The Mosaic Institute, a not-for-profit organization that aims to amplify voices of diversity within Canada, hosted the Next Generation Canadian Global Citizenship Project at Garneau throughout the months of February to May. This year, the organization specifically chose Marc Garneau CI as a host school because of its diverse population and community. Through four themed workshops on 22 February, 23 March, 20 April, and 4 May 2017, Garneau students participated in discussions that touched upon the project’s overall theme of multiculturalism.

The Mosaic Institute hosted their Next Generation project at MGCI. Photo: The Mosaic Institute

The workshops all opened with a traditional Indigenous welcome and land acknowledgement by Kim Wheatly, an Anishinaabe Traditional Grandmother from the Shawanaga First Nation Reserve, or by Alexandria, a member of Shawanaga First Nation. Students were then split into ‘Core Community Learning Groups,’ where Next Generation workshop facilitators taught students about various topics, depending on the day’s theme. The topics explored were global citizenship, indigenous peoples, family history, and understanding and addressing racism and discrimination. Students then split up again for workshops on topics that they chose to learn about. Topics discussed included environmental justice, human rights, historical injustices, homophobia, and mental health.

Each day had a unique theme, such as “Global Citizenship: Caring About Our World,” or  “Canada: A Safe Home for All of Us.”. Over one hundred students across five classes from the social science department were selected to take part. The workshops were mandatory for Ms. Woodley’s Grade 11 Law class, Ms. Tharshan’s Civics class, Ms. Roberge’s Crimes against Humanity class, and Mr. Graham’s BSAP History and BSAP Geography classes.

Each of the workshops provided students with complimentary lunch. Even the food highlighted the diverse cultural diversity found in the community and within Canada. During one workshop, students ate traditional Middle Eastern food, while during another, they ate pizza. After lunch finished, students separated into five Core Learning Group Activities to work on the final project, known as ‘Community Service Projects.’ The five projects were a fundraising campaign, a short video about Turtle House, encouraging social action and advocacy for immigrants and refugees, an art show, and a theatre performance highlighting the struggles faced by refugees; students each chose to do one of the projects. All of the projects aimed to raise awareness and funds in support of the Turtle House Art/Play Centre, an organization which helps welcome refugee families and children through art.

To conclude each workshop, students returned to the library for a lecture by a keynote speaker, the likes of whom included Kulvir Singh Gill who spoke about his experiences as a Sikh-Canadian, spoken word poet and artist Patrick de Belen, and Rania El Mugammar, a motivational speaker and poet.

Student efforts for the Community Service Projects culminated at the Youth Summit, which occurred in the school library on 18 May 2017. Each of the Core Learning Groups were responsible for preparing brochures, a poster board, a powerpoint about their project, and the actual project. Students talked about the process of creating their project and why they chose it, before presenting the final result in front of special guests.

A project from the Next Generation Project. Photo: The Mosaic Institute

The Youth Summit showcased all the students’ hard work; this included the art created by students and participants in Turtle House’s programs, and the social advocacy group’s banners. The group informed students about the importance of social action and advocacy, while also adding that they were actively discouraged from protesting due to the fact that it could be dangerous.

Among students, the reviews were mixed. Some students enjoyed the project, with participating student Mohamed Dasu saying, “It was also amusing because we got to do stuff we don’t necessarily get to do in class… I just hope it comes back!” Others disagreed, with one student saying, “Going into the conference, I thought there would be some next-level global-scale opportunities. But frankly, at the end of the conference, I feel more than a little underwhelmed by what we received in exchange for sacrificing five whole days of classes.” Not only that, some of the students found the curriculum unrelatable because it was heavily tailored to Garneau’s South Asian population.

As well, the project itself was riddled with logistical issues. Ms. Woodley, the lead teacher, said that, “The main problem was logistics, specifically finding space for the facilitators to run their workshops.” However, she did see positives in the project’s intentions, adding, “Hopefully, this will inspire students to take action.” Ms. Tharshan, another teacher with a class participating in the project said, “I want this to help students have empathy for minorities, especially that they don’t normally interact with on a regular basis.”

Ultimately, the Next Generation project informed students of various different issues and raised about four hundred dollars for the Turtle House, including about one hundred dollars through a Junior vs. Senior basketball game organized by the fundraising group. However, Ms. Woodley said she is not sure that the project will return next year.