Students at Forest Hill Public School (TDSB) Write about Human Rights

April 11, 2015

Grade 7 students at TDSB’s Forest Hill Public School learned about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ahead of a school visit by the Corning Centre on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

The teaching staff, who had organized the visit, had done an incredible job in teaching the students about human rights, which formed a strong basis for understanding the history and current implications of the Armenian Genocide. Student knowledge of our collective human rights and global citizenship today, paves the way for a brighter and promising future for our world.

During the visit, the Forest Hill Public School students shared with us their exceptional reflections on the Universal Declaration of Human rights, excerpts of which, we would like to share with our educators and friends ahead of the centenary of the Armenian Genocide.

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The most important court, the one of public opinion, is sometimes less fair. The judges are people just like you and me, and they can be extremely biased and nonsensical (Take the anti-vaxxers as an example). Public opinion is the context in which I have experienced the most extreme cases of the rights being upheld, and also the most extreme cases of the rights being completely ignored. Some may say that public opinion is not subject to the same standards as the justice system or the government, but I disagree. As Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “Where after all do universal human rights begin? … Yet they are the world of the individual person.” And the individual person is a small but crucial part of public opinion. That person has the power to sway others’ opinions, and to change the world. Public opinion must be subject to the same laws and rules over human rights. The government is the one catering to the public, and if the public is not being fair and jumping to conclusions, then why should the government be fair and honest?

In the democratic government system, the people running for office at any level must get the support of the people. Doing so by marginalizing groups or individuals is most definitely not the right way to go ethically, but it worked for people like Adolf Hitler, who came into power by blaming the Jews for Germany’s economic woes. This and the following war were one of the main reasons that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created. Although it is not entirely successful, and will probably will never be, the declaration aimed to stop atrocities like the Holocaust from happening again. Hitler did not allow the Jews to defend themselves, and broke their right to be innocent until proven guilty (Leading to the formation of the UN). It is crucial for the leadership of any country to follow this human right when in power. It is the public’s role in a democratic system to remain involved in the government system, in order to keep the government from abusing their power. If everyone in the democratic system does their part to keep human rights from being broken, the world will prosper.

— Grade 7, Forest Hill Public School, We Are All Innocent Until Proven Guilty

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I live in Canada. I am a citizen; I have all my human rights and freedoms. I was told to choose one time when one right was followed and I couldn’t. I thought it ridiculous to consider the idea of choosing but I also found it true that I couldn’t think of an instance because I’ve taken all these rights and freedoms for granted my whole life. So here is my answer; every day all the time I see my human rights and the rights of those who I know being followed and respected.

It always shocks me when I read about people’s rights being violated or ignored. Last year I read in the newspaper about a journalist being detained in Egypt because he was a journalist. No fair trial; right  #10, assumed guilty though there was no proof or real conviction; 11, denied the right to move; 13, denied basic rights because he was from somewhere else; 28 and 2.

I’d like to take you somewhere, here’s the scene; a streetcar, full but only a few people are standing. There are adults and high school students everywhere. Two late high school boys are harassing a girl; calling her names, threatening to touch her. They are loud, anyone could hear them, and they are in between the girl and the driver. You would expect people to come forward to intervene but no one does. People look away because that’s what humans do. We look away because it’s easy.

— Grade 7,  Forest Hill Public School, Human Rights Assignment

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In my eyes, one of the most important human rights is the right to education. A right that we take for granted here in Canada almost every day. But education is not only learning your multiplication tables or learning who won the 1940 presidential election. Sure education is part of that but what education really is, is a gate to freedom.  The freedom to then after school do what you want with your life. These are the places and times I’ve seen this right being followed and not.   

I see this right being followed almost every single day I go to school. Every day I see everyone in class learning about math and science, all the things that will allow us to make a better future for all of us. We may not all love school, admittedly it can be boring at times, and it is not always appreciated but everyone can probably agree that deep down we love some parts of school. Education is also important because it helps us learn social skill and how to interact with one another, a skill we use in our day to day life. When I see this human right being followed I feel an overwhelming sense of freedom that I know have a foundation to build my future, that I know can do what I want with my life. I also feel lucky knowing that a lot of other kids like me do not have an opportunity to get education like I do. So I decided to do something about that problem

The time I did not see this right being followed was this summer. My family wanted to do something different for the summer trip. We decided to visit Guatemala and we were going to help a school while we were there. In our time in Guatemala we visited many villages. Most of the children could not go to school past grade 5 because the government could not afford to pay for schooling. This is why I decided to take action by holding a fundraiser to help a school in Solola called El Triunfo. I visited this school, and every one of the students considers themselves the luckiest in the world. They understood that they were fortunate and I was glad I could help them. At first I felt good for helping them but then I felt that we in Canada were not doing enough to help so now I will hold more annual fundraisers. This is the only way that other children , most like you and I will get a better future.

— Grade 7, Forest Hill Public School, Human Rights Reflection

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In Canada, you’re easily allowed to move around the country. You can even go out of the country and into the states, then come back again (if you’re a citizen). Unfortunately this doesn’t apply/work with to every other country or every other government. In fact in many countries, including mine (Iran), you can’t leave with as much ease. Nor, can you come back home smoothly. You might have to join an army or, you left illegally and you are just not allowed to come home. It’s a very sad thought when you remember that there are places in the world where people, where families have to escape their own country in order to be safe, in order to live. It’s a great risk too. You’re risking the chance to never see any friends, or family again. Risking the lives of your children, parents, or anyone you care about. 

To feel free is something that we here in Canada take for granted. And sometimes, we forget that there are people in the world who aren’t free to leave. It’s like you are trapped in a prison, that you’re not suppose to be in. Luckily, I myself haven’t personally experienced this withdrawal of freedom, but all the time you hear of families trying to escape, to leave, a country. And, you get a bitter feeling when you know that they shouldn’t have to do that. It shouldn’t be necessary to endanger your life for something that you should already have.

This, isn’t something that you could cure so easily. But there is hope, there people out there, who spend time trying fix this problem. From helping out those who have escaped to trying to changing that law against freedom. Because anyone who is human deserves that right no matter who they are.

— Grade 7, Forest Hill Public School, Freedom of Movement