Four decades in the fight for equality Equitas has helped shape advances in human rights, here and around the world, through its education programs CHERYL CORNACCHIA The Gazette Monday, May 07, 2007 In 1967, Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms was still 15 years away and human rights commissions were only a figment of someone's imagination. But the founders of Equitas - the International Centre for Human Rights Education - were undeterred. Four decades later, this small, plucky Montreal-based non-governmental organization can take credit for strengthening the global culture of human rights. "We never imagined it would take on such a big role internationally," said Paul-Andre Crepeau, an emeritus law professor at McGill University. Last Thursday, Crepeau and others celebrated the 40th anniversary of the group, formerly known as the Canadian Human Rights Foundation. A cocktail party kicked off a three-day symposium that brought together human rights leaders from 16 countries. Ian Hamilton, the group's executive director, said the 40th anniversary was an opportunity to showcase the group's history and accomplishments. Besides Crepeau, the group's founders included John Humphrey, a former McGill University law professor and chief architect of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. "They were doing this work before law schools in Canada were even teaching human rights," Hamilton said. In Canada, he said, the group worked to raise awareness about the rights of the aged, the disabled, women and other disadvantaged groups. When that was done, he said, the group turned to the international stage. To date, Equitas has educated more than 3,000 trainees, 500 of them Canadian, to identify and rectify human rights violations. Last year, more than 120 participants from 60 countries, including Bahrain, Iraq, Egypt, Indonesia, Chile and India, attended the group's annual International Human Rights Training Program at John Abbott College in Ste. Anne de Bellevue. Signalling a return to Canada, in 2003, the group developed a summer day camp program to teach children, age 6 to 12, fairness, inclusion and non-discrimination. Last year, Play It Right was used by camp directors and counsellors at 86 city of Montreal and borough day camps. This summer, the program will be introduced at municipally run camps in five more Canadian cities. Elena Ippoliti, a human rights officer with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, said the group's work has fuelled the international movement. "You can see their impact," said Ippoliti, who was in town for the three-day symposium, co-sponsored by the UN. Last year, she said, she met an 8-year-old boy in Tamil Nadu, a province in southern India, who is a perfect example of how the group works to change entrenched attitudes and discrimination. The boy's teacher had been trained by People's Watch Tamil Nadu, a group that sends workers to Equitas's International Human Rights Training Program. The boy realized after learning about gender equality that his baby sister's life was in danger in his own home - and that it was wrong. When his pleas to save his sister were ignored by his parents, he implored his teachers to help. Thanks to him, Ippoliti said, the little girl's life was spared and there has been public discussion about female infanticide in the village. "I like this story," Ippoliti said. "It tells you that human rights education is empowering." © The Gazette (Montreal) 2007 Source: http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=459e35a8-bc51-4a09-a081-94b963ffced0 ======== North American Human Rights Education listserv ======= Send mail intended for the list to < >. Archives of the list can be found at: http://www.hrea.org/lists/hr-education-na/ **You are welcome to reprint, copy, archive, quote or re-post this item, but please retain the original and listserv source.
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