Have you ever been faced with a situation you knew was unfair and wanted to do something to change it, but didn’t know where to start? Here are some great examples of students who recognized injustice and found peaceful and lawful ways to stand up for their rights and the rights of others.
On Nov. 30th, 2011, student panelists Ashley Harripersad, Marsal Najibi, and Murtadi Khan, of the LAWS program at Central Technical High School in Toronto spoke out to an audience of nearly 300 students about social justice issues that are important to them. Their discussion was a part of the Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust’s 15th Annual Fundamental Freedoms Conference, attended by high school students from all over the Greater Toronto Area. Click below to watch a video created by the student panel with the help of their LAWS program colleagues, highlighting some of the issues that were raised during the conference.
Trey Gregory, a shy 17-year-old from Ajax, Ontario, refused to take “no” for answer when he asked doctors if he could donate a part of his liver to save his ailing mother’s life. Toronto General Hospital, where Trey’s mother Patty was being treated for liver disease, initially rejected Trey’s request citing their policy which requires donors to be at least 18 before they can be considered for the procedure. Despite repeatedly being told he was too young, Trey continued to press the issue with surgeons, social workers, psychiatrists and living donor coordinators, until finally, his persistence paid off.
David Grant, surgical director at Toronto General’s multi-organ transplant program, says the hospital’s policy has since been changed to allow organ donations from persons as young as 16, because Trey challenged the rule.
On May 13, 2011, Trey underwent 11 hours of surgery to remove a portion of his liver. Today he and his mother are recovering and making plans for a family vacation in the future.
To read more on this story from the Toronto Star, click here.
For over 10 years, the children in the remote First Nations community of Attawapiskat have been waiting for the Canadian government to fulfill its promise to build a new school after the site had been deemed contaminated by a diesel spill that occurred decades earlier. Since the school’s closing in 2000, students have been going to school in makeshift portables, some with such poor heating and insulation that students are forced to wear their winter coats in class.
Sick and tired of their poor classroom conditions, 13 year-old Shannen Koostachin and her schoolmates began a youth-driven campaign to demand a new school for the children of Attawapiskat, using social media tools such as YouTube and Facebook to help spread word of their cause. Shannen’s grade 8 class even cancelled a trip to Niagara Falls so they could send her and 2 other students to Ottawa to confront the then Minister of Indian Affairs, Chuck Strahl. Shannen’s passion and conviction caught the attention of Canadians across the country, and a year later, the federal government renewed its commitment to build a new school in Attawapiskat.
Tragically, Shannen died at the age of 15 in an automobile accident while attending a high school in New Liskeard. Shannen’s life and death have inspired many to continue her fight for equal education for all First Nations children. To read more about the campaign to continue Shannen’s dream, click here.
On December 1, 2010, students in Stan Klich’s Social Justice class at Central Technical High School put their justice education into practice by leading a panel discussion at the Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust’s (CCLET) annual Fundamental Freedoms Conference. After weeks of preparation and research, and in collaboration with the CCLET and the Law in Action within Schools Program (LAWS), the student panel successfully engaged over 150 students representing 14 different schools in a lively debate on issues relevant to the lives of young people.
To read an article about this event as written by Stan Klich’s Social Justice class, click here.
A group of grade 11 students at a Toronto high school recently noticed a sign in their local pizza hangout that said students from their school were not permitted to play games, loiter or to bring outside food into the restaurant.
While the students recognized the sign was intended to protect the owners’ legitimate business interests, they felt that it unfairly targeted their school and had the effect of giving them a negative reputation in their community. After all, there were community members and students from other schools who frequented the pizza store but were not mentioned on the sign.
With the help of OJEN, the students contacted the CCLET to discuss the issue and decided to write a letter to the pizza store manager, explaining their objections to the sign. Two days later, the sign came down.
To view a copy of the students’ letter, click here
To listen to the students’ story as told on a local radio program, click on the media player below
When Ontario Minister of Finance, Dwight Duncan, pulled $4 billion from a planned budget to expand Toronto’s public transit system, Toronto student Daniel P. felt compelled to write a letter confronting Minister Duncan about the decision. In Daniel’s letter, he calls on the MPP to restore the funding and emphasizes the many benefits additional public transit services will provide the city, including a decrease in traffic congestion and pollution. To view a copy of Daniel’s letter, click here
After hearing the story of Benham Zare, a teenager executed in Iran for killing someone in a fight at the age of 15, students at a school in Newfoundland decided to create an online petition to put an end to juvenile executions in Iran. The site, www.achildisachild.com, calls on Iran to respect the United Nations International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which states that the death sentence shall not be imposed on individuals who committed a crime under the age of 18. To date, over 1700 individuals have signed the petition from around the world.
When a ninth grade boy in Nova Scotia was harassed, called names and threatened with physical harm, just because he wore a pink t-shirt to school, two grade 12 students (Travis Price and David Shepherd) decided enough was enough and took action. They went to a local discount store and purchased 50 pink t-shirts and tank tops, and then used the internet to spread the word about their anti-bullying efforts to fellow school mates. The next day, not only did several students show up wearing the pink shirts, hundreds more showed up donning their own pink attire to demonstrate that bullying would not be tolerated at their school. Since that initial gesture of support for their fellow school mate in 2007, Travis and David’s pink t-shirt idea has spread internationally as a campaign to encourage others to take a stand against bullying.
The simple act of eating your lunch at school shouldn’t normally get you into trouble. But unfortunately that was not the case for Luc Cagadoc, who was repeatedly reprimanded by a school lunch monitor for eating his lunch with a spoon and fork, a practice consistent with traditional Filipino table etiquette. When Luc’s mom complained to the school principal about the prejudicial treatment, she was told her son should learn to eat like a “Canadian.” Luc’s family decided to file a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal, who determined that the school board, along with Luc’s principal and lunch monitor, were acting in a discriminatory manner towards the young boy. The Cagadoc family was rewarded $17,000 in punitive and moral damages.
In 2002, Marc Hall, a grade 12 student in Oshawa, Ontario, was told by his Roman Catholic high school that he could not bring his same-sex date to the prom. According to school officials, allowing same-sex prom dates would imply the school endorsed or condoned homosexuality, which is against the teachings of the Catholic Church. Arguing that he was being discriminated against on the basis of his sexual-orientation, Marc took the school board to court to fight for his right to attend the prom with his boyfriend. The judge agreed that Marc had a strong case to argue that his s. 15 equality rights had been violated, and just hours before the prom was to begin, the court granted an injunction permitting Marc to bring his boyfriend to the prom.
11 year old Nepean Hotspurs Selects soccer player, Asmahan “Azzy” Mansour, was hoping to do her team proud when she was called onto the field to play in their Laval, Quebec tournament in February 2007. But only moments after Azzy stepped onto the field, the referee made a call that sparked nationwide controversy and debate: Azzy was ejected from the game because she refused to remove her hijab. According to the referee, the religious headscarf posed a safety threat to Azzy and any one else on the field. United in their anger at what they felt was an unfair and discriminatory call, Azzy’s teammates agreed they would rather boycott the national-level tournament rather than play without their friend. Four other Ottawa area teams followed suit and forfeited their soccer games in protest. The incident has led many to question FIFA rules describing basic soccer equipment, and whether or not reasonable accommodations should be made for individuals’ religious requirements.
Share with us your own self-advocacy stories! Tell us about a problem you’ve identified, and what peaceful and lawful tactics you plan to use or have used to address the situation. We may feature your story on our website and you may even have a chance to win $500!
Be vigilant. Always ask questions. Know your rights and empower yourself to be your own advocate for change!