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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.

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

Craig Kielburger

When Craig Kielburger was 12, he read about a Pakistani boy his own age named Iqbal, who had been killed for speaking against child labour. The injustice Kielburger then understood troubled him; Iqbal’s influence inspired him to co-found Free the Children with his brother Marc. Working with the premise of children helping children, Free the Children partners schools in “developed” countries with poorer ones in “developing” countries, invests in education and medical treatment, and raises awareness of the human rights issues children face. In 2008, the Kielburger brothers created Me to We, a socially conscious brand affiliated with Free the Children.

  • Displacement to Activism
  • Children’s Health and Wellness

Leesee Papatsie

Seeing exorbitant food prices in Iqaluit, Nunavut, and a struggle among Inuit families to put food on the table, Leesee Papatsie created the Feeding My Family movement on Facebook in 2012. She chose social media to unite the isolated communities of the North. The group now has upwards of 20,000 members who have organized protests and promoted a return to “country food” – more traditional diets based on the food directly available in the north. Papatsie’s movement seeks to combine modern communication with Inuit tradition, uniting northerners and encouraging food providers to find ways to supply better food for lower prices.

  • Children’s Health and Wellness
  • Cultural Identity and Education

Marilou McPhedran

Author, professor, researcher and advocate, Senator Marilou McPhedran is a staunch defender of especially the rights of girls and women, as well as those of patients in the Canadian health care system. Raised in Neepawa, Manitoba, Senator McPhedran, over the course of her very long career of human rights advocacy, has developed a number of human rights courses, chaired inquiries into the sexual abuse of patients, researched and authored international studies on a variety of women’s and health care topics, and founded the Institute for International Women’s Rights at Global College (Winnipeg). Senator McPhedran was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 1985.
  • Women’s Health and Security
  • Children’s Health and Wellness

Sally Armstrong

Born in Montréal, Quebec, award-winning author, journalist, and human rights activist Sally Armstrong has worked tirelessly to expose the true plight of women and girls in international zones of conflict. In addition, she monitors the status of women at home in North America. She has travelled to all four corners of the globe, with pen and camera in hand, documenting the experiences, the abuses, the hopes and the victories of the disadvantaged, the marginalized and the oppressed. Armstrong has added speaker, guest-lecturer and story teller to her long list of impressive talents, and has won many prestigious awards, earned many honorary degrees, and received the Order of Canada.
  • Women’s Health and Security
  • Children’s Health and Wellness

Dr. Andrew and Joan Simone

Both Dr. Andrew Simone and his wife Joan have been helping children for decades, through their charities “Canadian Food for Children” and “Silent Children’s Mission.” A successful Harvard-trained Toronto dermatologist, Dr. Simone’s life took a turn when, realizing he lacked fulfillment from the accumulation of wealth, he began a longstanding correspondence with Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who initially asked him to send food to starving children in Tanzania and Ethiopia. Their first charity serves over 20 developing countries; their mission charity provides basic needs, health and spiritual care, and counseling, so that women, children and their families know that there is someone who cares. Both recipients of the Order of Canada, Andrew and Joan are now retired, but their work continues to ease suffering across the globe.
  • Women’s Health and Security
  • Children’s Health and Wellness
  • Human Dignity

Nazanin Afshin-Jam

Former singer/songwriter and Miss World Canada, Nazanin Afshin-Jam is now an international human rights activist, author, and co-founder of Stop Child Executions. Born in 1979 in Tehran, Iran, she fled the Islamic revolution as a child, arriving in Canada with her parents in 1981. Appointed to the board of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, Afshin-Jam, “a voice for the voiceless,” is now a motivational speaker whose appearances include the UN, Ted-Ed, a number of universities, and various media outlets. Her aforementioned charity works towards ending the practice of child executions in Iran and in a handful of other countries.
  • Displacement to Activism
  • Children’s Health and Wellness