How do you define Social Justice?
Chances are if you put eight people in a room together and ask them, “What does Social Justice mean to you?” you will get eight different answers. As a society, we seek to find common understanding and meaning. So, when we are presented with a term or an idea that’s not easily defined it can be viewed as an unwelcome challenge. Normally that would be a problem.
That’s not the case for CCRSB’s Social Justice Lead Team.
Comprised of eight members, this diverse group of educators is leading CCRSB’s Social Justice movement. They are not daunted by a lack of common meaning. In fact, it’s that lack of common meaning – they say – that is the true measure of Social Justice.
"Social Justice is often difficult to define because it is broad, with many dimensions. It can mean different things to different people because we each bring our own knowledge, experiences and backgrounds to the various components of Social Justice,” said Jocelyn Dorrington, Coordinator, African-Nova-Scotian Cultural Services and Social Justice Lead Team co-chair.
CCRSB’s approach to Social Justice begins with our Race Relations, Cross-Cultural Understanding and Human Rights Social Justice Framework. The Social Justice Framework identifies the multiple diversities that make all members of the CCRSB community unique, but also the same: race, gender, class, sexual orientation and abilities. Imagine the concept of Social Justice like a back pack. We all wear one, but the contents of that back pack change from person to person.
"Social Justice is understanding, embracing and respecting the individual differences in all people," said Patsy Paul-Martin, Coordinator, First Nations Cultural Services and Social Justice Lead Team co-chair. “Our individual differences fill our back packs. When people are actively engaging in a Social Justice approach they learn to consider what is in another person’s back pack, that helps to prevent them from passing judgment or making assumptions about others.”
In the New Year, the Social Justice Lead Team will begin providing Social Justice professional learning for CCRSB staff based on the multiple diversities highlighted in the Social Justice Framework. Each module is made-up of a video – developed and filmed by the Lead Team – and hands-on activities for participants.
While the professional learning will provide staff members direct training about Social Justice, both Patsy and Jocelyn point out that many staff members – and students – have already been involved with projects and programs that fall under the umbrella of Social Justice. They just may not realize it.
“Stand Up. Speak Out., our anti-bullying program; the restorative approach in schools; Employment Equity; self-identification – all of these are a piece of Social Justice. They teach students and staff that differences are a good thing and that true equality comes from acceptance, not tolerance,” says Paul-Martin.
Social Justice is an ongoing area of focus, as it should be, at all CCRSB schools and offices. The 2013-2016 Strategic Plan names Social Justice as a key pillar for our school board.
The ultimate goal is to make the concept of Social Justice in CCRSB as prominent as the programs that support it. To achieve that goal education must be provided, and awareness raised, among all members of the CCRSB community. Race, Cross-Cultural Understanding and Human Rights (RCH) advisors at each of CCRSB’s 73 schools go a long way to making Social Justice a living, breathing concept for our students. Now it’s time for the next steps.
“In order to fully engage in social justice work one must accept that inequities exist, that ascribed privilege exists and that power is a critical component,” said Dorrington. “To achieve the goal of "equality" for everyone, we must apply the process of equity while ensuring respect and dignity for all. We must engage in Social Justice to create a safe, socially-just and inclusive society. This must become the norm."
The Social Justice Lead Team will be launching a video ahead of the start of the professional learning sessions in 2015. An education and awareness campaign is also being planned.
Special thanks to all the RCH advisors in our schools and the members of the Lead Team for guiding all of CCRSB through this important and individual process.