On Monday, March 13th, students from around the Burnaby District and guests from Vancouver, Delta and Surrey converged in the Michael J. Fox theatre at Burnaby South Secondary school for the “Examining Social Justice” event. The goal of the morning was to challenge the participants to see the world’s complexities through a variety of different lenses, to know what the adversities are through activists’ eyes, and become more able to compassionately and intelligently deal with these.
The speakers who joined Burnaby’s event included: Carleen Thomas elected Councillor of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Murray Corren, Social Justice 12 course co-founder, George Somerwill, a former UN official, and Jim Sinclair of the BC Federation of Labour. The style of the morning was based on the TED talk format, which provides 18 minutes of “talk time” for a speaker to put across an idea or message. Between each speaker, movement-based activities were incorporated to keep the audience’s concentration sharp. Golden tickets were hidden for book prizes, an opportunity was presented for students to “Stand Up” and speak to what they believe, and an instant feedback audience survey was used with students texting in their opinions.
Student feedback demonstrated that they appreciated hearing from real people who are really involved. They were keen to share what they believe in. Their questions showed understanding of the issues and a willingness to be open to new perspectives.
The complexities of each of the topics presented cannot be adequately represented in this small space! In summary, Carleen Thomas spoke to the First Nations perspectives of environment, government and education. Regarding the Idle No More movement, Carleen’s salient point was, “Why should all First Nations people be focussed on one issue when there are so many issues?” Her point being that all Canadians cannot be expected to have the same viewpoint, but should expect change to happen for the better. Murray Corren‘s journey to social justice was fascinating and included wins for gay equality rights within the educational curriculum. He explained how his activism along with others accomplished the convincing of the BC Ministry of Education to incorporate the Social Justice 12 course, an elective course in BC which is growing every year. George Somerwill defined global social justice from a United Nations perspective, providing examples of human rights abuse which is happening. Jim Sinclair connected democracy with workers’ rights. His own early experiences shaped his personal passion for helping people young and old understand their right to have safe conditions and better paid work.
Thank you to the Burnaby Teachers’ Association for their contribution of Teachers-on-Call so that our district Social Justice 12 teachers could participate with their students, and of course to Burnaby School District vision behind Global Learning Programs. Special thanks to Burnaby South grade 8’s from Ms. Burbidge’s class who provided volunteer service to ensure the event ran smoothly. Ms. Slaney, Burnaby District Leadership teacher, encouraged great audience participation. Overall, a jam-packed morning with a lot of discussion points to be pursued in classrooms around the Lower Mainland.