On October 21, 2015, Trent celebrated Human Rights Day. The day was launched by the Presidential Council on Human Rights, Equity, and Accessibility (PACHREA) meeting at 12:30PM, followed by the keynote address from Raj Anand, Human Rights Lawyer and former Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The day was concluded by workshops that focused on gender identities and gender rights.
And shared insight on current and emerging issues in human rights in Canada, particularly in a university context. Anand spoke of the complexity of human right issues and discussed specific cases such as the Dalhousie Dentistry case as well as others.
He placed an emphasis on the importance of having policies and procedures in places to address human rights issues, and how essential it is to engage with the evolving issues within human rights. When asked how his Trent experience had been, he replied, “I love Trent, it is great to see a community engaged in human rights issues.”
This event came into fruition as a result of the annual PACHREA meeting. “We realized that, as the Center of Human Rights, Equity and Accessibility (CHREA), we needed to do more as a result of the amount of interest shown by the Trent community at our annual general meeting,” explained Andy Craig, a staff member at the CHREA.
“Therefore we decided to invite keynote speakers to address issues in Human Rights, Equity and Accessibility. Such events have enabled us to educate Trent’s students, staff, and faculty on issues of human rights, accessibility, and more.”
Craig also mentioned how pleased he was that the event was well-attended by staff, and acknowledges that more effort will be made to better engage with students.
The conclusion of the keynote address was followed by three workshops. Hershel Russel, an experienced psychotherapist who has been counseling transgender people and their family, was one of the three workshop leaders. Russel’s workshop was entitled “The Joy of Gender: Understanding Transgender lives in Context, Historical, Cross Cultural, and Biological.
The workshop was “lively and thought-provoking workshop that presented the transgender experience as ordinary, if unusual, aspect of human diversity rather than a medical diagnosis.” Nadine Changfoot led the workshop that discussed Project Re. Vision, a project that seeks to mobilize arts-based approaches to create deeper understandings of difference, which disrupt dominant narratives and open up possibilities.
Through three- to four-minute videos made by disabled-identified persons and health care providers, audiences were challenged to re-think stereotypical understandings of ability and disability. The third workshop was led by Karleen Pendleton-Jiménez, the workshop was titled “They Say I have Girl Knees: Gender Transgression All Around”.
For two years, Pendleton-Jiménez conducted gender justice workshops, asking students to document what they knew to be true about gender in their communities. She presented words, perceptions, and instincts about gender diversity as articulated by grade 4-12 students in the region.