl’s life forever.

Watts, Irene N. Touched by Fire, 2013
A Jewish family escapes a pogram and moves to Berlin where they plan to eventually sail to America.

Zusak, Markus  The Book Thief, 2006
Death is the narrator of the story of a young foster girl named Liesel living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. When Liesel learns to read, she shares the books she has stolen from Nazi book burnings with her neighbours as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

Action 6

Do

March of the Living

http://marchoftheliving.org
Be a witness. See for yourself. Go on a group program that tours Polish cities, towns and villages, and visit concentration camps. Then tour Israel to see exciting destinations and ancient spots around the country. Canadian high school students can join thousands of people from around the world for an experience that will last a lifetime.
http://marchoftheliving.org/high-school/

12 Goals of the March of the Living
  1. To remember those who perished and to be a witness, thus denying Hitler a “posthumous victory.”
  2. To pay tribute to the courage of those who survived the Holocaust – who rebuilt their lives despite the haunting memories of the past – to be the bearers of their memories, the witnesses for the witnesses.
  3. To recognize and learn from the altruistic actions of the “righteous among the nations”, who teach us to never be a bystander in the face of oppression.
  4. To honor the heroic veterans of WWII who fought to liberate Europe from the hands of Nazi tyranny.
  5. To never again allow for the unchecked rise of the menace of antisemitism.
  6. To never again allow any kind of racial discrimination directed by any individual or group against another to gain strength. Though Jews have been primarily the victims of racism, this goal also relates to racism expressed by Jews towards others, emphasizing that all human beings are created btselem elohim (in the image of G-d), and deserve equal dignity and respect.
  7. To inspire participants to commit to building a world free of oppression and intolerance, a world of freedom, democracy and justice, for all members of the human family.
  8. To bolster the Jewish identity of the next generation by acquainting them with the rich Jewish heritage that existed in pre-war Eastern Europe. Included in this goal is a commitment to living our Jewish lives today in a way that reflects the diverse values and traditions of pre-war European Jewry.
  9. To understand the importance of the existence of Israel:
    • as the spiritual center and homeland of the Jewish people.
    • through the lesson that Jews will never again allow themselves to be defenseless.
    • by developing a love for the people of Israel and an appreciation of the hardships and sacrifice endured by her citizens on behalf of Israel.
    • through the understanding of the concept of Meshoah Le’tkumah (from destruction to rebirth). Despite the devastation of the Holocaust, the Jewish people never gave up their belief in building a better tomorrow. Rather they rose up, against all odds and established the State of Israel—the hope and future of the Jewish people.
  10. Jewish Unity – To instill in students a love for Am Yisrael, an appreciation for and connection to, the Jewish people in every land, throughout the ages and in contemporary times.
  11. Tikkun Olam – To remind the students of the Jewish peoples’ responsibility to be a Maor Lagoyim, a light unto the nations, by reaching to people of other faiths and cultures, and by mending our too often shattered world, through providing our help and assistance to those most in need.
  12. The final goal is not so much to learn from or about history – but to enter into history. By visiting Eastern Europe, young Jewish students are taking part in a commemorative act, which demonstrates to the world that the death of six million of our people has been marked and will never be forgotten by the Jewish people.

Copyright March of the Living Canada 2011-2012

Do

A New Generation of Witnesses

Few Holocaust Survivors are still living and soon there will be none left to give first-hand accounts. What can you do to preserve their memories?

Read the book “Witness - Passing the Torch of Holocaust Memory to New Generations.”

Cover of the interactive book Witness – Passing the Torch of Holocaust Memory to New Generations enlarge image
Witness - Passing the Torch of Holocaust Memory to New Generations

Compiled by Eli Rubenstein
Contributor - March of the Living
Published by Second Story Press. Sept 8 2015

Interactive Book

Unit 1 Human Rights

Chapter 2 Aboriginal/Indigenous Experience

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Ask yourself:

  • To what extent has Canada, as a nation, fulfilled our Human Rights obligations to our Indigenous Peoples?
  • To what extent are our obligations being fulfilled at this time?
  • What actions are our Indigenous Peoples taking to improve their own access to Human Rights?
  • Why did the government of Canada decide to remove children of First Nations, Métis and Inuit families and force them to live in Residential Schools?
Residential School System - Warren Burton Green

The Gordon Residential School in Saskatchewan, the last federally run facility, closed in Nobember 1996.

Definitions

The terminology used in Canada to refer to Aboriginal Peoples has been evolving in Canada. First, the collective noun Aboriginal People became popular when referring to First Nations, Inuit and Métis and was widely adopted by government and many national groups. In 1982, this distinction was made legal in the Constitution Act. Section 35 (2) of the Act states:

In this Act, "aboriginal peoples of Canada" includes the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.

Aboriginal Peoples was a fresh step although there was resistance to its usage from some groups, as discussed in “Indigenous vs. Aboriginal”.

At the present time, the federal government has moved to embrace the word Indigenous and all of its legal ramifications. By recognizing First Nations, Inuit and Metis as Indigenous Peoples, the government is acknowledging their internationally legal right to offer or withhold consent to development under the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada endorsed this declaration with conditions under then Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Not all Canadian provinces are currently replacing the word Aboriginal with Indigenous and it is still in use in our Constitution.

In Canada we have three broader groups of Indigenous peoples:

The First Nations, made up of over 630 distinct bands with the majority living in Ontario and British Columbia

The Inuit who inhabit the northern regions of Canada

The Métis, who are descendants of the first children of Indians and Europeans. Alberta has the largest Métis population.

Consider the reasons Canadian settlers of European descent thought Residential Schools were a good idea. Take a look at the cultural, religious and economic motivation of European Canadians at that time.

Aboriginal Peoples refers to those Indigenous people who populated land before the arrival of colonists who dominated them over time. Today there are about 370 million Aboriginal Peoples distributed across 70 countries. In almost all these situations the Aboriginal populations suffer from lack of representation in government, poverty, poor access to social services, and discrimination.

If you are interested in learning more about this terminology, here's a free ebook: Indigenous Peoples: A Guide to Terminology

Action 1

Discuss 

Stop and think!

How are the lives of Indigenous Peoples across the world affected by each of the following?

Are these stereotypes about Indigenous Peoples true?

Lack of Representation in Government

 

Generational Poverty

 

Lack of Access to Social Services

 

Discrimination

 

FIRST NATIONS ACCESS TO HUMAN RIGHTS IN CANADA TODAY

In October 2013, the United Nations sent Investigator James Anaya to find out conditions of Aboriginal human rights in Canada. Anaya said one in five indigenous Canadians live in dilapidated and often overcrowded homes and “funding for Aboriginal housing is woefully inadequate.” He said the suicide rate among Inuit and First Nations youth living on reserve is more than five times greater than that of other Canadians. One community Anaya visited had suffered a suicide every six weeks since the start of the year. Anaya said such problems persist even though Canada was one of the first countries to extend constitutional protection to the rights of Indigenous People, has taken notable steps to repair the legacy of past injustices and has developed processes for land claims “that in many respects are models for the world to emulate.” Anaya, who is planning to present a full report to the UN Human Rights Council, had several recommendations for Canada's government. He encouraged the government “to take a less adversarial” approach to land claim settlements “in which it typically seeks the most restrictive interpretation of aboriginal and treaty rights possible.”
(Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this story)

Aboriginal Youth Group Discussion
Considering Stereotypes

We hear stereotypes about groups of people all the time. “This group is good at something. This group never does anything.” Stereotypes are used to categorize a group of people. A stereotype is a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group. It represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment of another group.

Action 2

Do 

Stereotypes and You

Considering stereotypes about Indigenous or Aboriginal Peoples. (In Canada, Indigenous Peoples are those who are First Nation, Inuit or Métis). This activity will help you to consider stereotypes that you may have heard about Aboriginal cultures.

To begin, work independently to list five stereotypes that you think people have about Aboriginal peoples. Then, turn to a partner and compare lists. Write each item on a post-it note. Discuss with your partner which items were the most damaging and which were the least damaging. Next, work in groups of four. Arrange the post-it notes that have been offered and place them on a continuum on chart paper, using the following three headings.

NEGATIVENEUTRALPOSITIVE
NEGATIVE NEUTRALPOSITIVE POSITIVE

 

 

 

Discuss 

As a group, discuss:
  • Which stereotypes were easy to place on the continuum?
  • Which stereotypes could be placed in more than one section (or between sections)?
  • Is it possible for a stereotype to be neutral? Positive?
  • If you yourself do not identify as an Indigenous person, consider how an Indigenous person might feel about these stereotypes.
  • Where do our stereotypes come from?
  • How can stereotyping be harmful?

Action 3

Do 

Wab Kinew
Gently smiling at the camera in front of a dark backdrop, Aboriginal musician Wab Kinew poses for a contemporary portrait photo. enlarge image
Wab Kinew

First Nations Canadian politician, musician, broadcaster and educator

Source: Rant by Wab Kinew http://bit.ly/wabkinewrant

Wab Kinew (pronounced: WOB ka-NOO and full name Wabanakwut Kinew) has been Leader of the Manitoba New Democratic Party and Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba since September 2017. He is also an award-winning Canadian musician, broadcaster and educator, best known as a host of programming on CBC Radio and Television. He hosted the acclaimed CBC Television series “8th Fire”. His hip-hop has won an Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Award. He earned a BA in Economics from the University of Manitoba and is a member of the Midewin.

Wab Kinew’s Soapbox on YouTube was first shown on George Strombolopolus Tonight. His words may help people realize that the many stereotypes they hear about First Nations simply aren’t true.

Combating Stereotypes: Wab Kinew’s Soapbox on YouTube

For this activity you will have a chance to watch this YouTube Soapbox by Wab Kinew and consider some counter-arguments to existing common stereotypes about Indigenous Peoples. Following the viewing, work with a classmate to complete the following chart:

StereotypeCounterargument
Stereotype Counter argument
Alcohol  
Indigenous Peoples should get over the past  
All Indigenous Peoples have long hair: Many people think all Indigenous Peoples should look or should not look like the stereotype.  
Indigenous Peoples are getting too much Federal money  
Indigenous Peoples are getting a free ride  

Action 4

Do 

A Personal Response to Stereotypes

Are these stereotypes about Aboriginals true?

StereotypeCounterargument
Stereotype Counterargument
Alcohol Alcohol addiction is a problem for everyone not just Indigenous Peoples. Poverty is the real problem. Poor people who suffer from this addiction do not have as many socially acceptable places to hide.
Indigenous Peoples should get over the past There is an important difference between moving on and forgetting and moving on with healing and restitution.
All Indigenous Peoples have long hair: Many people think all Aboriginal people should look or should not look like the stereotype His argument is that Indigenous Peoples are diverse and their diversity needs to be acknowledged. Indigenous Peoples have the same right to look the way they want to look that the rest of society has.
Indigenous Peoples are getting too much Federal money Indigenous Peoples don’t get as much per-capita Federal funding as the rest of Canada.
Indigenous Peoples are getting a free ride The stereotype is that Indigenous Peoples don’t pay taxes. Indigenous Peoples do pay taxes. Not only that, but they are waiting to receive what was promised to them by the treaties from 140 years ago.

A. What suggestions might you make to your school for dealing with the stereotyping of Indigenous Peoples?

B. A written reflection. You will have a chance to record your feelings in response to Wab Kinew’s Soapbox. The following questions can be used to guide your reflection:

  • As you watched and listened to this rant, how did you feel? What did you wonder about?
  • Do you agree that these are ‘the five things Canadians have to stop saying about Indigenous Peoples’?
  • For a counterargument to be convincing it should be consistent with evidence. To what degree are Kinew’s counterarguments to each stereotype convincing?
  • What do you think are significant consequences of these stereotypes for the everyday lives of Indigenous Peoples?
  • What impact do these stereotypes have on the creation of policies involving Indigenous Peoples?

A Brief History of Residential Schools: 1880s - 1996

Aboriginal (Indigenous) peoples are the first people to arrive and settle a land. When European explorers and settlers arrived they found vast numbers of Aboriginal peoples who were living in a variety of ways similar to those found in Europe at that time. There were the vast empires of Peru, and Mayan city-states. In what we now call Canada there were confederacies such as the Five Nations, (the Iroquois or Haudenosaunne were part of that confederacy), chiefdoms like the Haida and Kwakiutl, and small band communities of mobile hunter/gatherers (the Huron or Wendat and the Cree).

This really happened!

Indigenous Peoples were destroyed by European diseases and the policies of the European immigrants. By the time that Canada had established itself as a Confederation in 1867, Aboriginal communities were greatly reduced in number and occupied only a tiny fraction of their ancestral lands. English and French immigrants took control of those lands and formed a government without the participation of the Indigenous Peoples. The Canadian government began to question what to do about Indigenous Peoples who were now considered a problem that needed attention.

Education and First Nations

One solution was to use schooling as a way to assimilate Aboriginal children into white Christian society. It was hoped that eventually all these peoples would be assimilated. This process would strip them of their culture, languages, heritage and spiritual beliefs.

The Indigenous Peoples of Canada were considered by many of European descent to be childlike and culturally inferior. The government believed that the best approach to this goal was to take children from their parents and immerse them in schools which taught the European/Canadian culture. In the 1800s, one Canadian politician summed up these beliefs when he said that the objective of the Residential School policy was to continue until there was not a single Indian left in Canada that has not been absorbed into the larger culture.

Residential schools were run by the Canadian Government in partnership with various religious groups. Anglican and Catholic churches as well as some Protestant churches became the administrators of the schools. Religious organizations believed that it was their duty to bring the First Nations children into their Christian faith in order to civilize them. Generally, children were taken from their parents around the age of four years and continued in the Residential Schools until the age of sixteen. They returned to their parents each summer for two months and were forbidden to speak their own language. Parents were fined or jailed if they did not send their children to these schools where often their education was substandard. Many schools focussed education on teaching tasks that would enable the children to do manual tasks to support other people’s businesses. Over 40% of the teachers in Residential Schools were not trained.

We know from those who attended Residential Schools that many lived in below standard conditions. The food was not nourishing and sometimes rotten. Children suffered physical abuse which some teachers believed was essential to civilize them. Many stories of sexual abuse in Residential Schools have been recorded.

Action 5

Think 

The Effect of Action

Further Considerations:

  • Why did the Government of Canada take First Nations, Métis and Inuit children from their parents to live in Residential Schools?
  • What was the impact of Residential Schools on the culture of First Nations?
  • What is the Canadian Government doing to address the effects of Residential Schools?

The Effect of Residential Schools on First Nations Culture

"When an Indian comes out of these places it is like being put between two walls in a room and left hanging in the middle. On one side are all the things he learned from his people and their way of life that was being wiped out, and on the other side are the white man’s ways which he could never fully understand since he never had the right amount of education and could not be a part of it. There he is, hanging, in the middle of two cultures: he is not a white man and he is not an Indian."
John Tootoosis, Cree leader and former student at the Demas (Thunderchild) Indian Residential School, Demas, Saskatchewan

Life in the Residential Schools impacted those children who lived in them in ways similar to the way Post Traumatic Stress Symptoms affects some combat soldiers. In most First Nations families, the impact of this trauma was passed on to the next generations. Children taken from their homes at an early age had no concept of family to pass on to their children. As adults, some developed a culture of alcoholism in an attempt to forget their experiences. Others so disliked their lives in Residential Schools that they would not encourage their children to pursue education. The long list of effects of physical and sexual abuse suffered by those who were victims of Residential Schools has led to multi-generational trauma. Many First Nation, Inuit and Métis are now developing systems to work with several generations of families. The survivors of Residential schools are being encouraged to tell their stories.

Political Response and Responsibility—
How the Government of Canada is addressing the effects of Residential Schools

The following quote is taken from the formal apology by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on behalf of the Government of Canada for the harm caused to many generations of First Nations, Métis and Inuit families by the Residential Schools, delivered in the House of Commons,June 11, 2008. The treatment of children in Indian Residential Schools is a sad chapter in our history.

"For more than a century, Indian Residential Schools separated over 150,000 Aboriginal children from their families and communities. In the 1870s, the federal government, partly in order to meet its obligation to educate Aboriginal children, began to play a role in the development and administration of these schools. Two primary objectives of the Residential Schools system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture. These objectives were based on the assumption Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, "to kill the Indian in the child". Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country."

In early 1998, 79,000 Residential School survivors sued the Canadian Government for compensation for their suffering in the Residential Schools. As a result of this action the government agreed to financial compensation for the survivors, and they also agreed to the establishment of The Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The mandate of this commission is to make sure that all Canadians are aware of the experiences of children in the Residential Schools and the impact of those experiences on the survivors, their families and future generations. The commission, supported by the Government, encourages survivors and their families to come forward and to tell their stories so they can be documented. The telling of the stories of survivors is seen as a part of the healing process for the victims but it also considered that Canada as a nation cannot move forward until these stories are documented.

"Prime Minister Steven Harper offered a full apology on behalf of Canadians for the Indian Residential Schools Statement:
Formal statement of Apology by Prime Minister Steven Harper on June 11, 2008.
Youtube video Apology.

In September 2013, the Indigenous communities held a ‘Walk Across Canada.’ This Residential School Reconciliation Walk ended a week-long Truth and Reconciliation Commission event. All people who love peace were encouraged to attend the march which hoped to help heal by gathering and sharing stories and to express a commitment to moving forward.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada completed its reports in 2015. Links have been provided to poignant documents like The Survivor Speaks. Here is an excerpt:

A Survivor is not just someone who “made it through” the schools, or just “got by” or was “making do.”A survivor is a person who persevered against and overcame adversity. It came to mean someone who could legitimately say “I am still here!” For that achievement, survivors deserve our highest respect.

The reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015 offer the following for public use:

Walk for Reconciliation, Vancouver - September 2013 enlarge image
Photo: Walk for Reconciliation, Vancouver - September 2013

As you can see in the picture, the Walk across Canada was very successful and large numbers of people participated.

Permission: Darryl Dyck, Canadian Press

Action 6

Discuss 

Listening to History
  • Why do you think many survivors do not want to tell their stories to the commission?
  • What supports would you provide to survivors to help them come forward?
  • Should the Government and the churches which ran the schools be punished in some way for the actions of the ancestors in the Residential Schools?

According to the Legacy of Hope, “From the early 1830s to 1996, thousands of First Nation, Inuit and Métis children were forced to attend Residential Schools in an attempt to assimilate them into the dominant culture. Those children suffered abuses of the mind, body, emotions, and spirit that are almost unimaginable.

Over 150,000 children, some as young as four years old, attended the government-funded and church-run Residential Schools. It is estimated that there are 80,000 Residential School survivors alive today.”

The 60s Scoop

The removal of Indigenous Canadian children from their homes and birth families to adoptive home during the 1960s, and up until the 1980s. On a large scale and often without parental and band consent, children were adopted across Canada, in the US and some in Europe, into mostly non-Indigenous middle-class families. This resulted in a loss of cultural identity and longterm effects.
http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/sixties-scoop/

Update: The federal government will pay $800M as compensation to victims of the '60s scoop. The settlement will go to approximately 20,000 victims across Canada who will be paid between $25,000 and $50,000 each.
https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/10/05/government-to-announce-payout-of-800m-to-indigenous-victims-of-60s-scoop.html

Based on what you have learned from the timeline and your own experience of conflict, work in your group to create a pie graph that shows how much each of the following elements caused this mistreatment: Power, Greed, Fear, Ignorance and/or Racism.

Example of pie graph with sample percentages (your values will be different and should total 100%).
Example of pie graph with sample percentages (your values will be different and should total 100%).

Sources:
1. Legacy of Hope

2. Canada’s First Nations, A History of the Founding Peoples from Earliest Times, par Olive Patricia Dickson avec David T. McNab, Oxford University Press, quatrième édition, publié en 2009.

Be ready to explain why you gave the values you did to each of the five components. As you learn more about Canadian history note if your opinions change.

An old black and white photo of a young Aboriginal boy having his blood taken as a sample for nutritional experiments by an older, white woman who is a nurse. enlarge image

A nurse takes a blood sample from an Aboriginal child for nutritional experiments
The Toronto Star August 22, 2013.

Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada/Canadian Press

Hungry Canadian Children were used in Government Experiments

Hungry Canadian aboriginal children were used in government experiments in the 1940s, researcher says”. The Toronto Star August 22, 2013.

The Toronto Star, reporting on the research of nutritional scientist, Ian Mosby, wrote that “For over a decade, aboriginal (sic.) children and adults were unknowingly subjected to nutritional experiments by Canadian government bureaucrats.”

“Aboriginal children were deliberately starved in the 1940s and ’50s by government researchers in the name of science. Milk rations were halved for years at Residential Schools across the country. Essential vitamins were kept from people who needed them. Dental services were withheld because gum health was a measuring tool for scientists and dental care would distort research.”

This racist treatment of a group of people who have been disenfranchised and are considered unworthy of basic human rights is not unique. During the Holocaust experiments were conducted by Nazi doctors on Jewish people, and others, like the Roma, whom they considered racially undesirable.

Action 7

Think 

Reading through Rationalizations and Justifications

As you read the article at this link Hungry Canadian aboriginal children were used in government experiments during 1940s, researcher says try to imagine how the scientists at the time justified what they were doing. When you have finished reading discuss in your group the answers to the following questions:

  • Why would upstanding scientists and organizations like the Red Cross participate in what sounds to us now like unethical behaviour?
  • What reasons does Mosby give for the compliance with this research?
  • What do you think would have happened if the Red Cross had suggested doing this research at an expensive private boarding school instead of a Residential school for Aboriginal children?
How was this injustice rationalized?

Mosby believes that the existence of this research has stayed hidden for the following reasons:

  1. That meant, in addition to the fact that there were problems with some of the studies’ methodologies, they were not cited in journals and were therefore forgotten.
  2. The researchers felt they weren’t doing anything wrong.

Which of these reasons do you think was most important?
What other reasons might there be for this research to remain hidden?
Why might it be important for this research to be known?
What ideas underpin Western science allowing hurtful research?
How important are the news media in protecting the human rights of individuals?
Who controls what is reported in the news?
Which of the Rights of the Child outlined in the UN Declaration have been abused by the researchers?

What agencies are available today to children in Canada who feel that their rights are being abused?

Read about the reaction of one First Nations community to the news of the experiments done on them when they were children:

Do you think they are justified in their requests?

Action 8

Do 

Visual Reading
This black and white photo is of Aboriginal students sitting at their desks at one of Canada’s many infamous Residential Schools. At the center of the picture, a young boy peers at the camera with a disgruntled look on his face. enlarge image
Image of Senior Classroom, Residential school. 

Credit: GENERAL SYNOD ARCHIVES, Anglican Church of Canada

This photograph shows a classroom in a First Nations Residential School. Look at the faces of the students in this class. Look at their posture. What can you learn from looking at the picture? If you go to youtube.com and search the title, Indian Residential Schools many images depict the story of First Nations Residential schools, often set to First Nations music and poetry.

Look at this picture of the classroom. Use the following chart to guide you:


QuestionEvidence for your inferences
Question Evidence for your inferences
Who is in the picture?  
Where was this picture taken?  
When was the picture taken? Who might have taken it?  
Who was the intended audience for this picture?  
What was the photographer’s message about the content of the picture?  

Action 9

iSearch 

Different perspectives on the same story

Newspapers and other media often present only one side of a story that has many sides. When governments do this in order to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view, we call this propaganda. Discover other possible sides to a story about Indigenous Peoples.

Action 10

Do 

Make Connections!
  • Move around the classroom and share your picture with other students.
  • Talk to three people with the same picture and at least three people with different pictures.
  • Make predictions! How might your photo relate to someone else’s? Does your photo connect to an idea already studied in class? How is your snapshot different from the others?
  • Share your inferences and connections with your classmates.
  • Record your inferences. Complete the AFTER section of your organizer by explaining what you learned from the discussions and the connections you made.
  • Check the chart you have made to see if you want to change any of your first inferences.

Action 11

Do 

… In their shoes

You are a reporter working for a newspaper on a series called “The True Story of Residential Schooling”. The pictures you’ve discussed tell one story of Residential Schooling but the editor of your paper feels that the pictures do not tell the whole or even a true story of Residential Schools. She wants her reporters to explore the stories the pictures don’t tell.

Choose from the list below, and rank in order, three people who will tell you another side to the story of Residential Schooling.

  • An Inuit woman in her 70s who was at a Residential School for five years from the age of four.
  • A woman, aged 70, of European ancestry (not religious) who taught at a Residential School for two years.
  • A woman aged 80, of European ancestry (not religious) who taught at a Residential School for fifteen years.
  • A priest responsible for a Residential School for ten years.
  • A First Nations man whose father, now dead, attended a Residential School for ten years.
  • A First Nations woman who attended a school with her sister who died while there.
  • An Aboriginal Elder who has been counseling members of her nation who attended Residential Schools and consider themselves survivors.
  • A male teacher of European ancestry who taught shop and coached the hockey team at a Residential School.
  • The doctor who was occasionally called in to see to the health of children at the school.

Explain why you chose the people you did.

Of three people, choose one to interview for the paper. Prepare five compelling questions to ask in your interview.

Are these stereotypes about Indigenous Peoples true?

1.  
2.  
3  
4.  
5.  

Go to the Legacy of Hope website to find out as much as possible about what Indigenous Peoples say happened at the Residential Schools. Legacy of Hope Foundation

Choose one section of the website, or some other information you have found in your research that you want to share with the class.

Action 12

iSearch 

Case studies in the media

Further resources:

Ian Mosby’s paper
Experiments on Aboriginals

Toronto Star editorial
Canada Admits Abuse

Opinion piece by Phil Fontaine, Bernie Farber and Dr. Michael Dan in Toronto Star
Genocide of First Nations

Link to CBC’s radio show,“ As is Happens”
Aboriginal Children Experiment

Ipperwash Provincial Park and the contestation of ancient burial grounds.
Ipperwash Crisis

The Idle No More movement
Idle No More Story
Idle No More Movement 

Residential School History
Truth and Reconciliation Commission Findings

Unit 1 Human Rights

Chapter 3 Gender Issues

Back to top

Ask yourself:

  • Why is it important that all girls regardless of race, religion, culture, class, sexual orientation, or ability receive an education? What impact does education have on their lives?
  • How is gender equality a development issue that can benefit a family, community and nation?
  • What is the gender gap and how are girls and women around the world affected by gender inequality? 
  • How does gender identity affect LGBQT people and what difficulties do they face?

 The harsh reality    

Gender inequality and discrimination are human rights issues that affect many girls and women around the world, just because of their gender. The facts are staggering! According to Plan Canada Because I Am A Girl:

  • One billion people worldwide live in extreme poverty, of which 70% are girls and women.
  • Malnutrition is a problem that affects girls three times more than boys.
  • Education is a human right, but 65 million girls have not been to primary or secondary school.
  • Domestic responsibilities, marriage, pregnancy, accessibility to school, and poverty are just some of the reasons girls do not attend school.

Critical to the development of gender equality is education. When girls go to school and stay in school, the world around them is affected in positive ways. Research shows that when girls are educated, they gain independence, have greater access to job opportunities, invest their acquired income back into their families and community, and in turn are able to stop the cycle of poverty in their lives. By supporting the advancement of girls and women through education, the health and well being of the human population improves and communities thrive. 

Kenyan Maasai woman who graduated from a Canadian University

Definitions

Gender Equality: refers to the equal treatment of women and men socially, politically and economically so that they have equal access to education, work opportunities and equal pay, the right to vote, access to medical services, and many other human rights.

Gender Discrimination: negative attitudes, beliefs and behaviour towards a person because of their gender or perceived gender, based on social, cultural, and political norms and practices.

Gender-Based Violence: is a form of discrimination that is inflicted upon a person based on gender or perceived gender, which reinforces gender inequality in many forms, such as sexual assault, rape, domestic abuse, forced marriage, human trafficking, and forced abortion.

Women’s Rights: similar to gender equality, women’s rights promotes the social and legal equality of girls and women with men.

Jean Augustine, Canada's first black female Member of Parliament
Three women, ambassadors for “Because I Am A Girl”, stand in front of their poster demonstrating gender-based inequalities. enlarge image
Because I Am A Girl

Heather Davis and JoAnne Wallace with Jenn Heil “Because I Am A Girl” Ambassador

Source: Globetrottingmama.com

Action 1

iSearch 

Investigating the Gender Divide

Grow to understand the scope of gender issues on a global scale and how girls in particular are impacted. The many problems that affect girls on a daily basis may prevent them from going to school and receiving an education.

A. How aware are you of the problems that girls face?

Use the Girls' Rights Factsheet. Sit with a partner to talk about the quiz.

Consider the following questions during your discussion:

  • What were you most surprised about?
  • What would you like to know more about?
  • How does this compare to your experience as a student and citizen of Canada?

B. Become an expert in your area of research

  • The class divides into groups of six.
  • In the group each participant decides to be a specialist on one topic from the list below.
  • Join your specialist groups i.e. the ones that have chosen the same topic.
  • Utilize various resources to research your topic: Internet, books, newspaper articles, magazines, videos, etc.
  • Once research is completed and documented, rejoin your original group to share your findings.
  • The goal of this activity is to learn a significant amount of material through collaboration.

C. Become an expert in your area of research

  • Gender discrimination (social and cultural beliefs, economic reasons)
  • Child Marriage (childbirth, household duties, death)
  • Poverty (malnutrition, contaminated water, money for clothing/school supplies)
  • Gender-Based Violence (sexual harassment, rape, human trafficking)
  • Accessibility (lack of government schools, no toilet facilities at school, tuition fees)
  • Child and domestic labour (care for siblings, earn money for family)

Discuss 

D. Become an expert in your area of research

  • Is there anything else that impacts a girl getting a good education that was not covered in the groups? For example: war, conflict, racism, homophobia, etc.
  • This is not just a problem for girls in developing countries. How are girls/women in Canada impacted by the gender divide? Consider the six categories to help you.
  • Can you recognize ways that girls may have a greater disadvantage when compared to boys?
  • How are boys also impacted by some of these issues?

Resources* - See end of program for additional eye-opening resources.

Two young, Southeast Asian girls smile at the camera, while playing with paper fortune-tellers. enlarge image

Source: Because I Am A Girl wordpress.com

 

Action 2

iSearch 

Malala Yousafzai: Education and Women’s Rights Activist
Malala Yousafzai, a serious-looking, young Muslim girl in a headscarf, stands surrounded by adults. enlarge image
Malala Yousafzai: Education and Women’s Rights Activist

Source: Photo: www.wikimedia.org

At age 17, Malala Yousafzai is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, sharing the 2014 Prize with Kailash Satyarti for "their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and the right of all children to education." The Nobel Committee recognized simultaneously a Pakistani and an Indian, a Muslim and a Hindu, a woman and a man, an adolescent and a 60-year-old - a symbolic message of equality for all!

Malala Yousafzai has become an international leader for education and women’s rights, after surviving an attempt on her life by the Taliban in Pakistan. Use Malala’s story and passion for education as a foundation for your own exploration into the importance of education.

A. Who is Malala Yousafzai and why is she such an important figure in the 21st Century?

  • Why did the Taliban attempt to kill Malala?
  • How did they know about her?
  • Why is Malala’s story so important?

B. Watch Malala's September 2015 address to the United Nations

  • What vision does Malala see for the future of education?
  • What are her greatest hopes?
  • What is her call to world leaders and governments?
  • What does she hope will happen in developing nations and communities?

C. Watch Malala on the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, October 8, 2013

D. Do you value your education and would you risk your life for it? What are you gaining the most from your education right now? How would you be impacted if you were forbidden from learning?

  • With a partner, create a media representation of what education means to you and why it is important. Write a letter or poem, create a spoken word performance, or produce a video, poster or work of art, or any other means for expressing your thoughts on education.
  • Each partner group will present their media representation to the class.
  • After each presentation, reflect on what your peers have shared. Allow time for questions and constructive comments. 
  • As a class decide how best to share your thoughts with others, such as displaying them on the class or school website.
  • Create a blog on education as it pertains to your community. What are the essential needs of students (both girls and boys)?
  • Share opinions, ways to create change, etc. Invite other students to respond to the blog.

Action 3

Discuss 

Education Matters!
"The surest way to keep a people down is to educate the men and neglect the women. If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family."
~ Dr. J. E. Kwegyir Aggrey, a visionary Ghanian educator (1875–1927)

Read the above quote by Dr. J. E. Kwegyir Aggrey, and take a few minutes to consider and answer the following questions:

  • Why does a community suffer if only boys/men are educated?
  • How does educating a woman impact a family and her community?
  • How is gender equality a developmental issue?
  • What do the authors mean by economic development?
  • How does an education result in the reduction of poverty?
  • What does girls’ education have to do with social and health benefits?
  • What are some of the ways that gender equality can be attained

With a partner discuss the above quote and questions and then discuss as a class.

Discuss 

  • What obstacles did Teriano Lesancha have to overcome to go to school?
  • How did she manage to conquer her adversity?
  • In what ways has her community been impacted by her education?
  • How has Teriano been able to bring economic growth and development to her community?

A. There are many important organizations, such as the SupaMaasai Foundation, that are making enormous strides to improve communities around the world. The purpose of this next activity is to work in partners or small groups to research an organization of your choice. You can choose from the list below or make a different selection.

  • Look through the organization’s website to discover the type of work they do, where they do the work, and how.
  • What are the mission and/or vision of the organization?
  • How is this organization making a difference in the lives of girls and women? For example: do they support education, economic development, health care, safety, etc.?
  • Who runs the organization? An individual or Board of Directors? Who are they?
  • Does the organization run campaigns? If so, what are they?
  • In what ways can people get involved in the organization? How?
  • How is the money generated and used by the organization to do the work they claim to be doing? Is it cost effective?
  • Extend your research beyond the website to discover more about the organization. What do you find? Is some of the information negative? Why?

    Possible organizations to investigate:
    KIVA: supporting job creation around the world with a $25 loan
    CARE: addresses root causes of poverty to support people and communities
    FREE THE CHILDREN: empowering youth in Canada and internationally to create change
    BECAUSE I AM A GIRL: initiative to advocate for girls’ rights and gender equality
    KASHF FOUNDATION: microfinance program to support the financial growth of women in Pakistan
    THE HUNGER PROJECT: committed to ending hunger worldwide
    THE MALALA FUND: to support girls going to school
    GLOBAL GRASSROOTS: creating change in the lives of girls and women in Africa
    SHARED HOPE INTERNATIONAL: eradicating the human trafficking industry
    RIGHT TO EDUCATION PROJECT: supporting children’s education through a human rights approach
    GLOBAL GIVING: a solution based organization that raises money for a variety of causes

B. Once you and your partner or small group completes your research, transcribe the information in the form of a mind map. Think of the mind map like a visual story. How can your map be read so that others can gain information about your organization? Use chart paper or mural paper. This activity will conclude with a gallery walk to view the mind maps hung on the classroom walls.

Extension:

C. Reflect on what you have learned and how you plan on continuing to contribute to girls’ education and human rights issues in the future.

Gender Identity

Definitions

Transgender: a broad term used to describe the experience of individuals who have an internal gender identity that differs from the sex they were assigned at birth and based on their genitals. Gender identity is an individuals’ internal sense of maleness, femaleness, both or neither. Transgender is not dependent on sexual orientation.

Dispelling the myths around Transgender

Adapted from: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/questions-answered-transgender-people/story?id=30570113 following the CBS interview with Bruce Jenner, former star U.S. Olympian athlete, where he discusses being transgender.

1. Is Being a Transgender Person Considered a Disorder?

Dr. Johanna Olson, the medical director of the transgender clinic at Children's Hospital Los Angeles says, “Being transgender is not a mental illness”. She uses the term gender dysphoria to properly explain being transgender. “Gender Dysphoria” is the term medical experts use to describe the distress a person may feel when their gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. There are various treatment options available to manage this discontent including mental health services, hormonal treatments, and— in some cases— surgery. The causes of transgender identification are still unknown and being explored. More recent studies indicate that the neural wiring of a transgender person’s brain looks more like their gender of identify than the gender of assignment at birth.

2. Are There Transgender Children?

Yes. Children can be transgender, but not all children who experiment with gender play or exhibit gender nonconforming behavior will be transgender adults. Experts say only a small fraction of young children who exhibit gender nonconforming behavior will go on to be transgender later in life. In other words, most of these children will go on to report that their sex assigned at birth aligns with their gender identity.

Psychiatrist Dr. Stephen B. Levine of Case Western Reserve School of Medicine (Cleveland, Ohio), who has treated hundreds of transgender people, says, "What we need to understand is that in development, all of us get dramatically transformed over time by forces we don't fully understand.”

3. What Treatment Is Given to Children?

“Most people know their gender in early childhood,” says Dr. Olson. “Many times they will assert their gender by saying, “I am a boy” or “I am a girl.” They will also often experience distress about the dissonance between their assigned sex at birth and their experienced gender. As they get older and start to get more cultural messages that their behavior is not normal or acceptable, this may increase the level of stress that they feel.”

For an adolescent experiencing intense gender dysphoria, the first medical option is to take puberty blockers, which prevent physical changes such as breast development and facial hair—buying a child time before a surge of unwanted hormones. It’s important to know that puberty blockers are completely reversible, but are not without some risks including effects on bone development and height. Children cannot be on these blockers indefinitely and need to go through puberty in order to match their internal gender. The second step for a medical transition is cross-sex hormones that cause irreversible effects, such as breast growth from estrogen and facial hair growth brought on by testosterone.

A small 2014 Dutch study of transgender adolescents who were started on puberty blockers as children, demonstrates that those who undergo this treatment (followed later by cross-sex hormones and/or surgery) turn out just as happy as their peers, avoiding the depression that all too often plagues transgender youth.

4. Do All Transgender People Have Surgery?

No. Not all transgender people have surgery—or any medical intervention. Being transgender is not about physical changes—it is about gender identity. For a transgender person, their gender identity does not align with their biological sex.

As Dr. Spack says, “For transgender people, their bodies below the brain do not define their gender status.” There are various reasons some transgender people do not have surgery. For many, the cost is prohibitive. For others, having surgery is not the most important way for them to express their gender. As Dr. Olson says, “There are some people that are completely fine—by the way—with the genitals they have.”

For those who do have surgery, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) recommends coming to the decision with the guidance of mental health professionals who specialize in transgender medicine. They also recommend living in the gender role a person identifies with, for at least 12 continuous months. As Dr. Levine says, “This is not a cavalier thing.”

5. How Many Transgender People Are Lost to Suicide and Murder?

Following the death of Leelah Alcorn in late December 2014, (the transgender 17-year-old woman whose suicide note ended in the plea, “Fix society. Please”) there have been an additional eight transgender youth who died by suicide in 2015. Nick Adams, who works for GLAAD and is a transgender man, says that all of us should be concerned about these tragic numbers. Adams says he believes the number of transgender people who commit suicide isn’t “because transgender people are more mentally unstable than non-transgender people—it's because we live in a society that gives us very little hope that we can be accepted and understood as our true selves. The culture needs to change so that transgender people can see a future for themselves and survive." As for homicides, “In 2015,” Adams adds, “seven transgender women have been murdered in the United States.”

Dr. Olson says that some of these tragic findings apply even to her youngest patients, “There's a lot of self-harm, there's a lot of cutting, there's a lot of burning, there's a lot of suicidal thoughts,” Olson tells ABC News, “There's a lot of suicide attempts even in very young kids. And so it's a scary time. And it's a really important time to be listening if something's happening like that for a kid.”

Source: http://www.wetreatkidsbetter.org/2015/04/transgender-community-questions-answers-with-johanna-olson-md-chlas-transyouth-program/

Action 4

Do 

Watch the following videos

  1. Living a Transgender Childhood: https://youtu.be/epDPui27QZQ

  2. 20/20 – A Story of Transgender Children: https://youtu.be/YfqmEYC_rMI

  3. Norman Spack: How I help transgender teens become who they want to be: https://youtu.be/rzbtSeVZeEE

  4. Trans Day of Remembrance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNE9MLS_ugw

Unit 1 Human Rights

Chapter 4 'Screening' the Black Experience

Back to top

Ask yourself:

  • What are some facts about slavery, and what do we know about the Canadian experience?
  • What does freedom consist of? Does it simply mean the absence of physical captivity? Does real freedom involve other fundamental notions?
  • What actions led to the abolishment of apartheid and were they peaceful or violent?

This page explores the notions of prejudice and discrimination from the perspective of the Black experience. The themes covered in this unit include the origins and injustices of slavery, some facts about slavery in Canada; the Black Migration in Nova Scotia; the system of apartheid in South Africa and Nelson Mandela as well as the notion of freedom and other fundamental principles. (Watch a video by Prof. Irwin Cotler about the struggle against apartheid) These topics are explored through articles, discussion questions, activities and several videos featuring the experiences of Black people in our culture.

Young Black Canadian talks about racism

 

Here are the facts:

Slavery's long destructive legacy

It is a fact of history that African people were enslaved, sold and brought to North America, Europe and the Caribbean through the exploitative and brutal economic enterprise of slavery, slave-trading and empire-building.

To rephrase the words of the great philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, "Africans were born free, yet everywhere they were enslaved." This enslavement essentially ejected African slaves from the human community.

Slavery coincided with the rise of European empire building, with many European powers, notably Britain, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal, participating in the slave trade in their empires up to the 1800s. Denmark and Sweden also had colonial possessions and slaves, while the Americans and Brazilians, who did not have colonial possessions, also had significant populations of enslaved Africans.

These empires participated in the exploitative practices of plantation slavery, chattel slavery, domestic slavery, and the use of the resources, raw materials and coerced unpaid labour of Africans to better the economic well being of Europe and the Americas.

The British transatlantic slave trade was responsible for about 25 per cent of the people removed from Africa through captivity and the treacherous "middle passage." It is estimated that more than 12 million enslaved Africans were brought to the Americas through the transatlantic slave trade.

During the years of the slave trade, my ancestors were treated as chattel goods. Their enslavement was physical, economic and mental. Consequently, the legacies of centuries of racialized enslavement continue to have a lingering impact on the continent of Africa, the African diaspora and Canadians of African descent, to this day.

Manifestations of racism against people of African origin; the breakdown of the African family; the racialization of poverty; criminalization and high rates of incarceration in the penal system; "shade-ism"; and limited access to opportunity and to full participation by those already lacking in resources, are some of the cascading effects of slavery that still undermine the full socioeconomic development and vitality of African peoples.

In most public discourse, shifting the blame onto African people, who face what I term "post-slavery affective syndrome," fails to take into account that as long as there remain the entrenched conditions created by a white-black binary of development-underdevelopment; profit-exploitation; insider-outsider; and freedom-servitude, the victimization of African people of every generation and every continent will continue.

The world has commemorated the anniversary of Britain's abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, and America followed in 1808, with other European nations almost a decade later.

Abolition of the slave trade, however, did not abolish slavery, which continued in British possessions until 1833, in the United States until the end of the Civil War in 1865, and in Brazil until 1888.

The text of a United Nations resolution in late 2006 recognized "the slave trade and slavery as among the worst violations of human rights in the history of humanity, bearing in mind, particularly, the scale, duration and lingering impact." It also acknowledged that the institution of slavery is at the heart of "profound social and economic inequality, hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice, which continue to affect people of African descent today."

During Canada's early periods of French colonial rule (1600-1760) and British colonial rule (1760-1867), slave trading and slavery existed here as well.

While Canada cannot change this aspect of its early history, it can, by acknowledging the act, show leadership in ensuring that Canada's complete history is known and credit given to all who contributed to the building of the nation.

In 1793, John Graves Simcoe, lieutenant governor of Upper Canada—present-day Ontario – tried to pass legislation abolishing slavery in his province, but slaveholding legislators vigorously opposed his effort.

So strong was the institution of slavery in Upper Canada that while the legislation did prohibit the importation of new slaves, existing slaves remained in captivity. For example, in 1806, York legislator Peter Russell advertised in the York Gazette the sale of his slave Peggy and her son Jupiter. This history is fully documented in Dr. Afua Cooper's book The Hanging of Angelique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montréal.

In 1803, William Osgoode, Chief Justice of Lower Canada—today's Quebec—ruled that "slavery was not compatible with British law." While the "Osgoode Decision" did not immediately result in the abolition of slavery in Lower Canada, it did restrict the slave trade and introduction of imported slaves into Lower Canada.

Throughout the unfortunate era of slavery, the spirit of freedom amid captivity prevailed. Work songs, code languages and church services were all expressions of struggle, resistance and redemption as slaves shared their plans for liberation. Some succeeded, while others failed.

The slaves resisted their enslavement and fought for their freedom. We must celebrate this aspect of their heroic heritage.

Source: Gary Pieters. Published on Sat Mar 24 2007

Michael Williams, former Much Music VJ and radio personality, talks about the Underground Railroad
An old black and white photo of Harriet Tubman, staring seriously at the camera. enlarge image

Harriet Tubman – African-American abolitionist and humanitarian who led many slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad and was called “Moses.”
1820-1913

Photo credit: National Park Service

 

Fascinating Facts About Slavery

  1. The Word

    The word “slave” comes to us from Byzantine Greek “sklabos” which was the name for the Slavic people. The reason for this is that the Vikings used to capture the Slavs and sell them to the Romans as slaves. The term only dates back as far as 580 AD as the Latin word “servus” was more commonly used before that for all kinds of servants—enslaved or not.

  2. Trading Humanity

    In Africa, prior to the arrival of European slave traders, slavery was a normal part of life. The thing that makes it stand out from European style slavery was the fact that it was a sign of good reputation and honor if a slave owner treated his slaves with respect and kindness. The better treated your slaves, the more honorable and highly regarded you were. Manhandling a slave (as the Europeans were wont to do) was considered unethical and you risked your reputation if you did not feed, clothe, and provide quality surroundings for your slaves.

  3. Today’s Trading in Humanity

    According to studies done by anti-slavery groups, there are currently more slaves today than at any time in history! Three quarters are female and over half are children. It is believed that there are around 27 million people in slavery right now. Furthermore, this number does not include people who are not technically slaves but are in a form of servitude tantamount to slavery. This is sometimes called “unfree labor”. The average slave today costs around $90—whereas in the past they cost upwards of $40,000 (in today’s money). A study done at Berkeley University estimates that there are around 10,000 slaves in the United States at the moment.
    http://www.globalslaveryindex.org/findings/

Old photo of two young black slave boys dressed in tattered clothing. enlarge image

Credit: Prison Culture

Action 1

Think 

Rereading the Weight of History, in African Descent
DatesEvents in History
Dates Events in History
1603

The first known black man to arrive in Canada was Mathieu DaCosta. He acted as a translator between the Micmac and the French with Champlain. Clearly, DaCosta had been in Canada some time previous to Champlain's voyage of discovery, since Micmac is not European nor an African language.

1628

The first known slave, Olivier LeJeune, is recorded. As a child of 6, he had been captured in Africa and was later given the surname of one of his owners—a priest.

1775

During the American Revolution the British forces were led by Lord Dunsmore. In an effort to weaken the "rebel" side, Dunsmore invited all rebel-owned African male slaves to join the British side.

1779

With the hopes of winning the American Revolution, the British under Sir Henry Clinton, invited all black men, women and children to join the British side and promised them their freedom for doing so. Ten per cent of the Loyalists coming into the Maritimes are black.

1793

The Upper Canada Abolition Act, supported by Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe, freed any slave who came into the (now) province of Ontario, and stipulated that any child born of a slave mother should be free at the age of 25.

1800 - 1865

Approximately 20,000 blacks found their way into Canada via the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman, one of the most famous "conductors" on the Underground Railroad, spirited several hundred fugitive slaves into Canada, despite a $40,000 reward for her capture, dead or alive.

1812

The Cochrane Proclamation invited refugees of the War of 1812 to become British citizens through residence in British territory, including Canada. The settlement of Oro was established by the government for black veterans of the War of 1812. A Coloured Corps was formed after petitioning by black veteran Richard Pierpoint.

1833

The British Imperial Act abolished slavery in the British Empire (which included Canada) effective August 1, 1834.

1850

The second Fugitive Slave Act was passed in the United States, placing all people of African descent at risk. The "Underground Railroad" stepped up its operations—freeing enslaved blacks by transporting them into Canada. The Common Schools Act was passed in Ontario, permitting the development of segregated schools. The last segregated school in Ontario closed in the 1950s.

1853

Mary Ann Shadd left teaching in the U.S. to join with Isaac Ward and her brother Isaac in publishing and editing the Provincial Freeman, one of the two black newspapers published in Ontario from 1853-1857. Mary Ann Shadd was acknowledged as the first black newspaperwoman and the first woman publisher of a newspaper in Canada.

1857

William Hall of Nova Scotia became the first Canadian sailor and the first person of African descent to receive the Victoria Cross for bravery and distinguished service. 1861 Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott became Canada's first doctor of African descent.

1885

Delos Roget Davis of Amherstburg, Ontario became one of Ontario's first black lawyers. He was appointed King's Council in 1910.

1894

William Peyton Hubbard became the first black council member elected to Toronto City Council, and was re-elected council member for 13 successive elections. He served on the Board of Control, and as acting Mayor on a number of occasions.

1905

The beginning of the "Black Trek," the migration of dissatisfied African-Americans from Oklahoma to the Canadian prairies. That year, a group led by W.E.B. DuBois and Monroe Trotter met secretly in Niagara, Ontario, to organize resistance to U.S. racism.

1914

During the First World War, black Canadians joined combat units, despite opposition, and in 1916, a segregated unit, the Nova Scotia Number 2 Construction Battalion, was formed.

1939

In the Second World War, authorities again tried to keep blacks out of the armed forces, but blacks insisted on serving their country. Eventually, they joined all services.

1948

Ruth Bailey and Gwennyth Barton became the first blacks to graduate from a Canadian School of Nursing.

1950's

New laws made it illegal to refuse to let people work, to receive service in stores or restaurants or to move into a home because of their race.

1951

The Reverend Addie Aylestock became the first black woman to be ordained a minister in Canada. The following year, Wilson Brooks, an RCAF veteran, became Toronto's first black public school teacher, and in 1959, Stanley Grizzle was the first black person to run for a seat in the Ontario Legislature. In 1963, Leonard Braithwaite, elected to the Ontario legislature, was the first black to serve in a provincial legislature in Canada.

1962

Daniel G. Hill, an American-born black activist and writer who moved to Canada in 1950, was made the first director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the first government agency in Canada set up to protect citizens from discrimination. Hill later became chair of the Commission.

1968

Canada saw the election of its first black Member of Parliament - The Honourable Lincoln Alexander, of Hamilton. In 1979, he became Canada's first black cabinet minister, as Minister of Labour in the federal government. In 1985, he became Ontario's first black Lieutenant Governor, and the first black to be appointed to a vice-regal position in Canada.

1969

The first Black History Week was celebrated. Maurice Alexander Charles became the first black provincial judge of Ontario.

1978

The Ontario Black History Society was founded by Dr. Daniel Hill, Wilson Brooks and Lorraine Hubbard. The Society is dedicated to the acknowledgement and preservation of the contributions to Canada's development by Canadian blacks.

1991

Julius Alexander Isaac, a native of Grenada, was named Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Canada. He became the first black Chief Justice in Canada and the first to serve on the Federal Court.

1993

Jean Augustine was sworn in as Canada's first black female Member of Parliament.

Source: Government of Ontario Press Releases, January 2002

Jean Augustine, Canada's first black female Member of Parliament

iSearch 

In pairs, choose one of the dates/events from the above list. Find out more about this event by doing some research at the library or on the Internet. Present your findings to the rest of the class.

Further Reading: Gregory Wigmore - the Canadian Slave Trade

 

Black Migration in Nova Scotia - The Formation of African Nova Scotian Communities

Black Loyalists: 1783-1785

The single largest group of people of African descent ever to come to Nova Scotia, arrived in a two-year period at the end of the American Revolution. These were the Black Loyalists. They were Blacks in the American colonies who opted to side with the British during the United States’ war for independence (the American Revolution 1776) because the British offered protection, freedom, land and rations in return for support. Other Blacks would come to Nova Scotia in the 1780s as the property of white Loyalists. Some were slaves; others were indentured servants, though there was not much difference between the two categories.

When the war ended in 1783 New York was the last British-held port. It became the embarkation point for thousands of Loyalists, Black and White. British officials drew up a detailed list of all the Blacks who were leaving. That list, the “Book of Negroes”, stated whether the person was free, a slave or an indentured servant, and what their military service had been.

Between 3,000 and 3,500 Black Loyalists arrived in Nova Scotia. Roughly half – 1,521 men, women and children— settled at Birchtown (near Shelburne) that became an instant town, and the largest settlement of free Blacks in the world outside of Africa. They received a percentage of the free land and rations as they had been promised, though their land was far from the best. That went to the white Loyalists. The other 1,500 or so free Blacks who came to Nova Scotia settled elsewhere, including Annapolis, Digby, Preston, Guysborough, Tracadie and Saint John (in what became New Brunswick). Black Loyalists were not given the full rations or other assistance they had been promised by the British.

Disappointed by the failure of the British to honour all their promises, especially regarding land and equal status, many Black Loyalists began to wonder if Nova Scotia was where they wanted to be. A new destination, across the ocean in Africa, appealed to many of them. In 1792 although many Black Loyalist departed Nova Scotia for Sierra Leone, many stayed and helped to develop this province.

Black Loyalists: 1783-1785
Black Loyalists: 1783-1785

Source: The Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia

The Jamaica Maroons: 1796-1800

Just as the end of the American Revolution brought the Black Loyalists to Nova Scotia, so the end of the next war brought a different group of Black settlers to the province. The second group came from Trelawney, Jamaica and were known as the Trelawney Maroons after their home town.

The Maroons were a determined group of freedom fighters in Jamaica. Beginning in the 1650s, they had waged war against the British administration on the island, intermittently for nearly a century and a half. They were denied the independence they wanted because in 1795 the administration in Jamaica decided to remove the Maroons from the island. Consequently, in late June, 1796, the Maroons (543 men, women and children) were sent to Halifax in three ships.

The Commander-in-Chief for the British in Halifax was Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent (later on, the father of Queen Victoria). Edward was impressed by the proud bearing and military skills of the Maroons. He was pleased to see them join Nova Scotia militia units and he had them work on building projects such as the third Halifax Citadel and Government House (residence of the lieutenant-governor). Lt. Gov. Sir John Wentworth was also impressed by the Maroons. He thought they would be good colonists and selected the Preston area for them to settle. Thanks to a large subsidy from the government of Jamaica, arrangements were made for limited schooling and religious services for the new settlers.

The Maroons, however, rejected the idea of low-paid physical labour. The few who became farmers were Christians who settled in Boydville, in the Sackville area, where there is still a Maroon Hill. Similar to about half the Black Loyalists a few years earlier, most other Maroons who didn’t farm began to wonder if Nova Scotia was a good choice for their new home.

Although the majority of the Maroons left Nova Scotia, there were a few who remained. A census done in 1817 of the Black community of Tracadie in Guysborough revealed that several persons living there were descendants of the Maroons. The Maroons also left descendants in the Preston Area of Halifax County.

The War of 1812 Refugees: 1812-1816

A third wave of Black migration into Nova Scotia came during and after the War of 1812, once again in connection with an international conflict. As the British had done during the American Revolution, they issued proclamations again to attract Blacks in the United States to relocate to the British Colonies in Nova Scotia. A large number of American Blacks chose the freedom that Nova Scotia offered over slavery in the United States, just like the Black Loyalists who preceded them.

In 1813-1814, approximately 1,200 Black Refugees from the Chesapeake Bay area of Virginia and from Georgia arrived in Nova Scotia aboard British ships. Another 800 southern American Blacks came to Nova Scotia at the end of the war via Bermuda. Smaller numbers continued to trickle into the province until 1816.

Though there was a labour shortage in Nova Scotia at the time, the Black Refugees were not welcomed by the locals. A number of the Refugees were quarantined on Melville Island, near Halifax, and the local House of Assembly petitioned to end the Black immigration. Lt. Gov. Sir John Sherbrooke dismissed the petition.

Almost 1,000 Refugees ended up in Preston. Other areas settled by War of 1812 Refugees were Upper Hammonds Plains, Beech Hill (later Beechville) and Campbell Road (later Africville). Collectively, the newcomers faced discrimination in land grants, jobs and the distribution of supplies. Their situation was made worse by the “year with no summer” followed by the “year of the mice” – a crop-destroying infestation of rodents. There was also an economic recession at the end of the war.

Ninety-five of the original 1,000 refugees, opted to leave Nova Scotia by migrating to Trinidad. The remaining settlers stayed in Nova Scotia, overcoming obstacles of poor land and widespread racism and not only survived, but thrived. Some of their customs, language and religious practices are an integral part of the African Nova Scotian community to this day.

The War of 1812 Refugees: 1812-1816
The War of 1812 Refugees: 1812-1816

Bedford Basin near Halifax (Nova Scotia) by Robert Petley 1835

Source: National Archives of Canada

Caribbean Migrants: 1920

A fourth major migration of Blacks to Nova Scotia – more specifically to industrial Cape Breton – began early in the 20th century. It came in two separate streams, one from Alabama and another from the Caribbean, especially Barbados. These groups came, not in a quest for freedom, but to obtain well-paying jobs in the newly developing steel and coal industries.

The group that came from Alabama were specially recruited by the Sydney steel plant to come and work in the “boomtown” economy in connection with the new blast furnace. At the time, Black iron workers in the United States were regarded as among the very best. It is unknown exactly how many men relocated from Alabama in 1901 when the Sydney plant began operations, but there were several hundred. Some were accompanied by women and children. The newcomers settled mostly in the Whitney Pier area of Cape Breton and they saw to it that they had a church and that their children received an education.

Despite the promising beginning, the relocated Alabama community felt less than fully accepted accepted by the locals in Cape Breton. Labour strife, local prejudices and unfulfilled promises convinced nearly all to return to the United States by 1904. Many walked back though a few stayed on, finding new ways to make a living in the greater Sydney area.

Over the next decade, many small groups of Blacks from the Caribbean found their way to Cape Breton. They sailed north in the hopes of economic advancement and and a great number of them ended up working in the coal and steel industries. Whitney Pier was one area they settled, and in addition other communities were created. The transplanted Caribbean beliefs and customs added a vibrant, new dimension to Cape Breton life.

Caribbean Migrants: 1920
Caribbean Migrants: 1920

Source: The Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia

Historical Black Communities and Migration Routes

Photograph of African American men, women, and children who participated in the Great Migration to the north, with suitcases and luggage placed in front, Chicago, 1918

Photograph of African American men, women, and children who participated in the Great Migration to the north, with suitcases and luggage placed in front, Chicago, 1918

Source: The Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia

The historical Black communities of Nova Scotia are unique and vibrant. This map shows the migration routes and the original Black communities of Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia, the birthplace of Canada’s Black community, is home to approximately 20,000 residents of African descent. Our presence traces back to the 1600s, and we were recorded as being present in the provincial capital during its founding in 1749. Waves of migrants came to the Maritimes as enslaved labour for the New England Planters in the 1760s, Black Loyalists between 1782 and 1784, Jamaican Maroons who were exiled from their homelands in 1796, Black refugees of the War of 1812, and Caribbean immigrants to Cape Breton in the 1890s. People of African descent continue to put down roots in Nova Scotia, shaping a unique cultural identity that is ever evolving.

Text adapted from Cultural Assets of Nova Scotia: African Nova Scotian Tourism Guide.
Learn more about African Nova Scotian History at www.bccns.com

Major Migrations of Blacks to Nova Scotia

  • 1782-85: Black Loyalists
  • 1796: Trelawney (Jamaican) Maroons
  • 1813-15: Blacks, refugees (War of 1812)
  • 1920: Caribbean immigrants

Historical Black Communities in Nova Scotia c. 1749

  1. Shelburne
  2. Birchtown
  3. Yarmouth
  4. Greenville
  5. Hassett
  6. Southville
  7. Danvers
  8. Weymouth Falls
  9. Acadiaville
  10. Jordantown
  11. Digby
  12. LeQuille
  13. Granville Ferry
  14. Inglewood (Bridetown)
  15. Cambridge
  16. Middleton
  17. Gibson Woods
  18. Aldorshot
  19. Kentville
  20. Three Miles Plains
  21. Truro
  22. Springhill
  23. Amherst
  24. Trenton
  25. New Glasgow
  26. Antigonish
  27. Linconville
  28. Sunnyville
  29. Upper Big Tracadie
  30. Mulgrave
  31. Monastery
  32. New Waterford
  33. North Sydney
  34. Sydney
  35. Glace Bay
  36. Sydney Mines
  37. Halifax
  38. Cobequid Road
  39. Lucasville
  40. Hammonds Plains
  41. Africville
  42. Beechville
  43. Dartmouth
  44. East Preston
  45. North Preston
  46. Cherry Brook
  47. Lake Loon
  48. Liverpool
  49. Conway
  50. Delaps Cove
  51. Guysborough Rd.
  52. Maroon Hill
Historical Black Communities and Migration Routes

Source: The Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia

Righting some Wrongs

The government of Nova Scotia plans to help Black Nova Scotians reclaim their land.
http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/province-to-help-african-nova-scotians-get-title-to-land-given-centuries-ago-1.3605737

 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. enlarge image
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Source: NASA/Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the modern American Civil Rights Movement, from December, 1955 until April 4, 1968. Thanks to his relentless pursuit of equal rights for African Americans, they achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than in the previous 350 years. Dr. King is widely regarded as America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history. In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his peaceful resistance to racial prejudice in America.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday in the United States and Canada marking his birthday. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15.

 

Apartheid and a hero, Nelson Mandela

Apartheid and a hero, Nelson Mandela enlarge image
Nelson Mandela

Definitions

Apartheid: Government mandated policy of segregation of whites and non-whites in the Republic of South Africa 1948 to 1994. The National Party was dominated by Afrikaners who enforced legislation to curtail the rights, movements and associations of the majority black population. The word comes from Afrikaans and means "the state of being apart".

The system of apartheid originated in earlier laws but once legislated by the National Party became far more rigid, with segregation being enforced to a much greater degree. At the time it was introduced, the system was justified by racial superiority, as well as the fear of being a minority in the majority non-white population. The Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa, established in 1652, commissioned several studies to show justification of apartheid in the Bible and was very supportive of the apartheid system.

Source: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/174603/Dutch-Reformed-Church

Professor Irwin Cotler

Former Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada - Interview on Apartheid and Nelson Mandela

Here are the facts

Apartheid Laws

Non-whites (Black Africans, Indians, mixed race called Cape Coloureds and all those not of Caucasian descent) had to follow these rules or risk arrest. The 1953 Reservation of Separate Amenities Act made it against the law for non-whites to:

  • Enter a restaurant, movie theatre, post office, stadium, some stores
  • Use beaches, park benches or other places designated "Whites Only"
  • Use trains, buses, public toilets, and other transportation designated "Whites Only"
  • Receive an education in schools for whites (a separate, vastly inferior school system was created for non-whites)
  • Enter a hospital or office place for whites unless employed there
  • Engage in sexual relations with a person of a different race
  • Own land
  • Be buried in a cemetery for whites
  • Vote or engage in politics
Some of the Acts that defined the laws of Apartheid:

National Party elected, 1948
This all-white government immediately began enforcing existing policies of racial segregation under a system of legislation that it called apartheid.

Population Registration Act, 1950
Non-whites had to carry identification or "passes" at all times to show police upon request. The Department of Home Affairs had all South Africans register their racial group and they would be treated accordingly.

Group Areas Act, 1950
Physical segregation of the races mandated that non-whites were only allowed to live in designated "townships" for non-whites that were outside the main towns. They had vastly inferior living conditions mostly with no running water, sewage or electricity. Non-whites could only rent property since land was white-owned.

The Suppression of Communism Act, 1950 (formerly Unlawful Organizations Act)
All those who opposed or resisted the government were labeled as Communist.

Bantu Education Act, 1953
A separate and inferior education system was created with the goal of a curriculum that produced manual laborers and obedience. A huge percentage of the population remained illiterate as adults.

Promotion of Bantu Self-Government, 1959
Black people were moved into homelands created in the worst parts of the country (infertile land). People lost their homes and had to move off land they had owned for years to these very undeveloped areas far from cities where they had jobs.

Publication Act, 1978
Took control of the media through state-sanctioned censorship.

Police Act, 1979
Granted the police further powers with regards to search and seizure.

In 1993 Apartheid was dismantled following negotiations from 1990 to1993.

For images and additional information: Apartheid History Timeline: On Nelson Mandela's Death, A Look Back At South Africa's Legacy Of Racism

Government Censorship

In order to promote apartheid and essentially, segregate South Africa from the rest of the world, there was rigid censorship of movies, books, magazines, radio and television programs. Television was only introduced nationwide in the country in 1976 and was heavily controlled to avoid exposure of the lives of Black people in other countries. (By comparison, television was officially introduced in Canada in 1952.) The new medium was then regarded as the "devil's own box, for disseminating communism and immorality".

Even for whites there was no freedom of speech or freedom of press and any opposition to the government was a huge risk. Breaking any of the apartheid rules was considered a form of protest and a Communist act (for example, a white person going to a "non-whites only" designated area). Meetings of groups were monitored. A Police State was in effect for all South Africans. There was no such thing as a fair trial or "innocent until proven guilty" if one was non-white or a white person who resisted.

Source: Apartheid and Reactions To It

Timeline of Apartheid Opposition:
DatesEvents in History
Dates Events in History
1948-49

The African National Congress (ANC) began as a non-violent organization of unions of African workers with its Programme to encourage mass action through civil disobedience, strikes, boycotts and other non-violent forms of resistance.

1952

Nelson Mandela led The Defiance Campaign, the first large-scale multi-racial political campaign against apartheid laws, involving all groups of non-whites (Coloureds: mixed race, Indians, as well as Blacks). 8,000 trained volunteers were jailed for "defying unjust laws" such as failing to carry passes, violating curfew hours and entering "whites only" public places. The government could incarcerate protesters for up to five years, and fine them heavily.

1956

An Anti Pass Campaign extending the pass law to women, led to a mass demonstration of 20,000 women of all races at the government buildings of Pretoria, the capital.

1956

With the goal of increasing opposition, the ANC adopted the Freedom Charter. It resulted in the arrest and charge with treason of 156 of its leaders (104 Africans, 23 Whites, 21 Indians and 8 Coloured). Nelson Mandela was one of those arrested (but in 1961 was found not guilty).

March 21, 1960

The Sharpeville Massacre: in the township of Sharpeville, the PAC (Pan Africanist Congress) organized a peaceful protest against the pass laws. It became a brutal massacre when heavily armed police opened fire, killing 69 and wounding over 200 protestors. On March 30th, the government declared a state of emergency.

1962

The Special Committee Against Apartheid, established by The United Nations, inspired international pressure against apartheid in the form of sanctions and media campaigns.

1968

Medical student Steve Biko cofounded the South African Students Organization (SASO) based on the philosophy of black consciousness, encouraging blacks to embrace their cultural identity and reject all notions of inferiority and foreign status in their own land.

1974

South Africa was expelled from the United Nations.

June 16, 1976

The Soweto Uprising (also called 16 June): after the government mandated the use of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in schools, about 15,000 to 20,000 high school students began a series of protests. During a peaceful march, police opened fire and killed 600 high school students.

1977

International pressure was building as the UN Security Council voted to place a mandatory embargo on the sale of arms to South Africa.

August 18, 1977

Death of Steve Biko: Steve Biko, leader of the Black Consciousness Movement, was beaten to death while in custody. Mandela said, "They had to kill him to prolong the life of apartheid." (The five police who killed him were never prosecuted and in 2003 the justice ministry claimed too much time had passed and there was insufficient evidence for prosecution.)

1980

The UN Security Council officially condemned police violence in South Africa, and called for the end of apartheid to grant equal rights to all citizens and the release of political prisoners.

1980s

Tricameral Parliament established - Prime Minister P. W. Botha attempted to appease citizens, in response to significant internal pressure. He formed a group that included colored (mixed-race) and Indian legislatures, but still excluded Black Africans. As the white legislature maintained all political power, this attempt was purely for show.

1983

The United Democratic Front (UDF) was formed to oppose the Tricameral legislature and grew to over 3 million members. It adopted the ANC's Freedom Charter, (linking itself to the still-banned organization) with Archbishop Desmond Tutu as one of its most prominent members.

1986

South Africa’s economy was drastically affected when the United States and the United Kingdom placed economic sanctions on the country. In response, the government began to ease its enforcement of smaller rules of apartheid, by rolling back the pass laws' restrictions on black access to public space.

1989

F. W. de Klerk was elected president. He eliminated most of the legal basis for apartheid and lifted the ban on the ANC freeing many political prisoners.

1990

Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years on Robben Island. Quebec MP Irwin Cotler went to South Africa to serve as his counsel.

1991

The Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) began negotiations to form a multiracial transitional government with a new constitution offering political rights to all groups in an "undivided South Africa".

June 17, 1992

Boipatong massacre: 200 IFP militants attacked the Gauteng township of Boipatong, killing 45.

September 7, 1992

The Bisho massacre: ANC protestors demanded that the Ciskei Homeland be reincorporated into South Africa. The Ciskei Defence Force opened fire on them killing 29 people and injuring 200. Afterward, Mandela and de Klerk agreed to meet to find ways to end the spiraling violence.

1993

Parliament approved an interim constitution granting black majority rule for the very first time since South Africa was colonized.

1994

After three centuries of white domination in South Africa, Nelson Mandela became the first president in the country’s first democratic election.

1995

Desmond Tutu led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to gather data on human rights’ violations of apartheid.

1996

After the first non-racial elections of 1994, the South African Parliament drew up the Constitution and Bill of Rights based largely on Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and promoted by President Mandela (officially coming into effect on February 4, 1997)

1998

The TRC branded apartheid as a crime against humanity and requested financial, symbolic, and community reparations to its victims.

Nelson Mandela (Madiba) – Biography

Nelson Mandela was born in a small, impoverished South African village on July 11th, 1918 and was named Rolihlahla Mandela. At nine, Mandela was adopted by and sent to live with his father’s friend, a prosperous clan chief, who could offer him a better life with a proper education. When he learned about African history and how his ancestors struggled with discrimination, the young Mandela developed a goal to somehow help his countrymen. Eventually, Mandela studied law and opened the country’s first Black law practice in Johannesburg. Joining the African National Congress allowed him to fight for racial equality with others who shared his distress.

Mandela Against Apartheid

In response to the government’s introduction of Apartheid in 1948, Mandela traveled throughout South Africa imploring people to participate in nonviolent demonstrations. Mandela was eventually sentenced to life in prison for organizing these activities and during his trial, passionately stated, "I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." He was imprisoned as a political prisoner for 27 years, 18 of which he spent on the isolated Robben Island.

First Black President

An epic day in human rights history was February 11th, 1990 when Mandela was released from prison by South African president F.W. de Klerk. The two then went on to work diligently toward successfully abolishing apartheid. For their tireless efforts, Mandela and de Klerk won the Nobel Peace Prize three years later.

In 1994, South Africa participated in their very first democratic election where nonwhites had the privilege of voting for their new president, Nelson Mandela. During his presidency, housing, education, and the economy were improved for his country’s large Black population (though there is still a long way to go). In 1999, Mandela resigned and went on to create The Nelson Mandela’s Children Fund charity. Their mission is to help poor South African children, as Mandela believed that, "Children are the wealth of our country."

Mandela’s Legacy

Mandela was appointed to the Order of Canada in September 1998 and was the first living person to be named an honorary Canadian citizen.

Mandela founded The Elders in 2007, an organization comprised of world leaders who are dedicated to promoting human rights and global peace. In 2009, July 18th (Mandela’s birthday) was declared "Mandela Day" to honour his legacy and promote global peace.

On December 5th, 2013 Nelson Mandela died peacefully at his home in Johannesburg.

A line written by Poet Saint Thiruvalluvar, who lived 2200 years ago, describes the personal mantra of Mandela: "For those who do ill to you, the best punishment is to return good to them."

Action 2

Soweto Uprising enlarge image
The Soweto Uprising on June 16, 1976

A confrontation between students and police in Soweto in which approximately 700 students were killed

Photo credit: AZAP Archive

Peaceful demonstrations versus oppressive violence:

The Soweto Uprising: On June 16, 1976, police met thousands of students with violence as the students were marching peacefully to protest the new government mandate requiring the Afrikaans language to be main language of instruction in schools. The uprising spread from Soweto to towns across South Africa over the following year.

While the government's official death toll counts 176 dead in the Soweto Youth Uprising, further estimates put the casualties from the resulting aftermath as high as 700. The images of police brutality against peacefully demonstrating students spark further international outrage.

Do 

Listen to "Soweto Blues" the protest song written and recorded in 1976 by Hugh Masakela that refers to the students’ protests. Read the lyrics (translated from Xhosa). Performed by Masakela’s ex-wife, Miriam Makeba: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gj1Lug-U38I

Do 

In groups, create a timeline merging both of the timelines together. Link each action with its opposing action. Label actions (on both sides) as either violent or non-violent. Attach 10 images, or draw pictures (from images you research), to show what the event looked like.

Discuss 

Do you think that peaceful demonstrations alone could have changed the fate of apartheid?

What was most effective in putting an end to apartheid?

Considering how violent the South African government was towards the Blacks, do you believe that fighting violence with violence would have proved effective in ending apartheid sooner?

Nelson Mandela never hated his oppressors. How do you think he maintained such a peaceful outlook when wrongfully imprisoned for 27 years?

Action 3

Do 

A. Choose ten pivotal actions from the timeline you’ve created.

B. Choose one writing assignment from the two below:

  1. Develop a thesis, an arguable statement, which reflects whether violence or peaceful protests work when fighting injustice. Write a persuasive essay about the use of non-violence or violence in putting an end to apartheid. Do not forget to provide evidence from your timeline to prove the authenticity of your thesis.
  2. Write an essay comparing Nelson Mandela with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and specifically, their particular styles of nonviolent protest. Do you believe that one of these leaders was more successful than the other? Provide explanations with facts to defend your viewpoint.

From: http://www.timeforkids.com/news/nelson-mandela-1918-2013/97361

Source: http://mybroadband.co.za/nephp/5299.html

Source: Apartheid History Timeline: On Nelson Mandela's Death, A Look Back At South Africa's Legacy Of Racism

 

Unit 1 Human Rights

Chapter 5 The Rights of Persons with Disabilities

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Ask yourself:

  • How does legislation, in the form of an act or charter, ensure and protect the rights of persons with disabilities? Why is it necessary to have these codes?
  • How might someone’s assumptions have an impact on his or her treatment of persons with disabilities?

The systematic removal of people’s rights and freedoms during World War II shocked the world and so Human Rights acts were legislated in order to protect all people from discrimination. The French Revolution produced legislated human rights…. WWII directly inspired the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In this chapter, you are given opportunities to build connections to and understandings of those with physical and mental disabilities. Activities are designed to invite you to face your assumptions about the rights of people who identify as being disabled, and to consider a human right, open, free, and unfettered access in one’s life. You have the opportunity to examine a human rights case involving a student with spinal muscular atrophy, and to investigate the life of Rick Hansen, a Canadian hero for human rights.

People with disabilities - Benoit Huot, Paralympic swimmer

The quest for rights and freedoms

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted in 1982 and in relation to people with disabilities states that:
"15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability."
Canadian Human Rights Act

Canadian Human Rights Act was enacted in 1985 to extend the laws to ensure that “all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated….” The Act further states that Physical and Mental Disabilities are prohibited grounds of discrimination and includes “a duty to accommodate”. This means that employers are bound by law to prevent discrimination and to provide needed access and support of people with disabilities.

Prior to legislation, before the enactment of these Acts, people with disabilities had to depend on landlords, schools, and employers to accommodate them. It was not within their rights as it is now. This legislation requires that society address the needs of people with disabilities so that they might enjoy the same rights and freedoms as all Canadians…the right to work, the right to an education, the right to practice their chosen religion. The public view of people with disabilities brought about the inclusion of their rights into this legislation. The public view is important in creating equality.

During the Holocaust, the German government used propaganda to influence the people to turn against and strip the rights of people with disabilities. The government goals to create a perfect Aryan society instituted unjust and heinous programs of sterilization and euthanasia against people with disabilities, both German and Jewish. Similarly other groups were stripped of their rights and sent to work and death camps, including Roma people, homosexuals, and Jewish people.

One of the reasons that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations (1948) was drafted was to ensure that what happened to groups of people in the Holocaust would not happen again. The systematic removal of people’s rights and freedoms during World War II shocked the world and happened, in part, because of a lack of protection against discrimination of people based on religion, race, sexual orientation, physical and mental disability. These Acts are designed to protect all people.

Action 1  

Do 

Facing our Assumptions

In this task you will be considering a number of statements related to issues concerning the rights and freedoms of persons who identify as having a disability, or differently abled, by responding independently and with others. The following outline provides you with a way to use this assumption guide:

  • Read and complete the assumption guide independently.
  • Next, choose one statement that you strongly agree with and share with a partner. Explain why you so strongly agree.
  • Choose one statement that you strongly disagree with and share with a partner. Explain reasons for their choice.
  • Choose one statement that you are uncertain of, have questions about and share with a new partner.
  • Choose one statement that you know is true for someone they know in their lives. Share this person’s story with a partner.
Reflection
  • Where do our assumptions about others come from?
  • How might someone’s assumptions about disabilities have an impact on their treatment of persons with disabilities?
  • What role did assumptions and myths play in the marginalization of people in Germany during the Holocaust?
  • There are several terms that help us understand the diversity amongst those who identify as having a disability. Investigate definitions of such terms as, disability, impairment, handicap, discrimination, accommodation, and undue hardship.
Facing Our Assumptions: Thinking about the rights of those who identify as disabled
Circle the following whether you:
STRONGLY AGREE (SA) /AGREE (A) /DISAGREE (D) /STRONGLY DISAGREE (SD)
Facing Our Assumptions: Thinking about the rights of the Disabled.
Circle the following whether you:
STRONGLY AGREE (SA) /AGREE (A) /DISAGREE (D) /STRONGLY DISAGREE (SD)
1. People who are deaf are less likely to succeed in life. SA A D SD
2. People with dyslexia have a disability. SA A D SD
3. People who work really hard can overcome any obstacle, including mental illness. SA A D SD
4. Students who use wheelchairs cannot take physical education or dance classes. SA A D SD
5. It is impossible to accommodate ALL students with disabilities in one school. SA A D SD
6. Not every student with a disability can be integrated into a regular classroom. SA A D SD
7. All students should be treated equally. SA A D SD
8. Students who identify as being disabled are not discriminated against in the school system. SA A D SD
9. Someone who requires a wheelchair should not teach in elementary schools. SA A D SD
10. More money for programming should go to Special Needs students vs. extracurricular activities. SA A D SD
11. All restaurants accommodate all people. SA A D SD

Action 2  

Discuss 

Class Picture: A Human Rights Case

A. Examine this photograph of a grade two class in British Columbia. When the parents of the seven-year-old Miles Ambridge saw their son set aside from the rest of the class they reported the incident to raise awareness of how such things could be hurtful to those who identify as disabled.

Class of grade 2 students in British Columbia with student Miles Ambridge in a wheelchair off to the side rather than being included with the group

An elementary school class photo for picture day, with a young boy in an electric wheel chair visibly separated from the rest of the class and off to the side.enlarge image

Credit: Lifetouch Canada

In small groups, discuss:

  • What are your initial reactions to this photograph?
  • What decisions do you think were made by the photographer? The teacher?
  • How do you think the boy in the wheelchair felt when this picture was taken?
  • How would you feel if you were the parents of the child?
  • What other choices do you think could have been made in setting up this photograph?

B. When the father of this boy saw this picture he was ‘disgusted and appalled’ that his son with spinal muscular atrophy was ostracized in this class photo. The following is an excerpt of an article that appeared in Canadian newspapers in June 2013:

"It’s wrong, but it doesn’t mean it was intentional. It just means that somebody dropped the ball for a moment and that can be incredibly hurtful."

Source: www.dailymail.co.uk

Readers are encouraged to leave a comment to share their reaction. Imagine that you had a chance to respond in one hundred words or less to this story, what might you say? What suggestions would you make to the school for dealing with the situation? What advice might you offer to the parents to protect their son’s human rights? Do you think this picture should be retaken and if so, how should Miles Ambridge be placed in the photo to give him dignity? Share your comment by posting it on a class website.

C. Reflection

In small groups, discuss:

  • How does this story inform you about the human rights of an individual?
  • What other stories with which you are familiar concern those with disabilities whose rights have been challenged or jeopardized?
  • The teacher and the photographer claimed that they did not intentionally mean any harm in setting Miles Ambridge apart from his classmates. How can we raise awareness and educate others to examine their behaviours and attitudes to those who have a disability?
Pictured here is a smiling Rick Hansen on his wheel chair, in front a body of water and city skyline in the background. enlarge image
Rick Hansen recognizing the 25th Anniversary Relay, 2011

Source: www.hellovancity.com

Action 3  

Do 

RICK HANSEN: A Canadian Hero for Human Rights

The Rick Hansen Story (Excerpt)

by Dennis Foon

Canadian playwright, Dennis Foon has written the play Rick: The Rick Hansen Story, that tells the story of Rick Hansen’s accident and subsequent adjustment to his paralysis. In the following excerpt, Rick has just returned to school and shares his frustration with a friend.

Don: You okay?

Rick: This is all wrong. It shouldn’t be like this.

Don: What do you mean?

Rick: I can’t get up the stairs to get into school. I can’t get into stores or restaurants. I can’t even get my chair across the street because of the curbs.

Don: Your dad built you a ramp.

Rick: It was that or he’d have to buy me a tent to live in…except they don’t make any a wheelchair can fit.

Don: Anyhow—the coach wants to see you in the gym.

Rick: Why?

Don: Don’t ask me. I’m just the messenger. You coming?

Rick: Sure let’s go.

(Don and Rick move together, both facing the audience. As if staring in through the doors of the gym. Rick stops at the sound of a practice, balls bouncing, shouting, the coach’s voice barking instructions. Rick freezes, overwhelmed.)

Don: The volleyball team is hopeless without you.

Rick: They’re doing fine.

Don: Well, the coach is waiting.

Rick: (distraught): I can’t go in there. I can’t. (Rick wheels away)

Don: What’s wrong?

Rick: I gotta go -

Permission granted, Playwrights Canada Press

3.	A concrete and marble statue of Rick Hansen on his wheelchair. enlarge image
Statue of Rick Hansen in honour of his Man In Motion World Tour
– Vancouver Canada

Credit: Wikimedia.org

A. Reading and Responding to the Script Excerpt

Read the script independently, then work with a partner to discuss the following:

  • What are two things you learn about Rick Hansen from this excerpt?
  • What is frustrating Rick about his disability?
  • How has Rick’s life changed as a result of his disability?  How prepared are Rick’s friends and teachers to deal with Rick’s circumstances?
  • What do you think the coach might say to Rick? What might Rick say to his coach?
  • What advice might you give his friends? The coach? To Rick? To move forward as a person with a disability?
  • Mr. Hansen is a hero and role model, but do stories like this create unrealistic expectations for those with disabilities?

B. Interpreting the script

With a partner, choose a role to read out loud from this script. Repeat the activity, switching roles. To rehearse this script, actors might play their roles in different ways. Once you have decided upon a role to practice, choose one of these ‘attitudes / emotions’ to interpret the lines (e.g., Rick could be calm and Don could be angry; both characters could be angry etc.)

  • calmly
  • with anger
  • with hesitation
  • with sadness
  • apathetic, uncaring

C. Rehearsing the script

As an actor rehearses, he or she explores a variety of emotions to inform how to best convey the meaning of the texts. Experiment with a few different ways to read these lines and with your partner, discuss which way seemed the most authentic theatre presentation (i.e., How would each character feel as they continue the conversation?).

Once you have rehearsed the scene, present it to another pair and compare different interpretations.

D. Writing a new scene

  • This scene describes one example of how a person with a disability struggles in a world built for able bodied people. In small groups discuss other situations when Rick’s rights, (or someone like Rick) would be jeopardized. What struggles might he encounter in maintaining his rights as a student in school, home and the greater community? What solutions might be offered to meet these challenges?
  • In pairs, or small groups, prepare a new scripted scene in which Rick appears. For this scene consider:
    • Which characters might appear in the scene?
    • What is the setting?
    • How will the particular challenge be conveyed?
    • What information and feelings will your scene represent about the human rights of a person who identifies as disabled?
  • Once completed, rehearse the scene with your group to present to others who have worked on a different scene. (The complete Dennis Foon script of Rick: The Rick Hansen Story is available through Playwrights Canada Press.)
  • What are some interesting facts you might learn about Rick Hansen’s accomplishments as an athlete, as a person? More Information about Rick Hansen and the Rick Hansen Foundation is available at: http://www.rickhansen.com/.
  • After his accident, Rick Hansen became a paralympic athlete winning several medals. The Paralympics follow the Olympic games every four years, bringing together athletes from around the world to compete in a variety of sports. Using the Internet, research other athletes to find out their story and find out how they became Olympic winners.

Action 4  

Do 

A new symbol for people who Identify as Disabled or Differently Abled

David Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Canada, battled polio in his childhood that resulted in partial paralysis. Today he is able to walk using leg braces, crutches or canes but he prefers to move around in his electric scooter.

In 2013, Onley challenged Canadian secondary students to submit designs for a more inclusive accessible symbol of the world. Onley notes that even though 97 per cent of the population of persons with disabilities in North America don’t use wheelchairs or electric scooters, they have a definite disability. The traditional symbol that features a stick figure is not, according to the Lieutenant Governor, inclusive.

Though thousands of designs were submitted, a ‘winner’ was not declared. The Lieutenant Governor claimed that designs fell short of conveying the complex needs of people with disabilities. The challenge with a design is to ensure that people are not left out and that recognition is given beyond just those in a wheelchair. An honourable mention was given to the design below.

A. This activity requires you to rethink a symbol that has been valuable and transformed access for disability, but limits how disabilities are represented in many ways. Working alone or with a partner, create a new symbol design using an art medium of your choice. Consider:

  • What are your views of the traditional disabled stick figure in a wheelchair?
  • How might a symbol be more humanized? More inclusive of other disabilities?
  • What colors, shapes, objects and / or characters do you think need to be implemented?
  • Should there be any words included in the symbol?

(Search for an example of another symbol. (e.g. Beijing Paralympics symbol))

Further images: http://bit.ly/disabilitysymbols

Discuss 

B. Once you have completed a design, meet with your classmates to discuss submissions. For your discussion, you can imagine that you are members of a jury making choices for a symbol that effectively captures disabilities and that could be understood across cultures.

Where in the school and local community might these designs be displayed?

Current sign (blue)

Current sign (blue)

Submission for Competition (black)

Submission for Competition (black)

Source: Permission received by author: Credit: Copyright 2013 Tom Pokinko