TRC Report- 2015

The following blog post was written by a student in the grade 11 NBE3U – Indigenous Voices class and is re-posted here with her permission.

As you’ve probably already realized, Indigenous people have one of the worst- if not the worst relationships with the Canadian government. Over the centuries, the sad truth has become apparent- that the Canadian government doesn’t prioritize Indigenous communities. Because of this and all of the injustices Indigenous people have faced, it’s honestly hard to believe that the government actually wants to reconcile their relations- especially because that means a loss of power that they’ve strived for from the fifteen hundreds.

A chart showing how many of the 94 calls to action have been completed, in progress, or have not started.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published a report that included 94 calls to action. These are simple, fair requests that Indigenous representatives had put together to advance reconciliation after they made a final report about the abuse Indigenous children faced in residential schools. After reading through the calls to action, I believe they’re all reasonable and easy to follow-through with, but despite everything, only ten actions have been completed. Why? You may be wondering. Because if they get all of their requests fulfilled, they will have equal rights and the government doesn’t want that. They don’t want this because that means fulfilling the original promises made to Indigenous groups over their land, reimbursing the money, and most importantly- educating people on the Indigenous people and Canada’s dark history. Let’s not forget about the lack of information to the public as well, because when I was trying to research these so-called ‘projects in progress’, I couldn’t find any specific plan to solve the issue. This makes me wonder if there’s actual actions being taken in the first place. I know for a fact, that if I were an all-powerful leader, I wouldn’t want people to know the secrets I’ve tried so hard to bury. If Canadians learn more about the past, it can open their eyes towards the truth, so there is less prejudice and bias. This is because they will know that Canada isn’t just free education, healthcare, and all the other things we take pride in.

A graph showing the employment gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people.

To be honest, most of the calls to action seem like basic rights most of use get to take for granted on a daily basis. Canada is known for being a multicultural country, but there are very few Indigenous people in public service fields such as child welfare, social work, and nursing. So, all they ask is to increase the number of people with first-hand experience of growing up Indigenous, so they can be able to help more. However, there’s too much bias in the work field that creates educational and employment gaps. Plus, the Indian Act is still a thing in the 21st century, so most Indigenous people can’t even go to university in the first place. Another section of the calls to action is education because it should be equally accessible to this minority compared to the rest of Canada. For example, First Nations people still can’t go to university, as long as they have a Status card and identify as ‘Indian’ (Oh lord, don’t even get me started on that).

Personally, going to university has always been a norm in my household, especially because my brown parents are immigrants and they’ve emphasized the importance of education since I was a kid. Any parent wants their child to have their best shot at being successful in the future, and for many, that means a post-secondary education. But, this choice, along with many other choices for Indigenous people have been taken away from them, even though the government claims that they are equal Canadian citizens. Since these communities have already been forced into being ‘Canadians’ (despite them being here centuries before the Europeans), they should at least be treated like every other citizen. Instead, the government associates them as a part of Canada only when there’s a benefit like when taking land and throwing them into reserves. The sad reality otherwise, is that Indigenous people are backed up into the corner of society.

Anyways, another aspect to this section of the report is that other Canadians should be educated on Indigenous people and their history, in order to get closer to reconciliation. But surprise surprise, the government hasn’t completed these calls to actions either. Why? Because everyone knows that knowledge is power, so once Canadians know the truth, the government won’t be able to hide all the injustices Indigenous people have faced and still face. This minority is facing daily struggles to the point of no clean water, while we’re all living in the propaganda-filled ‘first-world’ country of Canada. I mean, can you imagine having generations of your family belonging to a specific area of land you call home, but then being forced to move because some random new people come in and kick you out? And on top of that, these new people are spilling all your hard work in staying sustainable down the drain. This reminds me of when my dad rented out our other house to a group of people who didn’t clean it properly, and then when we went back to the house we once lived in, we were shocked at how messy it was and we felt powerless to do anything about it. To add on, my family owns farmland in India that my grandparents and great-grandparents have worked hard on, so if we were forced to give it away, especially without some sort of payment in return, it would be completely unfair.

Sikhs protesting for recognition of the Indian governments role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

 

Overall, I think the problem is that the government doesn’t care enough about Indigenous people because even though most of them are legally Canadian, they don’t live in the European-based society we live in. I think some of these issues can be easily solved if the government would just listen to the voice of this minority for once. And no, I don’t even think the government should be able to negotiate compromises because the entire history of the governments relationship with the Indigenous people is based on lies, manipulation, and unkept promises. So, the least they can do is step down from their high pedestal and be willing to listen. In my opinion, history classes should be diversified, so you can have the option to choose a specific group of people in history to explore, instead of just European history. For example, I’m Sikh, so I could learn more about the injustices and genocides of my own culture. This can even help make a change because to this day, the Indian government hasn’t accepted responsibility for the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, which just shows that Canada isn’t as different to India, as many Indian-Canadian families like to believe.

I mean, my parents say they immigrated here to live in a more equal nation, but Canada isn’t as multicultural as I thought because the Indigenous people still seek recognition and reconciliation, just as Sikhs in India do. This way, diversity in textbooks can ensure that the point of view won’t be one-sided and it can share the stories of minorities. Even in Canadian history, the history textbooks are bias because the story’s POV is different, compared to the Indigenous perspective of European settlement and the development of Canada.

Drawing of a battle during the Iroquois War, from the diary of Samuel de Champlain, which has been added to many history textbooks. This shows his bias of how the battle was fought because he drew himself in the front, against many Iroquois people. Therefore, he portrayed himself as the brave leader, while in reality he probably wasn’t going up against so many people alone.

The Final Report of the National Inquiry into MMIWG: A Step in the Right Direction

The following blog post was written by a Grade 11 student for an assignment for NBE3U – Indigenous Voices and re-posted with her permission. 

Women around the world have internally normalized gender inequality, sexual harassment, and inequity. We have been told to keep our keys between our knuckles, learn self-defence and always have a friend on speed dial- because we need to keep ourselves safe from the world. However, whatever gender inequality non-indigenous women have faced- Indigenous women have faced much more. In 2018, there were around 20 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous Women in Canada. These women were deprived of a normal life, their family, their dreams and their aspirations- simply because they were Indigenous. Today, the number of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women has grown to around 4,000 and has created an intergenerational impact on the community.

Every day, young Indigenous girls witness their loved ones harassed and assaulted. They learn to normalize these behaviours and often practice silence when they experience the same. According to Genna Buck at the National Post, around 4.8% of harassment and violence cases towards Indigenous women go unreported. Of these women, around 80% were daughters of individuals who also experienced assault. However, this is not the case for all Indigenous Women and sometimes- these cases are reported. In 2018, around 4% of Canadian women took the liberty to report their cases of harassment, violence and gender inequality. Of these women, around 10% of the victims were Indigenous. This was the largest group affected, yet the media completely ignored this. In today’s society, when Indigenous women go missing or are murdered, their cases are dismissed and ignored. Yet, when women who identify as non-indigenous go missing or are murdered, they make national headlines. They may also start a feminist uproar, which ultimately demonstrates one of the many reasons why  Missing and Murdered Indigenous women is still a national epidemic.

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Comparison of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous assault victims (in 2018)

During the last election, Prime Minister candidate Justin Trudeau promised that if he was elected, he would initiate a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. To my pleasant surprise, he did. For those unfamiliar with Canadian Politics, Justin is the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who wasn’t exactly the keenest on Indigenous Rights. So, you can understand my sentiment when I learned he kept his promise. The report was published earlier this year and finally brought light to the racism and inequality Indigenous women face on an everyday basis. The report itself is 1,200 pages long and is the product of a 3-year process, that started in August 2016. It involves statements from 2,380 victims, their families, experts and “Knowledge Keepers“. The commissioners in charge of the report also studied thousands of court records and police reports that were written between the first case of MMIWG and today. The report and inquiry were given a $92 million budget and the final copy was presented on June 3rd, 2019 at an ornate ceremony.

A video of Prime Minister Trudeau’s speech at the ceremony for the presentation of the national inquiry report.

The report, though quite a lengthy read, gives non-indigenous people an insight into the six-decade struggle that has taken place in most Indigenous communities across Canada. Now, before writing this post- I decided to look through this report to get a basic understanding of what was uncovered through the investigation. As I suspected, the report announced that this issue is nothing short of genocide. Although this epidemic may not be as bloody and violent as other famous genocides in history- it is still targeting people of a certain gender and identity for no reason besides their background. Every year, innocent women are killed and kidnapped off the street for doing nothing wrong and are deprived of life’s basic pleasures like love and happiness. Time and time again, Indigenous communities are targeted and forced to accept terrible conditions, simply because no one cares enough to stop them (this can also be seen in the sixties scoop and residential schools).

However, this isn’t the case anymore. Through this report, it has become clear that the issue of MMIWG is an act of racism, prejudice, and bias and should not be ignored. Living in a society that celebrates diversity and equality, it is mind-blowing that we call ourselves feminists yet blatantly overlook the needs and human rights violations affecting Indigenous women every day. In my opinion, it’s because we don’t care enough. All our lives, the needs of Indigenous people have been swept under the rug. We are programmed to ignore their needs and often look the other way when they cry for help. However, this does not solve problems. Instead, it helps problems escalate and grow. This clearly explains why the MMIWG crisis is still a societal issue, almost 60 years after it first started. To make matters worse, many individuals also refuse to learn about Indigenous communities simply because they do not connect with them. To many people, Indigenous nations are similar to a different species- and as a result, they don’t enjoy learning or talking about them.

However, as I have come to learn in my short time in NBE- you can connect with anything and anyone (from any culture), as long as you are willing to make the effort. To add on, while this issue may not affect you entirely, it may affect someone like you. Twenty miles away, there could be a child the same age as you who lost their mother, sister or aunt to this national epidemic. They are left silenced- without any explanation or answer regarding their loved one’s health. All these individuals are waiting for is someone to collaborate with them in order to help spread awareness for the crisis their families face every day, and through this report- it seems like something is finally happening.

Indigenous youth with picture of family members they lost through  this epidemic. While it may not affect you, it does affect someone like you.

When researching this topic, one thing that stood out to me was the clear discrimination and bias behind what the media portrayed about this epidemic. In the introduction, I mentioned that when non-indigenous women are harassed, they are more likely to receive media attention and help inspire people to make a change. This hit quite close to home and reminded me of the media bias that I see surrounding terrorism and it’s relation to the Muslim community. A few years ago, there was a deadly van attack in Toronto– that left many people dead. The perpetrator was a young, white man who media outlets labelled as “mentally ill”. Soon after the attack, reporters started describing the event as “a troubled man’s actions or “a product of his mental illness”. Now, before I continue- I want to mention that I am not discrediting mental illness but instead, want to put the idea into perspective. This man committed what would normally be described as terrorism- if he was a Muslim. Instead, the individual’s white privilege unleashed a plethora of excuses that overlooked his behaviour and instead, credited it to something he couldn’t control. These excuses were also made during the Quebec Mosque shooting, the Parkland shooting, and the Manchester Stabbing, back in 2018. In fact, attacks done by non-muslim perpetrators are 52% more likely to be attributed to mental illness, when compared to attacks done by Muslims. These attacks are also 35% less likely to receive media coverage when compared to attacks done by Muslims.

Whether intentional or not, media outlets usually link terrorist attacks with Muslims. They distort public perception and create rigid schemas that influence the way people act towards the issue. This can also be seen with MMIWG. In the past, media outlets have victimized the MMIWG, often attributing their disappearance to alcohol, drugs or other stereotypes surrounding the Indigenous community. They often refuse to tell the whole story (or even tell the story at all). This influences public opinions and allows people to overlook the issue because no-one is talking about it. As a result, whether it is intentional or not- Canadians often victim blame and attribute the consequences of the situation to the victim as opposed to the perpetrator. This is one of the main reasons why MMIWG is still a huge issue in our society. Instead of researching the issue for ourselves, we tend to listen to what the media portrays (or does not portray). As a result, we tend to overlook the issue because we don’t have the right information. This can be detrimental because it influences negative bias and schema towards an issue- which can be quite irritating for the communities affected. I can’t begin to explain the number of times I’ve tried to convince people that terrorism is not exclusive to non-white perpetrators.

However, it seems like everything I say goes in one ear and out the other because everyone believes the media is a credible informant. This relates to a concept I learned in my psychology class this semester and it is called the Spectrum of Belief. Personally, it was quite fascinating to see why I was unable to change someone’s mind. Surprisingly enough- it had nothing to do with me (and my persuasion skills) but rather, the beliefs  of the individual I was trying to convince. This is why this report is such a huge development! It seems like a breath of fresh air because it provides a clear, non-biased perspective on the issue of MMIWG- allowing everyone to learn and make their own decisions regarding the issue. This could potentially influence people to make a change because they will finally have the facts and numbers to explain the impact of the issue, as opposed to just what the media decides to show them.

All in all, it blows my mind that Indigenous women across the country are still experiencing the same prejudice and discrimination they were almost 60 years ago- when Missing and Murdered Indigenous women first became a problem. In my opinion the national inquiry was a huge step in the right direction, however, there is still a lot that needs to be done to ensure that Indigenous women can live the lives they have dreamed for themselves (without having to live in constant fear of being murdered or going missing). I am quite optimistic about what the coming government will have to say about this issue and the potential progress that will be made towards ending the intergenerational impact of this epidemic. Until then, learning and teaching others about the issue is a great start- and is something we can all do whether it be online or in person. It takes minimal effort, and it may not change our world- but it will change the world for the communities affected.

 

Why Design Thinking?

It’s not uncommon when you walk the halls of Jean Augustine Secondary School to see students engaged in the design process. You will see design thinking in action in those spaces you might expect to see it, in the DesignLab, in a construction technology class, and the computer engineering lab. But it is particularly exciting when you see a grade 9 Healthy Active Living class engaging in design thinking to create innovative solutions to mental health challenges faced by their peers. Or when our grade 11 Social Innovation classes are using design thinking to find creative solutions to issues of poverty, hunger, and equity right in their own community.

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We aren’t talking about the kind of work that ends up in the recycling bin at the end of the semester. It’s real, it has an impact, and the students see value in the work that they do. So, what is design thinking and why should it continue to be an integral part of what we do here at Jean Augustine Secondary School? Here are some resources to help explain it’s value.

What is Human-centered Design? from IDEO.org on Vimeo.

Why Design Thinking Works – Harvard Business Review

Why Design Thinking is Relevant – IDEO

Design Thinking: A Unified Framework For Innovation – Forbes

Way back in 2010, 1500 CEOs from around the world declared that Creativity is the most crucial factor for Future Success

What does innovation mean to me?

Grade 9 student Shifaa shares her thoughts about innovation at JASS:

What’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear ‘Innovation’? Actually. Think about it.

For me, I think of the word ‘Invention’. And for the longest time, I thought that the two were practically the same thing. I mean, they sound similar enough, right? After stumbling on an article while in English class and doing some further research, I found that the two are actually not the same at all.

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An invention is usually a “thing”, while an innovation is usually an invention that causes change in behaviour or interactions.”

This phrase caught my eye and I thought for a while. To make things more simple, I created an example. The example might be that an invention is a special type of watch. An innovation would be that this watch would determine how many people interact with each other, for instance, if the watch showed the wearer’s Zodiac, blood and personality type, then two people may compare watches when looking for a spouse, a worker with specific personality, etc. etc. and this watch would therefore change the behaviour of someone and their interactions with another person.

Another example is the iPhone. It’s both an invention and an innovation. Clearly it’s an invention because it’s a new device that no one has created before. It is under legal protection, has been patented, etc. etc. But it’s also an innovation because it has changed the world. It has changed people’s behaviours (in negative ways as well, but that’s a different topic), interactions with each other, the business world, the entertainment world, the mental and health world…the list is huge.

So what does innovation mean to me, in a school setting?  In a new class called GLS (Guided Learning Strategies), originality and innovation were topics discussed.  So what is original?” Was the question. My personal conclusion was that: There is almost nothing human made that is original. But the fact that we copied and remixed those ideas, originally from nature (nature IS the origin), and remixed them again from our innovations. This is what created the success of the human species.

Issac Asimov (the author of the famous book I, Robot) said in one letter of his:

Rather than lecture sessions where the presenter proves how smart he is by showing his results and finished work products, the cerebration sessions are used to “group think” new ideas, new possibilities, and new combinations of knowledge and experience which could find new answers and new directions.”

Here at JASS, I believe that this is exactly what is attempted to be initiated in the students. Instead of our teachers presenting the information, we are split into groups and told to brainstorm using our current knowledge to complete the task, with the teacher giving us tips on how to do so.

As an ex-homeschooler, most of my previous work was very independent and I learned to think for myself and self-regulate, which are both important skills. But in school, I now have a chance to use the knowledge and experiences of other people and add to my current knowledge–something that did not happen on a daily basis while being homeschooled.

Now that we have identified what innovation is, this blog should conclude how to further implement this idea of innovation. Let’s once again look at the famous science-fiction writer’s words:

“First and foremost, there must be ease, relaxation, and a general sense of permissiveness. The world in general disapproves of creativity, and to be creative in public is particularly bad…The individuals must, therefore, have the feeling that the others won’t object.”

A similar system is implemented in businesses such as Google and other such organizations (Apple, Facebook, etc.). The first is the culture of cerebration, of promoting employees to share and internally market their ideas and projects. The second is that they realize that the working of the brain and group-think are key components to turning invention to innovation (turning a thing into it actually interacting in society).

If we as students are to succeed, they must be given an environment where innovation will occur naturally and often. Here at JASS, I believe that this is happening, and all that is left is for us to remove the barriers of reluctance and awkwardness and dive right in.