The Next Generation: Canadian Global Citizenship Project returned to Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute for the second conference day on March 23, 2017 with the theme of Canada: A Safe Home for All Us.
Conference Day 2 began with a short presentation by Alexandria Bipatnath. Alexandria spoke of her experiences as a young half Indigenous half Guyanese woman, and the ways in which she engages with her culture and acts as an ambassador for her Indigenous identity. The students were able to relate with Alexandria and engaged in a lively question and answer period. As well, Alexandria’s introduction prepared students for some of the themes and discussions they would be engaging with in the workshops for the day.
Following Alexandria’s presentation, there was a brief recap of Conference Day 1 for students, and a spoken word performance by Hodo Hussein (Ontario Project Assistant) that captured the main themes of that day. After, students relocated to their core workshop titled First Peoples on this Land: Learning about Canada’s First Nations Communities. This workshop aimed to introduce students to the history and current context of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, in particular the First Nations communities, and as well to explore ideas of solidarity with First Nations. Students were given an opportunity to not only learn about the history of colonization and its impacts on Canada’s Indigenous peoples, but as well about these communities’ resistance over the course of the past 150 years. Further, along with the theme of Conference Day 2, the core workshop provided an opportunity for students to question and think about their own relationship to Canada and how the idea of a ‘safe home’ within the context of the nation may differ for different people. One student described a safe home as “a place where people have equal opportunities and access to resources” while another described it as “a place where our ideas and cultures are welcomed and embraced.”
After their core workshop, students took a short healthy snack break provide
d by the Next Generation Project, and then broke off into their elective workshops that they had pre-selected. The elective workshops on Conference Day 2 were designed in such a way so as to allow students to engage with the concepts and themes they were introduced to during their core workshop, within a more specific context. The five elective workshops were: Building a Better Life: Challenges for Canada’s Immigrants and Refugees; Migration 101: Types of Migration and History of Immigration Settlement in Canada; Canada’s Role in Climate Change; Human Rights in Canada: Protecting our Freedoms; and Canada’s Historical injustices: Challenges on the Road to Multiculturalism.
After the elective workshops, students, teachers, facilitators, and other staff shared a communal lunch of Middle Eastern Shawarmas provided by the Next Generation Project. Students have a chance to spend their lunchtime together at the library on the conference days that provides a bonding opportunity with their peers from other grades.
In the afternoon, after breaking into their respective Community Service Project (CSP) groups, teachers facilitated a short debrief and check-in session during which time students had a chance to briefly reflect on their experiences of the day. After this, students had their first planning session with their respective CSP facilitators and teachers to map out a working plan for the implementation of their projects. As well, students were given an option of forming a sixth CSP group to create a spoken word piece related to the work of Turtle House Art Play Centre, and facilitated by Hodo. Many students welcomed this option and joined the group.
The next program item for Day 2 was a keynote talk by Rania El Mugammar who is a writer, poet, activist, anti-oppression consultant, among many other things. Rania spoke to students about her personal experiences growing up in Regent Park (Toronto) and Kitchener (Ontario) as a Sudanese-Canadian, and a black Muslim. She urged students to question what national stories are being told, and whose narratives are being heard. Framing her talk within the concept of ‘story telling’ Rania stressed on the importance of ‘telling our stories’ as a method of building allyship and inclusion in order to give people the space to be who they want to be. Rania shared with students that as an artist and writer, she sees art as a mechanism for documenting, resisting, and imagining a future that can include all of us and not just some of us. Rania encouraged students to rethink the concept of ‘diversity’ by exploring the idea of ‘meaningful inclusion’ and what that could look like.
Conference Day 2 culminated with another book giveaway activity during which time facilitators asked the students a question related to one of their elective workshops and the first person to get the correct answer received a book. The titles on this day were Shannen and a Dream for A School and Indian Horse both of which tell the story of young Indigenous Canadians.
The Next Generation: Canadian Global Citizenship Project will be returning to Marc Garneau C.I. for Conference Day 3 on April 20, 2017.