Human Rights Education is an integral part of the right to education and is increasingly gaining recognition as a human right in itself. Knowledge of rights and freedoms is considered a fundamental tool to guarantee respect for the rights of all. Human Rights education is fundamental for addressing the underlying causes of human rights violations, preventing human rights abuses, combating discrimination, promoting equality, and enhancing people’s participation in democratic decision-making processes, resolution of conflict, and can provide a common understanding of how to address political and social differences equitably and celebrate cultural diversity. (UNESCO)
Human Rights Week involves events to commemorate the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948.
Activities during the week are created to celebrate and mobilize awareness in our own rights and emphasize local, national and international human rights issues. We promote activities and educational programs to help newcomers to Canada to explore human rights from a personal, community, national and international perspective by organizing activities for children, youth and adults about the many dimensions of human rights. It is a week to generate public awareness and knowledge about why human rights matter.
Settlement Workers in School – SWIS
Since 2010, Settlement Workers in Schools of TNO – The Neighbourhood Organization have played a key role in the organization of the agenda of the week every year. Thanks to the partnership with the Toronto District School Board – TDSB and the Toronto Catholic District School Board- TCDSB thousands of newcomer students and ESL learners have had the opportunity to participate in a variety of informative sessions, workshops, film screenings, assemblies, presentations, and art exhibits where we have had important conversations about racism and racial discrimination, violence against women, children rights and responsibilities, worker’s rights, immigrant and refugee rights, housing rights, LGBTQ rights, indigenous rights, and we have learnt together about the history and evolution of human rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Ontario Human Rights Code and the work of international, national, provincial and municipal human rights organizations and institutions.
Settlement Workers working in partnership with Principals, Teachers, Students and community organizations are the main organizers of the agenda of the week every year. The Human Rights Week is an excellent opportunity to create awareness about the importance to know, respect and defend human rights as part of our Canadian identity.
Thanks to principals, teachers and staff for their great support since 2010:
Toronto District School Board:
- Adult Schools: City Adult Learning Centre CALC , and Overland Learning Centre.
- Elementary, Middle and High Schools: Greenwood Secondary School, Crescent Town Public School, Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute, Monarch Park Collegiate Institute, Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute, East York Collegiate Institute, York Mills Collegiate Institute, Victoria Park Collegiate Institute, SATEC @ W.A. Porter Collegiate Institute, and Thorncliffe Park Public School.
Toronto Catholic School Board:
- Blessed John XXIII Catholic School, Senator O’Connor College School and San Patrick Secondary School.
Thanks to all the great organizations that have supported the Human Rights Week since 2010:
- Amnesty International Toronto Organization
- Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture
- Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity ( Formerly Jer’s Vision Canada)
- Canadian Civil Liberties Asociation
- Centre for Equality Rights and Accommodation, CERA
- Children Aid’s Society
- Federation of Metro Tenants Association
- Flemingdon Community Legal Services
- Iranian Women’s Organization
- Ontario Human Rights Commission
- Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse
- Scarborough Women’s Centre
- South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
- South Asian Women’s Centre
- St. James Town Community Corner
- Toronto District School Board
- Toronto Catholic District School Board
- Toronto Ombudsman
- Toronto Police 53 Division
- Workers Action Centre
The Commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Since 2010 presentations, performers, music, and guest speakers are always part of the program to commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
2011 – Overland Learning Centre.
Thanks to the support of Grant Reimer, Principal of Overland Learning Centre we had our first Assembly wrapping up a week of events exploring different aspects of the theme of Human Rights. This event was the perfect venue for the Ontario Human Rights Commission to launch a new project designed specifically for new Canadians. On the event day, special guest Barbara Hall, Ontario Human Rights Chief Commissioner, unveiled Arabic and Spanish versions of its popular e-learning module, Human Rights 101. These online resources offer users information on human rights history, principles, legislation and policies.
Dignitaries from all levels of government (our MP John Carmichael, the Hon. Kathleen Wynne, our MPP at that time) and representatives from the TDSB (Chris Bolton, Chair of the TDSB Board, Gerri Gershon, our Trustee and Penny Mustin, Associate Director) all spoke eloquently about the importance of Human Rights and the need to be vigilant in our efforts to protect individual rights and freedoms and to ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect. The event proved to be a very exciting and educational experience for Overland students.
2012 – Thorncliffe Park Public School.
In 2012, “Celebrating Human Rights in Canada” was held at Thorncliffe Park Public School. The event was very well attended by the community and dignitaries who highlighted the importance of Human Rights through inspiring speeches. The TNO Board Chair Bill Pashby thanked all the organizers and partners of the week in his speech and welcomed Toronto City Councillor John Parker, MP Don Valley West John Carmichael, Grant Remier Manager of Overland Learning Centre and Kevin Battaglia Principal of Thorncliffe Park Public School for their attendance and support. The agenda of the day included skits prepared by students from Marc Garneau CI, dances by the Senior Filipino Dancing Group of Thorncliffe Park, and the performance of the Chorus of ESL Students of Overland Learning Centre.
2013 – Greenwood Secondary School.
In 2013 Greenwood Secondary School hosted a very inspiring Commemoration of the Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The participation and support of the Vice Principal Craig Gerow was crucial in the success of the event. Newcomer youth from Greenwood Secondary School and St. Patrick Catholic Secondary School attended a general assembly where we had the opportunity to enjoy music, performances, speeches, and videos of newcomer profiles all performed by students –many of which have suffered from discrimination and persecution in their country of origin.- City Councillor Mary Fragedakis, Barbara Hall, Ontario Human Rights Chief Commissioner and Jehad Aliweiwi, Executive Director of TNO inspired students, teachers and community members with very motivational speeches about the past, present and future of human rights, and hopes and dreams for equality and justice.
2014 – Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute.
On December 10th Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute hosted an Assembly to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Nearly 200 ESL high school newcomer students from all around the world attended the event organized by TNO, ESL teachers and students with the great support of Ricky Goldenberg – Principal of the School. Inspirational speeches were part of the celebration after the welcome words of Ms. Goldenberg who talked about the importance to partner with community organizations and community groups to educate on human rights as a tool to reach peace, inclusiveness and respect of our differences. Ahmed Hussein Executive Director of TNO highlighted how important is to work together to bring a message of equality, social justice and human rights in our community and thanked all the organizers of the week activities. Gerry Gerson TDSB School Trustee congratulated the organizers and talked about the commitment of the Toronto District School Board to promote equality, diversity and inclusiveness within the staff, students and the community. Sargent Matt Moyer from the Toronto Police 53 Division gave a great speech about human rights, and stressed the commitment of the Toronto Police to stand against domestic violence. He also asked for a minute of silence to honor the woman and her two sons killed in Thonrcliffe Park at the end of November. City Councillor Jon Burnside highlighted the 2014 United Nations Human Rights Day slogan: #365Rights reminding the participants that every day should be a human rights day. Said Mehran a former United Nations Human Rights Educator from Afghanistan and current student of Overland Learning Centre talked about his experience in his country of origin and the importance to live in a democratic, free and safe country like Canada. Spoken words, music, native dancers, and a very thoughtful art exhibition of work representing the struggles and victories of human rights in Canada were presented by MGCI students. Samosas, cake and coffee were served to culminate the celebration.
2015 – Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute.
December 7th was the date to celebrate Human Rights Day at Marc Garneau Collegiate in an Assembly planned and organized by the Social Justice and Equity Club of MGCI, ESL Teachers and Settlement Workers from TNO. The event was very well attended by 200 newcomer high school students. Ricky Goldenberg, Principal of the School; Bill Pashby, Chair of the Board of Directors of TNO, Mohan Doss, TNO Director of Programs and Services; Sargent Matt Moyer from the Toronto Police 53 Division, and Said Mehran a former UN Human Rights Educator from Afghanistan were the speakers of the day. Shifa Tauqir on behalf of MP Don Valley West Rob Oliphant presented a recognition to Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office for the strong, courageous and constant commitment to human rights and social justice. The recognition was received by Malini Singh, Coordinator of Settlement Services; Malika Shah, Settlement Worker at Marc Garneau CI; and Cesar Peralta, Coordinator of the Human Rights Week. Spoken words, music, and performances by students made the Commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a meaningful celebration of rights and freedoms.
2016 – Overland Learning Centre
On the morning of December 7th, 2016 Overland Learning Centre hosted an Assembly to commemorate the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Assembly was very well attended by more than a 200 ESL learners from all around the world. The participation and support of Lisa Kattelus Principal of the School was crucial in the success of the event. Guest Speaker: Duncan Garrow from Amnesty International Toronto Organization gave a very inspirational message about the history of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the work of Amnesty International worldwide. Message that was very well received by a very engaged audience. To close the commemoration the song “We Shall Overcome” was sang by a group of ESL learners, making this morning a very meaningful commemoration of human rights.
2017 – Overland Learning Centre
This year we commemorated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by hosting an Assembly at Overland Learning Centre where 200 ESL adult learners from different countries of origin attended. The main topic of the Assembly was “Parents and Children Rights.” Lisa Kattelus Principal of the School welcomed learners and gave a very important message about the commitment and responsibility of TDSB staff to protect children rights. Her participation was followed by a short video about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the participation of Sarah Singer from Children Aid Society who facilitated a very informative and useful presentation about Children Rights and the work of Children Aid Society of Toronto.
2018 – Overland Learning Centre
To commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we celebrated this year by holding an assembly that was attended by more than 180 ESL newcomer learners from all around the world. The theme of the assembly was “Empathy Through Art”. Speeches by Lisa Kattelus, Cesar Peralta and the main guest speaker: Ahmet Dogan, a Journalist from Turkey, who shared a powerful message about his personal journey of harassment and persecution in his country. The performers of the day included: Sam Mosleh, an ESL Instructor and a professional dancer, performed the Rumba highlighting Cuban Rumba as a musical genre which is an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Antonio Iglesias, an ESL learner and a musician from Cuba, played “Imagine” by John Lennon. We ended the day admiring the work of Nahid Vassei Kahdooei, a painter from Iran, who is currently taking English classes at Overland Learning Centre.
2019 – Overland Learning Centre
On the afternoon of December 4th, 2019 Overland Learning Centre hosted a meaningful Assembly to commemorate the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Assembly was very well attended by more than 180 newcomer ESL learners from all around the world. The main topic of the Assembly was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the commitment of the Toronto District School Board to stand up for human rights. After O Canada was sung, Suzanne Taylor an ESL teacher made a land acknowledgment with a brief explanation about the significance of acknowledging the indigenous land we stand on. Cesar Peralta welcomed everyone and talked about the importance to know, protect, and promote human rights as part of our Canadian identity. Lisa Kattelus, Principal of the school had a great presentation about the commitment of the Toronto District School Board to stand up for human rights. The celebration ends with an activity called: “The Human Rights Tree” where students shared what human rights means to them.
2020 – ZOOM
On December 10th, 2020 we hosted a very meaningful virtual commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights attended by TNO staff, Thorncliffe Park residents, and Overland Learning Centre learners and Teachers. Rumana Islam acknowledged the land of the indigenous people we stand on, followed by Fawzia Haji and Enas Habeeb who acknowledged the challenging times we are living due the COVID- 19 pandemic, a health crisis which have affected every single aspect of our lives. It has also exposed the inadequacy of social, economic, and political models in every region. A minute of silence was held to honor the lives of people who have died during the pandemic.
We were very honored to have as guest speaker, the honorable Kathleen Wynne, MPP for Don Valley West and former Premier of Ontario who inspired us with a very thoughtful message about the history and evolution of human rights, the achievements, challenges and the importance to continue working in the promotion and protection of human rights by being vigilant and involved in the issues affecting our communities.
We also listened to Malini Singh, Manager of Newcomer Support Services of TNO- The Neighbourhood Organization; Lisa Kattelus, Manager of Overland Learning Centre; and Cesar Peralta, Coordinator of the Human Rights Week. They highlighted the importance to continue promoting Human Rights education as a powerful tool to build a safer, fairer and more equal and inclusive society.
Fatihat Odunaiya and Azka Arif, SATEC at W.A Porter Collegiate Institute students recited “The Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou and “But One Country” by Rod Duncan. Suwinya Rajapakse and Riyan Mohamed from Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute closed the celebration by singing “Scars to your Beautiful” by Allesia Cara.
It was a very moving and powerful “Human Rights Day” commemoration organized by: Enas Habeeb, Fawzia Haji, Paula Veloso, Rumana Islam, Siham Abosita, Slavica Simic, Vaitheki Sivaram and Cesar Peralta.