By Xavier Kataquapit
Standing up for any cause, and in particular when it affects those in society who are minorities and less fortunate, is important. I sometimes wonder what our younger generation is doing to become aware of the politics of this country and how right wing, well financed movements are gaining power in provinces in Canada.
Thankfully, I notice on a very local level in Kirkland Lake in Northern Ontario that secondary school students are finding the courage and the voice to protest and represent as a means to draw attention to just causes.
Kaytlyn Julien, a First Nation student at Kirkland Lake District Composite School was one of the organizers for the Orange Shirt Day Sept. 30. She and her friends organized a walk to promote this worthwhile issue.
The Orange Shirt Day, which is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission residential school commemoration event first held in Williams Lake, B.C. in the spring of 2013 is now featured in communities across the country. It grew out of the story of a little girl named Phyllis in residential school having her shiny new orange shirt taken away from her on the first day of residential school. These events, dedicated to Phyllis, now happens nationally and they have become an opportunity to keep the discussion on all aspects of residential schools happening annually.
The date was chosen because it is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to residential schools and because it is an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the coming school year. These events also provide a vehicle to make sure that going forward the history of residential schools and their impact on First Nation people is remembered.
I commend Kaytlyn and her fellow organizers for taking the time and making the effort to keep this day alive and give thanks to all those who organize to remember residential school survivors all across Canada. It is very meaningful to myself as my mother Susan and dad Marius were both taken by the government and placed in residential schools when they were children. I have had to live with the affects of this travesty that has carried through from their generation to mine and beyond.
This new generation of young people are finding a voice and standing up for what they believe. Another example of their actions has to do with the recent protest by secondary school students across the province of Ontario to fight against the government rollback of sex education to curriculum created more than 20 years ago. In the local secondary school, KLDCS in Kirkland Lake, Ont. the students walked out of school to protest the new Doug Ford government’s decision to reverse a more enlightened sex education curriculum put forward by the past Liberal leadership. I cannot believe that in this modern era we have people who want to return to a time where we kept our children in the dark when it comes to sexual information and discussions.
Powerful, well funded organizers are pushing right wing governments all over the world right now and most recently Ontario elected such a government and so did Quebec. I am concerned that this is happening for the most part because people are just not all that aware or concerned about the promotion of right wing politics. It makes me more hopeful when I hear about young people becoming educated, aware and involved in politics.
I feel better about the future when I see secondary, college and university students taking a stand on issues that are facing us in terms of protecting our democracy, treating minorities fairly, providing a better quality of life for people and protecting our environment. In the 1930s, one of the most brilliant, progressive and intelligent societies in Germany were bullied and manipulated by right wing thugs backed by very wealthy and powerful people to become fascist.
As Michael Moore points out in his latest movie Fahrenheit 11/9 what happened in the 1930s with the Nazi movement can, and is, happening again today. It is up to us all to become more aware of what is happening to us politically, discover who is pulling the strings and doing the manipulation, and to organize and fight back.
A lot of this energy and effort must come from our secondary, college and university students who can help fuel a renewed commitment to democracy and fairness for all. It is really up to us all and if we choose to ignore what is happening around us and being apathetic then we might be very surprised when the jackboots come walking our way again.