Belly dancing for human rights

June 12, 2012
Jennifer Wathen

On May 3, over 40 teachers and staff members attended a special event at Grande Prairie’s Mother Teresa Catholic School. The wonderful evening was in support of diversity, equity and human rights cosponsored by a tridistrict Diversity Equity and Human Rights (DEHR) Committee consisting of representatives from Grande Prairie and District Catholic Teachers Local No. 42, Northern Spirit Local No. 6 and Trumpeter No. 26.

The Moondance Shimmy Dance Company kick started the evening with a fabulous belly dancing display that involved audience members getting a quick lesson on stage. The Bluebird First Nations Dance Troupe performed beautifully and involved the entire audience in a round dance. A Grade 6 student from Mother Teresa, Kassidy Stienwand, sang a moving version of “We Are the World” with a teacher from Mother Teresa, and Ray O’Toole played guitar in the background. The guest speaker, well-known Métis author, educator and raconteur David Bouchard, spoke about his trials and tribulations as a teacher, a principal and a student. ­Bouchard remembers the difficulties of being a little boy trying to fit into a white world that were exacerbated by his dyslexia, which was undiagnosed at the time. Bouchard also talked about difference—that is, how boys learn differently from girls, how the upbringing of a First Nations child differs from that of a mainstream Caucasian child, how being a student from a minority culture differs from being a student from a majority. And he praised the power of music in classroom management, even giving the audience a demonstration of his flute-playing ability. At the end of the evening he showed his many flutes as well as his many books about Métis and First Nations children. Bouchard also put in a plug for DEHR committees, saying that it is important for teachers to get involved in such committees, especially given the ever increasing diversity of students entering Alberta schools.

The evening ended with food and music by Ray O’Toole and Janina Carlstad and her partner (Janina is a member of the tridistrict DEHR Committee). As well, members from the three school districts talked about how they formed the tridistrict committee and what its purpose is. Essentially, the tridistrict DEHR Committee respects diversity and recognizes, understands and accepts differences in people. It involves understanding that equity is ensuring that people have equitable chances to reach their potential and that human rights ensure that people live in a society free from injustice due to race, religion, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, gender identity and so on.

The tridistrict DEHR Committee hopes to see many of the people who attended this wonderful event next fall at its first 2012/13 meeting.

Jennifer Wathen teaches at Mother Teresa Catholic School, in Grande Prairie.