On Point

By Calvin Fraser
October 27, 2014

The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) maintains a very large interest in social justice and human rights issues. Our focus is from the point of its impact on Canadian children and youth – the students who teachers work with every day. For this reason CTF is deeply involved in advocacy and action work on issues such as child poverty, aboriginal education, mental health, bullying (especially cyberbullying), minority language culture and education, and women’s issues. For this reason too CTF has partnerships with groups such as the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), the Keep the Promise Campaign (KTP), Student Vote Canada, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

CTF is currently doing a review and an alignment of its advocacy work to ensure it reflects the issues teachers want their organizations to speak out about on their behalf. Teachers have repeatedly, strongly and recently expressed their beliefs in the need for a forceful teacher voice on making life better for children, especially on such issues as mental health, poverty and safe and caring schools. All are rights issues.

Human rights are drawing much public discussion at this time. The first national museum with a focus on Human Rights –CMHR has recently opened in Winnipeg to both fanfare and controversy. Rights are inherently values connected and political in nature. When the Harper Government became a primary sponsor of the museum, all decisions were destined to become open to public scrutiny and skepticism. The museum itself is a magnet, a target, and a tool. There will be disagreement about what should be the museum content and how it should be displayed, explained and reported. So why did CTF form a partnership with CMHR?

As a non-partisan organization, CTF sees value for Canadians in expanding discussion and understanding of human rights. The world continues to have its shameful violations of human rights – indeed Canada has its own shameful violations of human rights. The mission of CTF includes promoting awareness, generating discussion and ultimately fostering education. The museum has immense value for all three of those tasks. Through the CTF Imagineaction program, CTF has been involved directly with the museum in reviewing curriculum, finding education resources and generating tools for students and teachers to use in schools.

The health of democracy in Canada demands that students learn to be strong critical thinkers. The CTF Imagineaction program offers resources, support and project opportunities for students for which a core value is critical thinking. The museum is working with CTF in the development of a Canadian version of Speak Truth to Power which, with 75% Canadian content, will be a major human rights resource for Canadian teachers. This resource and the work done in preparation for it will also support and enhance the CTF Canadian Defenders for Human Rights program which seeks to have students identify and promote recognition of local citizens who have had an impact on human rights in our society. The underlying message is that we can all make a difference. To this end, every teacher in Canada can access resources and involve their students in such programs by registering for free at

At the end of this calendar year I will retire from this position. I do so very proud of the way Canadian teachers care about the welfare of children and youth. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to help teachers act on their values and shape an organization that cares.

Calvin Fraser retires in December 2014 after serving eight years as CTF Secretary General.

Calvin Fraser is Secretary General of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.

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Perspectives web magazine is published by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), a national alliance of provincial and territorial teacher organizations that represent over 238,000 elementary and secondary school teachers across Canada.

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