Guest post: A movement for human rights in Canadian classrooms

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

In 2010, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) launched a program that would spark a national student movement for social justice and human rights in Canadian classrooms. It’s called “Imagineaction” and it has expanded beyond our initial expectations: 1,700 teachers who have involved over 90,000 students since its inception. The program offers subsidies for school-community projects that promote relationships, citizenship, health and wellness, leadership, environmental sustainability and that try to alleviate poverty.

Last December, on International Human Rights Day, CTF in partnership with the Canadian Museum for Humar Rights (CMHR), the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights launched a national human rights initiative called "Canadian Defenders for Human Rights".  

Under the Imagineaction banner, this multi-year initiative aims to heighten student awareness about human rights issues, develop students' critical thinking skills, and foster social activism in support of human rights at the local, national and international levels.

One of the key components of this initiative is a national teacher survey on human rights education in Canadian schools, with the results released in Winnipeg on May 8, 2013. Teachers identified a pressing need for more human rights tools and resources – especially when teaching younger children. Almost all respondents said teachers place high value on human rights education.

Students from École St. Avila

Students from École St. Avila explain how human rights affects their own lives.


Our next steps now are to move forward, along with the CMHR and our other partners in the “Canadian Defenders for Human Rights” initiative. Our aim is to provide tools and resources to teachers, to raise awareness of human rights issues with Canadian high school students. Canadian Defenders for Human Rights stands to be a national mobilizing activity for students from coast to coast to coast, building solidarity, recognition and support for human rights globally and locally.

As the project develops, teachers will have access to:

  • a rich selection of Kindergarten-4, 5-8 and 9-12 lesson plans, links, and background information to teach human rights within a contemporary context;
  • a Canadian adaptation of Speak Truth to Power (pictured above), a highly acclaimed international resource developed by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights;
  • a variety of learning resources, tools and prescribed curriculum on Indigenous peoples to inform non-Indigenous students;
  • a digital platform to celebrate student social action at the community level in the pursuit of human rights.

The initiative will engage Kindergarten-12 teachers and students in a collective reflection on cooperation, respect, inclusion, acceptance, respect for diversity, responsibility and equity. Students will be able to truly become Canadian Defenders for Human Rights within their own communities by identifying, planning and carrying out grassroots projects.

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