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Defenders for Human Rights

Other Human Rights Defenders

The purpose of Speak Truth to Power Canada is to share the personal journeys of some of the many Canadian human rights defenders working today. As lesson plans are thematic and many Canadians assume the responsibility to advance human rights, every lesson plan also includes community-based defenders. It is hoped that your students may be inspired to identify themselves as human rights defenders and take positive action to support human rights in their own life and community. Perhaps your students will become community defenders themselves.

Harsha Walia

The founder of the Vancouver chapter of No One Is Illegal, Harsha Walia is a South Asian social justice activist focussed on migrant and indigenous solidarity, as well as ending gender violence – particularly in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. No One Is Illegal works both to directly support refugees and indigenous communities, and to raise public awareness about the challenged faced by both groups. Walia herself is inspired by her grandfather’s struggle against the British Raj in pre-partition India. Her book, Undoing Border Imperialism*, published in 2013, is both an education in mass displacement and a tutorial for movement building.

  • Women’s Health and Security
  • Truth and Reconciliation

Karen O’Shannacery

Karen O’Shannacery is an advocate for the homeless who worked with Vancouvers Lookout Emergency Aid Society from its inception in 1971 until her retirement in 2014. The Lookout Society provides housing and support services – including hangouts for the mentally ill, healthcare, addiction counselling, and kitchen and technical training – for those with low to no income. The goal is to provide flexible, non-judgmental services to help people with a variety of challenges attain stability and a higher quality of life. Inspired by her own struggles on the street in the Downtown Eastside, where she once made money by selling drugs, O’Shannacery believes that housing is both the first step to self-sufficiency and a right. She only revealed her personal past with her work following her retirement in 2014.

  • Women’s Health and Security

Hannah Taylor

Hannah Taylor has been an advocate for Canada’s hungry and homeless population since she was five, when she saw a homeless man having to eat from a garbage can. Her charity, The Ladybug Foundation, which she founded in Winnipeg at age eight, promotes the basic human rights of adequate shelter and food. At 18, her activism now includes The Ladybug Foundation Education Program, which features “makeChange,” a K-12 resource to empower young people. Her work, including more than 175 speaking engagements, has raised more than $3 million for projects helping homeless people receive shelter, food, and safety.

  • Women’s Health and Security
  • Children’s Health and Wellness