Discussion Topic 3 – Building Awareness



This public engagement to re-establish the B.C. Human Rights Commission has been an eye-opening experience for me. I have learned, and continue to learn, so much through peoples’ expertise, experiences and stories. A big takeaway so far has been the call for more public education on human rights as a crucial consideration when building the new commission.  From my face-to-face meetings and phone calls with human rights experts and organizations, to the comments I am reading here in the discussion forum, public education has risen as a central theme. Thank you for bringing that to the forefront.
 
It is clear that when people know their rights, they are better prepared to identify when those rights are being violated and what they can do about it. But public education does more than empower those who face discrimination. It also educates people and organizations – such as employers, landlords, teachers, police, service providers, governments and so forth– about their responsibility to uphold human rights. Greater understanding on all sides can lead to appropriate expectations, empathy, compassion and an understanding of available options.
 
Participants in the dialogue so far have made it clear that education is a valued tool for building a strong future for human rights in B.C. I would like us now to consider how the commission might design and focus its public education efforts.
 
How do you feel the new commission should educate people about human rights under the B.C. Human Rights Code?
Based on your experience, what topics of education would be important to individuals?  What would be most helpful for employers or other organizations? What are the most convenient ways that you use to find information you need in your daily life?

 
– Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism & Sport
 

 

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71 responses to “Discussion Topic 3 – Building Awareness

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    [-] Shayla

    I hear a lot of prejudice and misinformation regarding refugees coming to Canada. I think it would be very helpful to educate the public on the rights of refugees and what kind of assistance they are receiving. This would help combat the prejudice from Canadians who falsely believe that refugees have more rights and privileges than those born in Canada. This would be especially helpful with the rise in Islamophobia in Canada. I would also like to see more education on trans persons because people fear what they do not understand and gender identity is not squarely a column A and column B concept anymore.

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    [-] Luke

    I believe that the new commission should educate people on the following important topics regarding human rights:

    Gender identity
    Sexual orientation
    Mental illness and addiction
    Anti-racism
    Sexual Assault
    Accessibility
    Indigenous sovereignty

    All of the above are topics that I believe have a large amount of misinformation surrounding them, and I believe that the general populace lacks a lot of knowledge about these topics. It is vital for both individuals and employers to be more knowledgeable about these topics.

    On the individual side of things, I believe that social media campaigns, programs in public education (Elementary and Secondary schools), and free workshops at community centres are some ways in which this information could be delivered.

    When it comes to the workplace, I think employers and employees should take courses/workshops regarding the aforementioned topics in order to ensure an inclusive work environment (for the employees and for customers).

    In my daily life, the most convenient ways to access information include social media, internet searches (such as Google), public advertisements, and word of mouth.

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    [-] Mela

    The problem I’ve seen with a lot of human rights education is that it often teaches people how to be politically correct — to perform appropriately — but does not change bias or discrimination outside of regulated contexts (i.e. work). Recent research shows that anti-discrimination workshops can result in backlash unless conducted with pre-adults. If we can change school curriculum to include coding, why not a module on Human Rights in grade 4 or 5?

    Someone else mentioned social media and I agree, a video that is fun and clever could easily go viral and that might be a good way to share the basics of the Code and Commission, and get people curious enough to learn more on their own.

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    [-] Lynne

    Human rights education needs to be balanced with education on responsibilities. For instance, your human rights end where my human rights begin. I’ve had a person with a disability assume she had more rights than I do, and try to use her “rights” to impose her assistance animal (which wasn’t actually registered as such) on me, despite my serious allergies. Someone’s rights should never be used as a weapon to impose their will on others, if that would result in damage to the other. (Provisions around businesses and undue hardship notwithstanding.)
    One key education piece in my opinion is ending the Orwellian idea that only white people can be racist, and that they cannot be discriminated against *because* they are white. I have personally witnessed people of colour being racist (and rude about it) against white people simply because they were white. Human rights education needs to include the fact that these are HUMAN rights that apply to everyone (yes, even white people). And that we ALL have a responsibility to treat others with respect.
    The colour of someone’s skin does not tell you their history. When you assume that someone has benefited from white privilege, you are being a racist, and pre-judging them based on the colour of their skin.

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    [-] angelina

    should look at renting rules to people with dissabilities as well as i have been put in a situation where i am having to purchace my own stove and do repairs because of my visual handicapp

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    [-] Dawn

    Public education is important, as attitudes can be the biggest barriers facing vulnerable groups. However, relying on public education alone is like tryign to build a house with a hammer alone instead of the whole toolbox. It won’t fight systemic discrimination that is often deeply ingrained in organizational cultures or where there are perverse incentives for non-compliance. History has shown us repeatedly that human rights are meaningless without the means to enforce them. Public education will not empower individuals who face discrimination unless the people and organizations responsible face significant pressures to change, and that calls for a context that includes strong disincentives and/or penalties that can be utilized when public education isn’t enough to promote change.

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    [-] Jen

    In regards to building awareness, I feel that there needs to be more awareness on when two different areas of the human rights collide with each other. Or when a human rights area collides with safety in the workplace. I think that these topics would be helpful for employers.

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    [-] Diana

    Please have speakers present and answer questions in public library auditoriums on how the BC Human Rights Code should be in compliance with international human rights laws (eg. UN Convention Against Torture…, UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, The Convention on the Rights of the Child, The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, etc.). Canada has signed these Treaties; BC should be in compliance with international law. We are ashamed that it is not.

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    [-] Don

    Use of social media is the best way to reach society these days. Bulletins sent out to registered businesses and corporations. And once internal house keeping measures are in place employees of government agencies can educate the client standing in front of them.

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    [-] Don

    I think there are many avenues to get the word out about Human Rights and the role it plays in society. MLAs should be out educating their constituents on the issues put forth by the assembly not their party. Town Halls and info fairs are a great way to get out there with the word. Also using Facebook, Instagram, and other Social Networking sites.

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    [-] Barbara

    I’ve investigated cases for both bc and Canadian commissions and feel strongly that workshops on a couple of topics would be particularly useful: information on respectful behavior in a multicultural workplace,interviewing in a multicultural setting,how to avoid harassment charges,for executives,managers and supervisors,and of course information on gender identity and expression. There is such a wide range of needs that has been left by these many years of abyss

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    [-] Jessica

    I heard a story recently that made me think about how short-sighted we can be as a society. A person I know was explaining their participation in discussions about the restoration of a bridge, there was intention with the restoration to spend a large sum of money to install suicide barriers on this bridge. When they inquired as to how many suicides occurred from this specific bridge on average in a year, the answer was one. One suicide is of course too many. They then inquired as to how many suicides could potentially be prevented if that same large sum of money wasn’t put into one single piece of infrastructure, but rather into suicide prevention supports, such as helplines and non-profits that work tirelessly to try to help people before they even end up on the bridge.

    Why can’t we be more proactive and provide supports to help people who are suicidal. Is putting up suicide barriers really going to stop that suicide? Or are they just going to go somewhere else. Let’s stop pushing people aside and start addressing root causes instead of quick fixes.

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    [-] Susan

    As the mother of a daughter living with schizophrenia, I am very concerned about the rhetoric that often dominates discussions about human rights and mental illness.

    Too often people who claim to represent a human rights position argue that all treatment must be voluntary. In fact, this is the unfortunate stance that various human rights advocates are taking in the current challenge to BC’s Mental Health Act. As I explain in my article “The BC Mental Health Act Protects My Daughter,” the current Act protects people with psychotic disorders when they are unable to protect themselves:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/susan-inman/bc-mental-health-act-autism_b_14137954.html

    People who are challenging the current law seem not to know essential information about psychotic disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It’s common for people in the depths of psychosis to have anosognosia, a brain based inability to understand that they are ill and need help. These human rights advocates want us to think that it’s stigma that prevents people from seeking or agreeing to treatment. If these advocates would actually spend time with very psychotic people, they’d begin to develop a better understanding of these illnesses. The public’s encounters with people with untreated mental illnesses creates stigma and the proposed changes to our legislation will absolutely lead to more people being left untreated.

    People with untreated psychotic disorders become victimized, homeless, addicted, and, increasingly, incarcerated.

    I voted for the NDP, but i am very concerned about how this government will respond to the actual unmet needs of this population. Here are three suggestions for improving the lives of people living with severe psychotic illnesses:

    1. Improve mental illness literacy campaigns.
    The public lacks basic public health information about schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. At the same time, trends have led to the proliferation of the anti-psychiatry messages of the psychiatric survivor movement. Lack of knowledge leads to longer durations of untreated psychosis and these longer durations are linked to poorer outcomes.

    2. Raise the standards of education in all programs training credentialed mental health workers.
    Many of these programs do not offer or require any science based curriculum on psychotic disorders. At the same time, they continue to promote the parent blaming theories that neuroscience and psychiatrists have long since left behind. Inadequately trained mental health professionals have a hard time establishing the cooperative relationships with family caregivers that lead to the best outcomes.

    3. Most people with psychotic disorders can have their psychotic symptoms well-controlled by medications. However, a large percentage of this population suffer from well-researched cognitive losses that lead to ongoing disability. Canada has been very slow to educate clinicians (besides psychiatrists and neuroscientists) about these cognitive losses and also (except for BC’s Early Psychosis Intervention programs) don’t educate clients or their families about these cognitive problems. There are now evidence based cognitive remediation programs that are used in many other countries, but that are not available in Canada. This is the human rights issue that advocates who want to help people with severe mental illnesses should be addressing.

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    [-] Tyler

    i believe that individuals should know about their rights & responsibilities are under the human rights code. what topics of education would be important to individuals is to how they can overcome their weaknesses. what would be most helpful for employers or other organizations is for them to know about myths versus facts in regards to people who are an member of a minority group such as a disability, race, religion, culture. what arec the most convenient ways that i can use to find information i need in my daily life is to read Jack Laytons letter to Canadians that he wrote before his death in 2011.

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    [-] Patrick

    Dec 3rd Vancouver premiere of ‘In The Name of Peace: John Hume in America’ at the Cinematheque, 200 1131 Howe St, Vancouver presents a good opportunity to learn from an inspiring champion of human rights.

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    [-] Kole

    I belong to a union, and am also involved in the monthly local meetings. I do this because I feel that a union is there to surport and strengthen the individual(s) against discrimination and help to provide fair treatment for both the employee and employer. We barely make quaram, however I feel that an union would be a great gateway for the human rights commission to educate people. Also to provide workshops to all of B.C for multiple work organizations and companies to attend, with some sort of mandatory attendance or certification.
    Highlighted topics I would find is to understand the different forms or discrimination. I would like to see some mandatory human rights policy that every company would have to create and follow, like safety standards.

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    [-] Rachel

    It’s important to talk to individual’s and public who face discrimination or have seen or been a victim that’s how we educate, we learn from past mistakes and how we can change laws or tell people certain examples so they learn what discrimination is and how to avoid hurting others/fellow humans and learning to treat all kindly.

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    [-] Self

    In our community, we often bring speakers in to discuss topics important to our advocates as well as individuals in the community. Some of the best-received speakers came in using a power point, images and plain language. After each topic, we break into small groups to make sure everyone understands and discuss the information. Many of our advocates are active online users; facebook, twitter,you tube. What is most important to our advocates concerning human rights are; voting, right to work and a fair wage, right to education. Many advocates discussed that they can feel isolated at times for people feel uncomfortable in their presence and may become confrontational or ignore them. It is important that employers see past the disability and look at how this person could improve productivity.

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    [-] Denize

    I believe an awareness of and respect for human rights is possible through mainstreaming, that is by accepting human rights as an issue to be addressed by all government departments (sports, arts, education, health care, family, business etc).

    Public education on human rights does not have to happen only through institutions. In fact, educating people about human rights in everyday life is more effective. Short videos in public spaces (public transportation, ferries, movie theatres, etc), leaflets, communication campaigns with catchy slogans and visuals, a reference site, an info-line can easily be done. But the most effective ones are those where people are active participants, where they actively contribute to the creation of content. These can be community arts events with human rights focus, summer camps for youth, a sports competition, brief storytelling sequences on human rights during weekly markets, perhaps an online game and online knowledge quizzes on human rights with awards.

    The commission can also set-up a recognition mechanism to honour businesses, ngo’s, institutions that set best examples for others. Through nomination by individuals or other institutions, the institutions’ efforts in the area of human rights can be recognized.
    Thank you,
    Denize

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    [-] Babs

    I am writing on behalf of the Board of Directors of the BC Library Trustees Association (BCLTA). The BCLTA represents the over 700 public library trustees who establish the strategic direction and provide governance for public libraries across BC.

    In regards to “the call for more public education on human rights as a crucial consideration when building the new commission”, we believe that our association, public library boards, and the public libraries we serve, play a critical role in public education for all.

    Public libraries are our communities’ only fee-free centres for lifelong learning, for knowledge exchange, and for sharing experiences and stories that inform and influence our communities. Regardless of whether we share these ideas through books, films, music, or through physical objects or digital platforms, public libraries ensure that everyone has access to information and culture, as well as opportunities to create and share knowledge and ideas.

    Public libraries have been, and continue to be, a force for equity, hope, and social and economic development across this country and here in BC. In addition to providing strong collections and programming, libraries across this province are leading the way on matters of justice such as the work library staff are doing towards trans* inclusion and the operationalization of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

    Public libraries make a positive difference to how British Columbians connect with, and experience, all the advantages of living in this province. As such, public libraries, working with the Human Rights Commission, are in a unique position to support and provide public education on human rights.

    BCLTA Resolution on the Rights of Transgender, Gender Variant, and Two-Spirited People http://bclta.ca/resolution-on-the-rights-of-transgender-gender-variant-and-two-spirited-people

    BCLTA June 2017 Bulletin focus on Public Libraries and Reconciliation. http://bclta.ca/emails/bulletin/?id=138

    Thank you,
    Babs Kelly (ED BCLTA)

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