By Maddie Keenlyside
Feb. 27, 2013
As a multicultural educator, Lisa Dollar says she has had many memorable experiences. Working with newcomer students to produce anti-racism videos has had an especially powerful impact on her, she said.
“To hear newcomers share their experiences of racism left quite an impact on me, and it reiterated to me the need for more awareness on this across P.E.I.”
Dollar, who works for the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada, said she thought it would be educational for students to use their creativity to illustrate their ideas and feelings on combating racism via writing, poster and video.
P.E.I.’s second annual Anti-Racism Contest opened on Jan. 27 and is accepting entries until March 7, and youth from all over the Island are encouraged to participate, she said.
“There’s more awareness about the contest since last year; already more people are talking about it and some teachers are encouraging it as a class project. All the schools across P.E.I. with students from Grades 7-12 have been invited to participate.”
That’s around 40 schools, she said. Any student in Grade 7-12 on P.E.I. is welcome to participate.
The association created the contest in 2013 to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21.
“We want to create a greater awareness of anti-racism on Prince Edward Island. Many Islanders are not aware that racism exists on P.E.I., or to the extent that it exists.”
The association has multicultural education program workers who present in the schools across P.E.I. on both anti-racism and cultural diversity, so it seemed like a natural fit to engage Island youth to commemorate the day, she said.
“Last year’s competition had entries from schools from all ends of the Island.” Following the competition, Stonepark Intermediate School invited the first-place winner of the poster category, student Li-Chen Lo, to create her poster as a mural in the school corridor, she said.
“We were very pleased to hear of this initiative; now students will see this image depicting anti-racism every day they walk through the corridor. For many people, anti-racism isn’t at the forefront of their minds, so this is a wonderful way to be reminded.”
Greg Anderson is a teacher by trade, but after a decade travelling through 25 countries and teaching in Japan, he now works alongside Dollar as a multicultural educator for the association.
“When I was growing up in rural P.E.I., there was nobody that looked different from me from kindergarten to grade 12.”
Anderson says children on the Island today are very lucky to have the opportunity to interact with people who were born in different places in the world with different cultures and ways of life.
“It’s a great learning experience both for them and if they happen to make friends with someone else who might be a newcomer, then I think they can both learn so much from each other.”
As educators, they try to break down the barriers and the stereotypes that people may have, he said.
“If you have limited or no experience dealing with someone that’s different than you, maybe for example from a different culture who has a different language, it can be a little bit scary.”
He said the contest is a great idea.
“I think for some students they wouldn’t realize that racism is something that is on P.E.I., and some of our newcomers have to deal with it.”
In one instance, he did a session with a group of immigrant and refugee boys from Grade 7-12.
“Every one had said that on P.E.I. they had experienced some form of racism from time to time, so it’s something they do have to deal with.”
But with an initiative like this, it’s going into all the schools can create that awareness, he said.
“People can be creative, and just by saying ‘Well, I can do this project,’ whether it’s a poster or a poem or essay or video, it creates more awareness around it.
“It’s another way we can get people to combat racism, by getting them to think about it more and really look into it, and what’s happening on P.E.I.”
Dollar said as P.E.I.’s cultural diversity continues to change, more awareness is essential.
“We’re striving to create inclusive communities here on P.E.I. and for newcomers to feel welcome in their new home.”
The multicultural education program continues to deliver presentations in Island schools to encourage dialogue about cultural diversity and anti-discrimination, she said, and also offers presentations to businesses, government and community groups.