Ursella Khan, Femi Akinola, Kaden Nivens, and Juliana Cotacio took part in anti-discrimination awareness discussions on Wednesday at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer students are fighting subtle discrimination to help build a culture of tolerance

‘Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination’ marked at local high school

It’s in the way they are spoken down to, or the guarded look in somebody’s eye.

While subtle forms of discrimination can be hard to pinpoint, both Femi Akinola and Ursella Khan can always tell when they are on the receiving end of pre-judgment and bias.

“Sometimes it’s the way people speak to you — a kind of dumbed-down talk,” said Khan. The Calgary-born teenager makes it known in a “nice manner” that she speaks English like the native she is.

Both Grade 12 students agree that they don’t feel any prejudice at their “welcoming” Red Deer school, Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, but it’s sometimes directed at them from the wider world.


Anti-immigrant rally held

That’s why the graduating students were happy to participate on Wednesday in the first International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at the Red Deer school, organized by C.A.R.E. (Central Alberta Refugee Effort).

Students from social studies, language arts and leadership classes took part in special events throughout the day highlighting the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, including speakers, videos and discussion groups.

Sadia Khan, C.A.R.E.’s public awareness co-ordinator (and Ursella’s mother), hopes the students will continue these talks with their parents. “It’s always good to start this awareness at a young age, and hopefully they will take these conversations home, to have around the dinner table.”

Akinola, who came to Canada from Nigeria at age three, was pleasantly surprised by how invested students from Grades 9 to 12 were in discussing stereotypes.

She learned that even if a cultural bias is thought to be positive, it can lead to negative consequences — like pushing all Asian children into advanced classes, on the assumption it’s what they want, or can intellectually handle. “It’s so much pressure,” Akinola added.

Ursella Khan though it interesting that someone compared making general cultural assumptions to calling all Albertans “red neck.”

Since discrimination can unintentionally spring from fear or unfamiliarity, it’s good to raise awareness, she added. “It was really cool to see all these students chatting about real life issues.”

Leadership class teacher Alan Towne believes “high school has changed tremendously” from when he was a student 15 years ago. With more immigration to Central Alberta, he’s noticed a gradual softening in attitudes towards minorities.

Young people have especially become more tolerant and inclusive, he added. “You never hear all those racial slurs anymore… People at school are embracing other cultures — you actually see them embracing in the hallways.”

Grade 11 leadership student Kaden Nivens believes there’s likely more work needed on developing a culture of tolerance in the province. But “Central Alberta should be proud of welcoming refugees from all these horrible situations around the world and making them feel safe here…. this event helps with that.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Lindsay Thurber High School

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 9, 2020 in Ottawa. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be joining European Union leaders for a virtual summit, where they are expected to discuss their shared commitment to international co-operation and what that means ahead of Tuesday’s U.S presidential election. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, EU leaders meet ahead of U.S. election to reinforce support of world order

Trudeau speaking with the European Union’s two top political leaders

The Hub on Ross has announced it has permanently closed. (Photo courtesy The Hub on Ross Facebook page)
The Hub on Ross in Red Deer to permanently close

The Hub on Ross in Red Deer permanently closed on Wednesday. “The… Continue reading

There were 410 COVID-19 cases recorded in Alberta Wednesday. (File photo)
Alberta records 410 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday

Central zone dropped to 160 active cases

Shaun Isaac, owner of Woodchucker Firewood in Trochu, is awaiting a new shipment during a firewood shortage in the province. All of the wood he has left is being saved for long-time customers who need it to heat their homes. (Contributed photo).
Firewood shortage in central Alberta caused by rising demand, gaps in supply

‘I’ve said “No” to more people than ever’: firewood seller

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

Sergio Santos, right, of the Philadelphia Union, loses the race to the ball against goalie Quentin Westberg of Toronto FC during the first half of an MLS match Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Chester, Pa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charles Fox/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP
Frustrated coach Greg Vanney defends banged-up Toronto FC after second straight loss

Frustrated coach Greg Vanney defends banged-up Toronto FC after second straight loss

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Robert and third baseman Justin Turner pose for a group picture after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. Sporting venues and games certainly have super-spreader potential but that risk can be minimized with buy-in from all involved, experts said Wednesday. The subject moved into the spotlight Wednesday after L.A. Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner tested positive for COVID-19 at the World Series. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Eric Gay
Sports’ buy-in needed to prevent super-spreader potential: experts

Sports’ buy-in needed to prevent super-spreader potential: experts

In this image released by Fox, from left, Doug E. Doug, Malik Yoba, Rawle D. Lewis, John Candy and Leon are shown in a scene from the film "Cool Runnings." THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, Fox
Not cool: Jamaican bobsledder wants thief to return stolen shell to Calgary bar

An original member of the Jamaican bobsled team featured in the 1993… Continue reading

Speedskater Ivanie Blondin trains at the Olympic Oval in Calgary on October 17, 2016. Canada's long-track speedskating team is chasing ice to Fort St. John, B.C. The country's top speedskaters have been without ice in Calgary's Olympic Oval since early September because of a mechanical failure there. World champions Ivanie Blondin, Graeme Fish and Ted-Jan Bloemen are among 50 people including coaches and support staff travelling to northern B.C. for a 15-day training camp starting Nov. 1. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian long-track speedskating team finds temporary home in B.C.

Canadian long-track speedskating team finds temporary home in B.C.

The "Great One," Wayne Gretzky, left, holds up a banner bearing his number with some help from his friend Joey Moss during a jersey retirement ceremony at Skyreach Centre in Edmonton on Firday, October 1, 1999. Former Oilers captain Kelly Buchberger remembers how a familiar friend would come "barrelling" into the visitors' dressing room when he returned to Edmonton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Wayne Gretzky reflects on the life, legacy of Joey Moss: ‘He gave parents hope’

Wayne Gretzky reflects on the life, legacy of Joey Moss: ‘He gave parents hope’

Players' sticks are shown during a World Championships Group A hockey game between Russia and Denmark, in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, May 12, 2016. A $30-million settlement of three class actions over the failure to pay junior hockey players the minimum wage has been thrown into jeopardy after three judges refused to sign off on the agreement. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ivan Sekretarev
Junior hockey employment lawsuit on thin ice; judges refuse to OK $30-million deal

Junior hockey employment lawsuit on thin ice; judges refuse to OK $30-million deal

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney answers questions at a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Labour union leaders are urging Albertans to sign up to protest Premier Jason Kenney’s government through rallies and demonstrations and, if necessary, provincewide general strikes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Alberta union leaders launch protest website against Kenney government

Alberta union leaders launch protest website against Kenney government

Most Read