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Defenders for Human Rights
The Community of Defenders
Wilton Littlechild

Wilton Littlechild Truth and Reconciliation

GRADE LEVELS = 5 to 12  /  SUGGESTED TIME = Six 60 minute class periods

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.

Walking With Our Sisters

Walking With Our Sisters is a collaborative art installation remembering the more than 1,100 indigenous women who have been murdered or have gone missing in the past 30 years. The project uses a pair of vamps – moccasin tops – for each individual woman. The unfinished moccasin represents the unfinished life. In 2012, Métis artist Christi Belcourt made a call for donations of specially made vamps on Facebook, hoping for support in the project. By just over a year later, she had received 1,600 pairs – more than doubling her goal of 600. The installation, which has travelled across North America, seeks not only to remember and to support families, but also to raise awareness of the ongoing mysteries of many of the disappearances.

Lily Shinde

Often the victim of race-based bullying as a child, Japanese-Canadian Lily Shinde grew into strong beliefs in the rights of women of colour. With activism and speaking engagements spreading back to the 1980s, including the foundation of Third World Women’s and Women of Colour groups in Vancouver, Shinde is now a frequently sought guide for Japanese-Canadian issues. She has been involved with Japanese-Canadian politics and taught an original Feminist English course in Japan. Her focus is now more specifically on discrimination-based living issues, tracking ongoing displacement in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and finding solidarity with the Coast Salish peoples.

Idle No More

Initiated by Nina Wilson, Sheelah Mclean, Sylvia McAdam, and Jessica Gordon’s Saskatchewan teach-in in late 2012, Idle No More is a national grassroots movement to build indigenous sovereignty. It aims to do so through peaceful protest pressuring the Canadian government to protect treaty rights and the environment. The movement gained national attention with its first Day of Action on December 10, 2012, which urged the federal government to protect indigenous land and rights, and to abandon the Northern Gateway pipeline project. Through media coverage and social media, Idle No More has spread across Canada, and continues to raise discussion about indigenous rights.

Chief Darcy Bear

Chief Darcy Bear was first elected as chief of the Whitecap Dakota First Nation in 1991 at age 23, into a band office with a deficit. With a focus of indigenous development and self-determination, Bear has worked for more than 20 years to improve economy and quality of life in his community. Among his more notable achievements are a reduced unemployment rate, from 70 per cent to 4.1, a self-governing land code, and increased transparency of band expenses. Under Bear’s leadership, the band now runs a golf course – allowing for the community to have more jobs than community members. He works with the goal of fostering First Nations economies from within as a part of the general Canadian economy.

Stephen Kakfwi

Stephen Kakfwi is a Dene activist, musician, former politician, and residential school survivor. Known for his direct approach, Kakfwi worked to guide the indigenous peoples of the Northwest Territories to an ability to engage in political matters, particularly the issue of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and in the establishment of Nunavut as a territory. He has served both as the Dene Nation President and as the premier of the Northwest Territories. Kakfwi works with the goal of balancing preservation of indigenous culture, language, tradition, and environment with full indigenous participation in the political and economic mainstream. He received the Aboriginal Achievement Award for Public Service in 1997.