Workshop teaches how to be an effective human rights advocate
- Kaitlynn Nordal | May 22, 2019
Imagine after months or years of waiting you finally arrive in Canada since fleeing your home country because of persecution. It is –40 and snowing in Saskatchewan, but you don’t care because you are safer than at home.
This is the reality of the Karen refugees, an Indigenous group, from Burma (Myanmar).
The Karen people became refugees after civil war broke out in 1949 in their home country and even their most basic human rights were being violated.
For the second year in a row, the Karen Community of Canada (KCC) held a workshop over May long weekend at The Buddhist Centre of Regina to not only educate participants on what is going on in Burma, but to teach people about human rights, how to advocate, and how to properly use the internet to strengthen their cause.
“It’s important for the youth to know their rights. A lot of the Karen youth are refugees and they do not know they have certain rights…so, it’s important for the youth to come and learn about these things and recognize those rights so they can use them effectively,” said Keemae Paw, one of the event’s organizers.
Paw is a refugee from Burma herself and came to Canada in 2006 at nine years old. She now an International Studies student at the University of Regina and has become an advocate for human rights.
It was a full weekend for those who participated in the seminars.
Saturday’s workshop was about human, refugee, and Indigenous rights and lobbying government. Workshops were put on by Gord Barnes, an Amnesty International volunteer fieldworker, Paw, Allyson Stevenson, Crystal Giesbrecht, an Amnesty International volunteer fieldworker, and John Solomon, a former Member of Parliament. Slone Phan, chairperson for KCC, also gave an update on the current situation in Burma. The day ended with a panel moderated by Taylor Madarash with human rights advocates Jahanzeb Jamil, Elder Lorna standingready, Paw, Manel Allagabo, and Leonzo Barreno.
“For me, human rights are non-negotiable. I think every human being on earth has the right to human rights, to a decent standard of living, to be at peace in their own land. I also understand when they choose to move, when they choose to stop fighting for the land. Many refugees are the results of those fights.” said Barreno in an interview before the panel.
“It’s cliché to say but knowledge is power,” said Chelsea Jordan, one of the days participants. “I’m interested in learning how to better advocate and be better able to contribute.”
Sunday was all about using media and social media effectively. The days two workshops were all about how to engage the media in your cause and how to properly write, research produce material. The workshops were led by Patricia Elliott, Nichole Huck, Moravia Alvarado, Gord Barnes, Andrew Paul, and Saw Sha Bwe Moo. The days event ended with a fundraising concert.
Monday was a little more relaxed with KCC Advocacy Team speaking more about their Advocacy Policy, roles and responsibilities. The day ended speaking about what other events KCC had coming up.
There are now more than 8000 Karen people are now in Canada and roughly 500 in Regina.