By: Hannah Beckford
On December 8th and 9th, Milton District students tuned in to the HDSB Human Rights Symposium. This year’s speakers were Sheila Watt-Cloutier and Kehkashan Basu.
Sheila Watt Cloutier is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, TEDX speaker, and the former Canadian President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council—an organization dedicated to bringing Inuit people from Alaska, Greenland, Russia and Canada together to discuss internationally important issues. She discussed the effects of colonialism on the Inuit people and their environment throughout history as well as the way colonialism and industrialism resulted in the dependency of Inuit people on institutions. Sheila says: “When we started to…have those social and health problems [we have]..those new institutions started to add to the problems that we had…[this is] the result of the issues and traumas we have…”. She showed how Indigenous culture can help heal the current state of the modern world and how we can learn to live in unity with the environment and each other. Through her stories and retelling of history she showed how human history, trauma and natural history are intertwined.
Kehkashan Basu, the founder and president of Green Hope foundation at age twelve and winner of the 2016 International Children’s Peace Prize came to speak through video chat on Friday. She demonstrated how technology has increased our quality of life, yet still leaves many destitute and affected by climate change and biodiversity loss. She became an advocate for the environment after seeing an image of a dead bird with its stomach full of plastic on television. It made her squirm to think about how painful it must have been to have the rubbish inside it, but she would never forget that image. From there on she launched the Green Hope Foundation.
Through their stories and experiences, both speakers highlighted the essential role responsibility, inclusivity and understanding plays in the fight against climate change as well as the connections between climate change and other pressing issues of today. On behalf of Milton District High School we thank you for dedicating time out of your day to share your knowledge with us.