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Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Talks Social Justice with St. Lawrence Secondary School
Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Talks Social Justice with St. Lawrence Secondary School
Posted on 02/08/2023

February 8, 2023 (Cornwall)The right to read is not a privilege, it is a basic and essential human right. That’s what students at St. Lawrence Secondary School (SLSS) are learning as part of their social justice initiatives, and this was the message that was delivered by Patricia DeGuire, Chief Commissioner of Ontario’s Human Rights Commission (OHRC) when she spoke to students virtually on February 6.

Through classroom work and discussions, students have worked collaboratively with their teachers and Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) Learning Partners to learn more about the right to read and the social justice components. Over the school year, SLSS students have been diving into what social justice looks like and what it means to them.  

This includes racial and gender equality, freedom of expression, access to education, access to health care, LGBTQ2S+ rights, hunger and food security, mental health and addictions, climate change, and homelessness.  

Through DeGuire’s extensive knowledge and experience, students learned more about the OHRC and advocacy during the hour-long presentation. The entire school tuned in from their classrooms to hear from DeGuire and had the opportunity to ask her questions.  

Grade 10 student Samara Joshva says it was an honour to have DeGuire talk about human rights and the importance of advocacy as it relates to everyone having the right to read.  

It was very interesting and I'm really happy that I had the opportunity to be a part of this,” says Joshva. “I learned that even though you are part of a small community, in the social world, we can still have a big impact. It was a pleasure to hear from such an esteemed and powerful woman and I feel honoured.”  

For Rubeena Nasar, Grade 8, there were several key takeaways.  

“One thing I took away was that no matter what level of reading you're at or what you look like or come from, you shouldn't let that bring you down,” says Nasar. “I am lucky to have been born in this timeline and not in the past. I used to live in an African country when I was younger and I'm very thankful that we had a good education that helped us read. But if I was born back in the 80s or 90s, I may not have had the same opportunity.”  

In her message to students, DeGuire urged them to continue their social justice and human rights learning.  

“Students, be yourselves. You must be determined to be who you are and to seek and achieve the best that you can. Look for mentors, people who will assist you in achieving your goals to becoming your best self and adopt tools that will assist you in becoming your best self,” DeGuire said during her presentation. Continue to learn about yourselves... Continue to pursue your sense of purpose and I encourage you to learn more about human rights. To promote the enhancement of human rights and to get involved in the fight against systemic and intentional discrimination and injustices. We invite you to join us to develop a community of human rights, a culture of human rights where you and I will thrive.”

DeGuire also praised the UCDSB on its ongoing commitment and work to act on the OHRC’s Right to Read inquiry recommendations.

“It was a pleasure to welcome Commissioner DeGuire to St. Lawrence Secondary School and the UCDSB to share both her wisdom and advocacy with students,” says UCDSB Chair John McAllister. “Students have gained and continue to gain valuable learnings as we enact on the OHRC’s Right to Read inquiry recommendations.

“We are tremendously thankful for the time, passion and education that Commissioner DeGuire brought to SLSS as students dive deeper into the OHRC’s right-to-read call to action, says SLSS Principal Josh Harrison. “Students had been eager to learn about the topic and excited to hear from such a prominent advocate. I know the presentation from DeGuire will have a lasting impression, inspire students and drive our lessons further.” 

For media inquiries, please contact:   

April Scott-Clarke   Manager of Communications   Upper Canada District School Board   [email protected] 

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