The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission
The Concentus Citizenship Education Project is premised on the belief that if we want to help children become responsible citizens in the future, we need to support educators today. A good way to support educators is to give them quality, classroom-ready resources that work with the existing curriculum.
Our communities are growing rapidly, not only in numbers, but also in diversity. The make-up of our schools is a foreshadowing of how our community will look in the not too distant future. It was clear that creating meaningful inclusion and belonging in our communities would require a respectful, understanding, and engaged citizenry. It was determined that the children and youth of today will need new tools to take on this responsibility of their citizenship, and that teachers would need the resources to teach these tools. Building on the success of the Teaching Treaties in the Classroom pedagogy produced by the Office of the Treaty Commissioner under the direction of Judge David Arnot, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission set out to create the teacher friendly resources that would change the discourse on citizenship engagement.
Schools are the natural place to cultivate understanding and citizenship. Through broad-based consultations with relevant stakeholders, the SHRC found that there was a genuine need for a better understanding of citizenship. Classroom ready citizenship education resource materials were prepared, that fit within the existing provincial curriculum. The focus of the Citizenship Education project is to provide a path to harmony – form respect to empathy, from empathy to understanding, from understanding to knowledge, from knowledge to education, and finally from education to harmony.
The Citizenship Education Project is premised on the belief that if we want to help children become responsible citizens in the future, we need to support educators today. We found that there was a desire to improve support, improve, and change the community. We also found that the existing curriculum included many opportunities to teach citizenship. We created the Concentus Citizenship Education Foundation to work with educators and stakeholders to make these resources classroom ready so they could mesh directly with the interconnected aspects of curriculum and be easy for teachers to implement.
Making a Difference
Through our consultations, we were told to keep in mind one important concept, "children are citizens, not citizens in waiting” (A. Olser, 2003, Verhellen,2000). In taking this position, we were able to link in some of the best high level thinking from the United Nations that asserts that those acting on behalf of children must secure, the “holistic physical, psychological, moral and spiritual integrity of the child and promote his or her human dignity. “ A Grade 8 teacher using the resources reported that, “I like the opportunities for students to think critically. Students developed an appreciation of Canada’s multi‐cultural policy and the implications that diverse cultural perspectives brings.”
One of the biggest challenges was to reassure superintendents, principles, and teachers that the citizenship education classroom resources would not create more work for teachers and administrators. These concerns were relieved when we confirmed to educators and administrators that the citizenship education resources align exactly with the scope and sequence of the existing K to 12 curricula.
Vision for the Future:
Built on the successful experience in Saskatchewan, the Citizenship Education Project resources will be available in all Canadian classrooms. All students will be: empowered, they will understand their rights, and they will be responsible, respectful and participatory citizens committed to justice in a pluralistic Canadian democracy.
Discrimination and racism against Indigenous people is of particular concern in the Saskatchewan context. For this reason, the resources include direct references to the Teaching Treaties in the Classroom (Office of the Treaty Commissioner) resources. So and without needing to draw a direct line to racism, students are taught to identify, respect, and appreciate the Aboriginal worldview.
About the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission:
The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission is an arms-length government agency that is mandated to discourage and eliminate discrimination by: investigating complaints of discrimination, promoting and approving equity programs, and educating people about human rights.