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Speak Truth to Power Canada: Human rights, from education to action

| Educational resources, Human rights, Social Justice

What is Speak Truth to Power Canada?

Speak Truth to Power Canada is a multifaceted educational resource aimed primarily at students in grades 5 to 12, although its content can easily be adapted to younger students. It highlights the experiences of 12 contemporary Canadians who have dedicated their life to defending human rights. Issues covered range from crimes against humanity and children’s rights activism to Indigenous self-determination and citizen participation.

Speak Truth to Power Canada recognizes that when truth is informed by sound learning, it has power, and that those who are informed have an obligation to speak truth to those in power. It is in this spirit that teachers and students use this resource: as a catalyst to better understand and engage in human rights issues at the local, national and global levels – while further developing cognitively, socially and personally.

The 12 human rights defenders featured in Speak Truth to Power Canada are people of all ages and of diverse ethnic, socio-cultural and professional backgrounds. While some are well known to the general public, others are not, but one thing is sure: they all have accomplished great things!

The defenders’ interviews, biographies and lesson plans in Speak Truth to Power Canada help students develop a clear understanding of how human rights are not only part of the rule of law, applicable in every community, but also a responsibility of every citizen. While students will learn about the work of the 12 outstanding people featured in this resource, they will also be encouraged to position themselves on various human rights issues and to take action in their classroom, school or community.

Curricula in all Canadian provinces and territories require the teaching of human rights as defined by both Canadian and international law. Speak Truth to Power Canada lesson plans are easily integrated into a number of subject areas like language arts, health, social sciences and creative arts.

Brief history…

This project was led by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) in partnership with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the Assembly of First Nations and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

As partners, we shared the desire to present students with Canadian role models who are making a difference in the world. Through a totally collaborative and consensus based process over two years, we developed this learning resource based on a relationship of trust and respect for the contributions of each partner in their own area of expertise.

In 2013, CTF conducted an online survey of teachers to obtain their perspectives on human rights education in Canadian schools. This survey confirmed what we had been suspecting:

  • Teachers strongly value human rights education (92%).
  • Human rights education occurs in schools through both the curriculum and extra-curricular activities.
  • The theme identified as most important is “Relationships – treating others with respect and fostering a community in which everyone feels safe”.
  • The biggest challenge associated with human rights education in Canada is the lack of resources.

Following the development of the Canadian Human Rights Toolkit, which offers a wide selection of human rights educational resources, we started searching for Canadian defenders who reflected the Canadian reality. But it was so difficult to limit ourselves to only 12 defenders that we decided to add community defenders to the Speak Truth to Power resource. When we talk about community defenders, it is always in a spirit of unity and collective action.

We also developed a list of 100 selected moments in the evolution of human rights in Canada and around the world, as well as three lesson plans in Aboriginal languages: Cree, Inuktitut and Mohawk.

In conclusion…

We hope that Speak Truth to Power Canada will show students that advances in human rights always come through the achievements of individuals and that it is within everyone’s reach to accomplish great things and make a difference!

Discover Speak Truth to Power Canada with your students and let us know how this resource has changed the perspectives of your students and encouraged them to become human rights defenders in their own community!

Defenders Themes
Louise Arbour Crimes against Humanity
Renzi Cej Displacement to Activism
Léonie Couture Women’s Safety
Jeremy Dias Gender and Sexual Diversity
Rick Hansen Accessibility for All
Gilles Julien Children’s Health and Wellness
Wilton Littlechild Truth and Reconciliation
Arthur Miki Equality and Redress
Timea Nagy Human Trafficking
Rosemary Sadlier Human Dignity
Mary Simon Cultural Identity and Education
Karihwkè: Ron Tim Thompson Equitable Education for All

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