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Edmonton queers can learn more about human rights

Workshop runs for 10 weeks as part of Human Rights City project

Through the John Humphries Center for Peace and Human Rights (JHC), queer Edmontonians will have an opportunity to learn more about human rights while sharing their queer experience with others.

For the third time, the Edmonton-based JHC will be offering a 10-week Human Rights Facilitators course. Participants will learn about human rights through 24 exercises designed to illuminate the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The course will also include guest speakers and lessons on how to facilitate.

Upon completion, participants are required to deliver two human rights workshops to either members of their community or other groups or organizations. For queer people, this could include workshops presented at the Pride Center of Edmonton or informally around a kitchen table.

The human rights training course is a pay-it-forward way to spread human rights information as part of a bigger framework, the Human Rights City project. That project aims at “creating cities where everyone takes responsibility to affirm human dignity and to celebrate differences and where everyone is included and has access to full membership and participation in the community.” As part of consultations at the beginning of the Human Rights City project, the JHC met with members of Edmonton’s queer community.

As the first North American city to be part of the Human Rights project, Edmonton is also the first to offer the course. Initially the idea was to invite members of specific cultural groups to participate in the course so that they could bring back the information to their communities. So far, due to the popularity of the course, that has not been necessary. In its first year the course had 18 students, this time it will be equipped to handle 22 participants.

Designed to be peer lead, people will have the chance to bring their own stories and work experience to the table. For Candy Kahn, who took part in the 2007 pilot project, it was learning about the lives of others in her adopted city that she realized that the discrimination she faced as a South Asian woman was not unique. “Other women experience marginalization as well, not just women of colour” learned Kahn.

It was coming to this conclusion and the borrowing of the course’s framework that has lead Kahn, who has her Masters in Education, to create a women of colour think tank. She hopes that the think tank will help her and her community answer questions like “how can we support each other rather than divide amongst ourselves?” and “how can we bring together our collective talents and synergize?” For many queer people, these are familiar questions that may bear repeating.

JHC education coordinator Carrie Malloy, who led the first two courses, recommends Edmonton queers sign up and resist oppression. “There has to be a growing amount of people in the queer community that can advocate and speak up about rights.”