#NextGeneration2017@Garneau: Conference Day 1 Summary
After a few years away from Ontario, the Next Generation: Canadian Global Citizenship Project returned home on February 22, 2017 where it launched at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute, in the Toronto District School Board. Garneau is the 3rd largest school in Ontario and has a highly diverse student body. There are approximately 120 students participating in the Next Generation: Canadian Global Citizenship Project at Garneau.
Conference Day 1 began with a traditional welcome and land acknowledgement by Kim Wheatley. Kim is an active Anishnaabe Cultural Consultant and the Southern Regional Vice Chair for the Provincial and territorial organization called the Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario. Kim provided a brief history on the traditional lands we are situated on here in Toronto. She ended her traditional welcome and land acknowledgement by asking the students to think about what kind of future they would like to live in – particularly in the context of access to resources such as water. Kim’s questions provided a great point of entry for the students, as they walked to their first workshop Global Citizenship: Being Engaged.
The Global Citizenship: Being Engaged workshop provided the students with an opportunity to frame the entire Next Generation Project, and prompted them to think about how to make our world a better place and to begin engaging with concepts such as empathy, inequity, power dynamics, oppression, and justice among others. The facilitators ended this workshop by asking students to think about “solidarity” with other people and communities as they went into their respective elective workshops. When asked to describe ‘justice’ in their elective workshop evaluations, a student commented that it was “a point when no one is identified by colour, race, etc.”
After a brief healthy snack break provided by Mosaic, students went into their respective elective workshops. Students had an opportunity to rank their workshops in order of interest prior to the conference day. The five elective workshops included: Community Justice: Working in Solidarity to Support Indigenous Communities, Environmental Justice: Climate Change and Agriculture, Class Justice: Poverty and the Unequal Distribution of Wealth, Migrant Justice: Refugees and Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada, Social Justice: Raping for Social Change. These elective workshops each provided a microcosm of the concepts students had engaged with in their morning sessions. One student mentioned that the “Core workshop started the thought process and the elective workshops went into more detail.”
After the elective workshops, students, teachers, facilitators, and staff shared a communal lunch of Afghan cuisine together. A young Afghan female student exclaimed her gratitude and delight that her cultural food was brought into her school for the first time in her life. Marc Garneau’s principal, Ricky Goldenberg, helped to serve lunch to her excited students.
The afternoon began with a presentation by Tamam McCallum, the Executive Director of Turtle House Art-Play Centre, and the Community Service Project (CSP) partner for this iteration of the Next Generation Project. Tamam gave a history on the inception of Turtle House and the arts based work that the organization does with children and their parents who have fled conflict. The students then had an opportunity to choose between the five different CSP groups, which will all be working toward helping Turtle House Art-Play Centre in some way.
The final portion of the day, the closing plenary, began with a keynote speech by our guest speaker, Kulvir Singh Gill. Among many things, Kulvir is the co-founder and current volunteer Executive Director of the Seva Food bank in Mississauga. Kulvir spoke about being born into a Sikh Punjabi family in Calgary Alberta and how his identity has been shaped by his South Asian Canadian roots. He encouraged students to reflect on their own multiple identities and how they can contribute to the Canadian Mosaic with their own culture.
The day culminated with an overview of Conference Day 2 and the book giveaway of Seeds of Hope. This book shares the stories written by refugee youth in Toronto and allies from the FCJ Refugee Centre. All book proceeds go toward scholarships for youth.