“Canadian Defenders for Human Rights” education initiative aims to spark social action

Tags for “Canadian Defenders for Human Rights” education initiative aims to spark social action

News release details

Leaders of the Canadian Teachers' Federation (CTF), the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights gathered in Ottawa today to announce their partnership on a national initiative called "Canadian Defenders for Human Rights".

"Canadian Defenders for Human Rights" is a curriculum tool designed to raise awareness of human rights issues within Canadian high school students. It is also a national mobilizing activity for students from coast to coast to coast, building solidarity, recognition and support for human rights globally and locally.

"This multi‐year initiative aims to heighten awareness about human rights, develop students' critical thinking skills and ignite social activism in support of human rights at the local, national and international levels," explains CTF President Paul Taillefer. "Canadian Defenders for Human Rights aims to engage K‑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."

"Empowering people to take a stand for human rights begins with a solid educational foundation," said CMHR President and CEO Stuart Murray. "Education is a central pillar of our mandate as a national Museum. Through this partnership with CTF, AFN, ITK and the Robert Kennedy Centre, we are providing Canadian students with a tremendous opportunity to learn about Canada's human rights champions and to become active, engaged citizens."

For his part, AFN National Chief Shawn A‑in‐chut Atleo adds: "The Assembly is pleased to join with our esteemed colleagues to advance this important initiative. Education for and about human rights provides an important foundation towards building respectful relationships between individuals and peoples." 

"Canadians must know about the historical atrocities Aboriginal peoples in Canada have faced, and we must also teach our youth about the men and women who have defended our rights, and who continue to defend our rights to pursue our culture, to hunt, to feed our families and to speak our language," said National Inuit Leader Terry Audla, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. "We must teach them as well to continue this proud legacy and to become defenders of human rights themselves."

"In the face of injustice and inequality, we cannot afford to be bystanders," said John Heffernan, Director of Speak Truth To Power, a project of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. "Our partnership with CTF enables us to bring the Speak Truth To Power human rights teacher resource to Canada and in turn empower students to stand up and speak out in the face of these injustices". 

As the project develops, teachers will have access to:

  • a rich selection of K‑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, 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, and 
  • a digital platform to celebrate student social action at the community level in the pursuit of human rights.

The CTF, an alliance of 15 Member organizations and one Affiliate Member representing nearly 200,000 teachers across the country, is a member of the international body of teachers Education International (EI). Follow CTF on Twitter @CanTeachersFed,@EnseigneCanada. www.ctf-fce.ca www.imagine-action.ca

The CMHR, currently under construction in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, was established to provide a place for Canadians, and the world, to explore and promote the subject of human rights and to encourage human rights action. Follow the CMHR on Twitter: @CMHR_news www.humanrightsmuseum.ca/home

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates, @AFN_Comms www.afn.ca

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) is the national Inuit organization in Canada, representing four Inuit regions – Nunatsiavut (Labrador), Nunavik (northern Quebec), Nunavut, and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in the Northwest Territories. www.itk.ca Follow ITK on Twitter @ITK_CanadaInuit

The Washington‐based Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights is one of the foremost international human rights organizations. It was founded as a living memorial in 1968 by Robert Kennedy's family and friends to realize his dream of a more just and peaceful world. www.rfkcenter.org

Media contacts:

  • Francine Filion, Director of Communications, CTF, 613–899-4247 ffili@ctf-fce.ca
  • Angela Cassie, Director of Communictions and External Relations, Canadian Museum for Human Rights, 204–290-3651 angela.cassie@humanrightsmuseum.ca
  • Alain Garon, Assembly of First Nations Bilingual Communications Officer 613–241-6789, ext 382 or cell: 613–2920857 or email agaron@afn.ca
  • Patricia D'Souza, Acting Director of Communications, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami dsouza@itk.ca; 613–292-4482
  • Cate Urban, Web Communications & Social Media Manager, 202–463-7575, ext 234, urban@rfkcenter.org