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Defenders for Human Rights
Mary Simon

Mary Simon Cultural Identity and Education

GRADE LEVELS = 7 to 12  /  SUGGESTED TIME = Five 60 minute class periods

How to use this lesson

Global and Canadian Defenders for human rights have changed societal conditions and provided inspiration for students. The overall goal of Speak Truth to Power Canada is to raise student awareness that advances in human rights come through the actions of individuals.

In this lesson plan on Cultural Identity and Education you will find:

  • An interview with Mary Simon including her biography.
  • Student activities that support the theme of this lesson, including activities related to the advocacy work of Mary Simon, the impacts of change on Inuit culture and language, Inuit Education, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and forced relocation.
  • Three brief community defender profiles are provided to expand the lesson and encourage students to identify with a variety of defenders for human rights.

To support the lesson, you will also find:

  • Sections or articles of selected legal instruments that are tied to the theme of Cultural Identity and Education.
  • An advocacy activity that links the Moments in Time timeline of advancements and setbacks in human rights to issues affecting Indigenous Peoples.

You can, of course, choose to use one or all of the suggested student activities.

Learning Targets

During this lesson students will:

  • Gain a greater knowledge of:
    1. Mary Simon’s work as a defender of cultural identity through education.
    2. The complexity of the change in ways of life and its impact on the Inuit people.
    3. The impact of global climate change on northern people.
  • Gain a greater understanding of:
    1. The need for Inuit solutions to issues impacting Inuit people, communities, culture and language, such as education, health care and housing.
  • Empathize with the residential school survivors.
  • Learn to communicate the value of human rights.
  • Apply what they’ve learned cognitively and emotionally within their own communities from the perspective of cultural identity.

Learning Skills

After this lesson students will have improved the following skills:

  • Gaining insight through the videos
  • Adding meaningful argument to a group discussion
  • Researching, organizing and interpreting information
  • Inferring and drawing conclusions
  • Presenting acquired information in an engaging manner
  • Respecting opposing points of view
  • Implementing advocacy activities
  • Debating by supporting a position

Guiding Questions

  1. How could education be an effective means for the Inuit to adapt to sustainable ways of life in today’s world?
  2. How would supporting Canada’s Inuit people’s ways of life be beneficial to all Canadians?


Opportunities and issues related to human rights are integrated throughout the curriculum. This lesson plan suggests student activities that will match curriculum expectations in Aboriginal Studies, Language, Social Sciences, Health and Art as well as Health and Wellness, Citizenship, Law and Technology.


Depending on the activities chosen it may be necessary to have access to a television, the Internet, computers, YouTube, and/or an NFB film (on DVD or streamed) in addition to copies of a report available online, First Canadians, Canadians First, and presentation materials to support individual student or group presentations.

Legal Instruments

Speak Truth to Power Canada highlights legal instruments in their simplified forms, which relate to the themes addressed in the 12 lesson plans. Selected articles and sections of these legal instruments are offered in this lesson plan to complement the discussion and the research.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • Article 1: Right to equality
  • Article 3: Right to life, liberty and personal security
  • Article 5: Freedom from degrading treatment
  • Article 6: Right to recognition as a person before the law
  • Article 7: Right to equality before the law
  • Article 22: Right to social security
  • Article 25: Right to adequate living standard
  • Article 26: Right to education
  • Article 27: Right to participate in the cultural life of the community

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

  • Section 2: Fundamental freedoms
  • Section 3: Right of citizens to vote and run for government office
  • Section 7: Right to life, liberty and security of the person
  • Section 12: Right to not be subjected to any cruel or unusual treatment.
  • Section 15: Equality rights.
  • Sections 25, 32, 35: Aboriginal Peoples and Aboriginal Peoples’ self-government

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Every article supports the cultural identity theme but we highlight the following articles based on the student activities in Mary Simon’s Lesson Plan.

  • Article 3: Right to self-determination
  • Article 7: Cultural integrity
  • Article 8: Identity
  • Article 9: Communities and nations
  • Article 10: Removal and relocations
  • Article 14: Language
  • Article 15: Education
  • Article 19: Decision-making
  • Article 24: Health
  • Article 26: Ownership
  • Article 30: Resource development
  • Article 31: Self-Government
  • Article 36: Treaties and Agreements