What Happened to Human Rights?

It is a problem when I expect more from the students in my class than I can expect from the government of my country.


I expect the kids I teach to share what they have, to treat each other as equals and to use honest and kind words. My students know and understand the expectations, and although they don’t always reach them, they try.


We talk a lot in class about how the word sorry can be helpful, but it doesn’t fix a problem or make up for a bad choice. We talk about how your behaviour has to change to show that you are sorry. The word is empty without any actions to back it up.


I’m wondering if any of the levels of government in Canada are aware of the nature of the word sorry (aren’t Canadians supposed to be experts in this department?) I’m wondering this especially when it comes to the indigenous population of our country.


Our government has said it is sorry for systematically abusing and destroying indigenous culture and family structure for about 120 years through residential schools. It has said it is sorry for depriving indigenous communities of access to proper education, healthcare and water. It is sorry that the lives of so many indigenous women and girls have been lost through systemic violence… The list of things the government has apologized for is actually pretty long. The list of actions they have done to show that their apologies are sincere is virtually non-existent.


I have been teaching for seventeen years and I have never seen from my students the kind of blatant racism and discrimination that our government inacts towards the First Nations people of this country. The bias of the Canadian government is currently on display in Northern British Columbia, where the white men who run this country are showing yet again that money is more important to them than upholding human rights.


I guess I was crazy to believe that the Truth and Reconciliation Commision could truly mean something. In my community choir it is a document that we have studied and worked to incorporate into our actions. In the schools where I teach, it is something we are trying to both learn and teach.


But when does our government start to take some action? How can the government talk of righting the wrongs of the past, when they are still enacting less transparent versions of the same policies?


The Wet’suwet’en Nations in Northern BC have sovereign rights over their land. In 1997, the BC Supreme Court acknowledged that that stretch of land had never been ceded to Canada. The land belongs to the Nations who live there. That seems pretty straightforward to me.

It seems that the government wasn’t too worried about this northern stretch of land until of course they had a use for it. In 2018, the Supreme Court decided that the same land that had previously been acknowledged as belonging to the Wet’suwet’en Nations, should now be handed over for the development of a pipeline.


I just don’t understand.


I don’t understand how the RCMP can remove a people from their own land. A land that was never given over to Canada. Why aren’t the rights of these people protected by our highest court?


I know the pipeline company doesn’t give a shit about people. I get it, they are a company, they care about making money.


But our government should care. They NEED to care. They need to care because we are all treaty people. We are all a part of the human race and we need to come together to support each other. We are supposed to be a country that upholds human rights. There is supposed to be justice in our land.


When we live hate and discrimmination, we all lose.


In my career I have taught a lot of kids. I have taught kids from every continent in the world (ok, except Antarctica), and I can tell you that they are all beautiful, complex, and precious. They all come with their own hopes, fears, sadnesses and delights. They are each their own person with their own thoughts, dreams and personality. The one thing though that every kid I have ever taught has in common is a desire for fairness.


Kids desperately want things to be fair.


They don’t always have an understanding of the complexities of fairness, but they all yearn for it.


So, what happens to us as we get older? Do we just decide that since life isn’t fair we don’t need to be fair either? Do we secretly decide that fair doesn’t really matter as long as we are coming out on top?


Instead of reinforcing our white, middle class values (with our new Minister of Middle Class Prosperity), maybe we should be evaluating what would happen if Canada actually took steps towards equality.


Could we try a Minister of Kind Words and Fair Play instead of Middle Class Prosperity?


I will keep teaching my students to do better than the adults who run this country. I will continue to educate myself and my students about empathy and compassion in hopes that when this generation become world leaders, they won't give up on kindness and fair play. Maybe this will finally be the generation who grow up to do what is right, instead of what is easy.