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Defenders for Human Rights
Rosemary Sadlier

Rosemary Sadlier Human Dignity

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

Preparatory Set

Have students complete the Black History Quiz (PDF, 1.1 MB) to ascertain their current knowledge of Black history.

Activity 1

February was proclaimed, Black History Month, by the Parliament of Canada in December 1995, to recognize and share the many achievements, contributions and impact Black people have made to our diverse country.

The first African in Canada, Mathieu da Costa, arrived over 400 years ago. He was an interpreter with Samuel de Champlain. His linguistic skills were invaluable to the explorers as they established treaties and trade with the aboriginal peoples. Black people have continued coming to Canada, helping to develop Canada into a great nation. Mathieu Da Costa Day is celebrated annually on the first Monday in February.

African Canadian students need to feel affirmed, to be aware of the contributions made by other Blacks in Canada and to have role models. All Canadians need to understand the social forces that have shaped and influenced their community and their identities.

  1. Have each student choose a Black Canadian, research his/her history and contributions to society and prepare a creative visual/oral presentation for the class (e.g. poster, song, mural, diorama, mobile, timeline, poem, etc.).

    Chole Cooley
    Frederick Douglass
    Harriet Tubman
    Mary Ann Shadd
    William Hall
    Robert Sutherland
    Anderson Abbott
    Elijah McCoy
    Delos Davis
    Nathaniel Dett
    Addie Aylestock
    Viola Desmond
    Leonard Braithwaite
    Calvin Ruck
    Maurice Ruddick
    Mayann Francis
    Measha Brueggergosman
    John Alleyne
    Josiah Henson
    Deborah Cox
    Michail Jean
    Portia White
    Clarence “Big” Miller
    Jean Augustine
    Oscar Peterson
    Rev. Samuel H. Davis
    P. K. Subban
    Andrea Elaine Lawrence
    Grant Fuhr
    Kevin Junor

  2. Display the presentations in the school library, community center or an elementary school nearby.

Activity 2

  1. Ask students to research and determine the racial profile of their community.
  2. Ask them to compare their community’s racial profile to the racial profile of their:
    • school
    • school staff
    • local police force
    • city council
    • provincial legislature
  3. Based on the finding, ask students to brainstorm ideas on how the racial profiles of these services/organizations could be brought more into line with the overall community racial profile.
  4. Ask them to find out what these services/organizations do to try to increase representation of racial groups.
  5. Ask them to identify the barriers to having these services represent the racial composition of the community.
  6. Finish off the exercise with a class discussion on how problems can arise when there is an uneven match. Refer to current events in Canada and elsewhere.

Activity 3

  1. Ask students to examine some of their school textbooks and novels and to note the following:
    1. Which races are dominant?
    2. Are the textbooks in line with their community’s racial demographics?
  2. Ask students to contact the textbook publishers to relay their findings and ask the publishers if they could make their books a closer match to the community.

Activity 4

In our common language today we still have derogatory phrases such as slave driver, working like a slave, and whip into shape.

  • Can you cite any other such phrases?
  • How do you suppose the person would feel having to listen to any of phrases?
  • How could these ideas be stated differently?

Activity 5

Linking to the Moments in Time section of this resource, under the theme of Human Dignity:

  1. Ask students to research one of these moments countering racial discrimination.
  2. Ask them to write a short opinion piece that includes the following in their reflection:
    1. Media and other events surrounding that particular period and issue (e.g. In 1946, Viola Desmond, a Black business woman from Nova Scotia, refuses to leave the whites-only section of a theatre. Her action helps inspire a civil rights movement in Canada.)
    2. Was this particular human rights moment in time perceived as an advancement or a setback? Please explain.
    3. Today, are there events that are perceived as setbacks or advancements in human rights? Please explain.

Culminating Activity — From Reflection to Action

Rosemary Sadlier stated, “When the contributions of people of African descent are acknowledged, when the achievements of Black people are known, when Black people are routinely included or affirmed through our curriculum, our books and the media, and treated with equality, then there will no longer be a need for Black History Month.”

  1. Ask students to discuss this quote and write a short essay describing what Canadian culture would look like if there was no longer a need for a ‘Black History Month’.

Extension Activity

This lesson plan on Human Dignity can apply to more than racial discrimination. Have a classroom discussion looking at how an individual’s human dignity is affected by discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, ability, language, culture and gender.