On May 4th, 2017 students at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute, participated in the final day of workshops for the Next Generation: Canadian Global Citizenship Project, themed Identity: Who Am I? This day began with a land acknowledgement and traditional welcome by Kim Wheatley. Kim referred to the students as the change makers of the world, as they will ‘grow into power’ with the knowledge, wisdom, and sensitivity required to understand the country we call home – Canada. Kim ended her introduction by sharing some information on missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, and shared a prayer with students which she described is spoken, thought, and felt.
The traditional welcome and land acknowledgement was followed by a check in with the students, a summary of the previous conference day, an overview of Conference Day 4, as well as a brief discussion on Mental Health Awareness Week. Shortly after, students located to their Core Workshop groups titled Understanding and Addressing Racism and Discrimination. In this workshop, facilitators carved out a space for students in which they could discuss different variations of racism, and as well discuss their own personal experiences and thoughts on the topic. As well, the Understanding and Addressing Racism and Discrimination workshop was a segue into the elective workshops in which students had an opportunity to examine some markers of identity such as culture, religion, sexuality, and gender.
After a healthy snack break provided by the Next Generation Project, students moved into their respective Elective Workshops. These workshops were: Violence Against Women: End it Now!; Building Bridges: Diverse Cultural Identities; Islamophobia: Anti Muslim Prejudice; Mental Health: Stopping Negative Stigma, and Homophobia: Becoming an LGBTQI+ Ally. The theme of ‘identity’ provided a scaffold for all five workshops, during which students were asked to consider their identities in their full dynamism.
The elective workshops were followed by a communal lunch of Chicken Kabab sandwiches and fries (and a vegetarian option). One (of the many) fantastic aspects of lunch times at Marc Garneau is the way in which staff, students, and teachers help with the process of setting up and taking down. The communal lunches have been an integral piece in working toward cultivating a sense of community with the student participants of the Next Generation Project.
Following lunch, students regrouped into their Community Service Project (CSP) groups. The groups had one hour to finalize the distribution of remaining tasks and steps in order to prepare for the Youth Summit preparation. Many of the groups had met up on their own time in between Conference Days 3 and 4 to work on their CSPs.
The final portion of the day included the book giveaway activity and the guest speaker for Conference Day 4 – Rosina Kazi. Rosina, among many things, is a member of the Toronto based music group LAL, an activist, a community organizer, and artist. Rosina spoke to students about her childhood growing up in the company of the at the time small Bangladeshi community in Toronto. As well, Rosina shared about the different aspects of her identity with students, including her self identification as a queer person of colour. Rosina also spoke about why she thinks balances have to be struck between family, traditions, and expectations, while ‘growing into oneself.’ Rosina shared some of her music and poetry with the students, and as well gifted the Marc Garneau CI’s library with two of her records. During the question and answer period, addressing why ‘community’ is important, Rosina mentioned that through learning one another’s stories groups can build trust and cultivate a sense of safety. With collective trust, communities can build stronger movements.
The day ended with an overview of the Youth Summit taking place on May 18th, 2017.