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).

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.

Related:

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.”



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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

The body of 25-year-old Kyler Corriveau was discovered near Red Deer on Sunday. He was missing since Dec. 15. Police are investigating his death as a homicide. (Contrinuted photo).
RCMP are investigating the death of missing Red Deer man as a homicide

The body of Kyler Corriveau was discovered on Sunday

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 456 new cases of COVID-19 over Tuesday afternoon. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Five new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, two in Red Deer

Province reports 456 new cases of COVID-19

Community Futures Central Alberta, in partnership with the Central Alberta Regional Innovation Network (CARIN), is behind the SMARTstart initiative for budding entrepreneurs.
New program aimed at helping entrepreneurs succeed

Program offers mentorship, business advice and networking opportunities

A Red Deer man, who has been declared a dangerous offender, lost his appeal of an aggravated assault conviction from 2017. Advocate file photo
Red Deer man who chomped on remand centre inmate’s ear loses aggravated assault appeal

Inmate lost part of his ear in attack at Red Deer Remand Centre in August 2017

Red Deer’s Wiklund vs. Wiklund is celebrating a burst of songwriting creativity during the 2020 lockdown by releasing a new tune to YouTube and multiple digital music platforms in each month of 2021. (Contributed image).
Pandemic lockdown fuels a flurry of songwriting for Red Deer music duo

Wiklund vs Wiklund will release a new single monthly in 2021

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

A Subway fast food restaurant's sign is shown in New York on Oct. 24, 2016. A defamation lawsuit by the world’s largest fast-food operator against Canada's public broadcaster over a report on the chain's chicken sandwiches can proceed, Ontario's top court has ruled. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Mark Lennihan
Subway can press $210-million defamation suit against CBC for show on chicken content

Subway can press $210-million defamation suit against CBC for show on chicken content

 A man watches the financial numbers on the digital ticker tape at the TMX Group in Toronto's financial district on Friday, May 9, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
Energy pushes S&P/TSX composite up as TC Energy shares rebound after Keystone worries

Energy pushes S&P/TSX composite up as TC Energy shares rebound after Keystone worries

AltaLink seeks to refund extra $350 million over three years to Alberta customers

AltaLink seeks to refund extra $350 million over three years to Alberta customers

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage speaks during an event to mark the start of right-of-way construction for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, in Acheson, Alta., Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. A government lawyer says decisions about environmental policy should be made by elected officials, not courts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta lawyer argues coal policy decisions belong with politicians, not courts

Alberta lawyer argues coal policy decisions belong with politicians, not courts

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

A medical team of the new Nurse Isabel Zendal Hospital apply a fiberoptic bronchoscopy to a patient inside a COVID-19 ICU in Madrid, Spain, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. As the coronavirus curve of contagion turned increasingly vertical after Christmas and New Year's, the Zendal has been busy. On Monday, 392 virus patients were being treated, more than in any other hospital in the Madrid region. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Panel: China, WHO should have acted quicker to stop pandemic

GENEVA — A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization… Continue reading

File photo
Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit recovers valuable stolen property

Property valued at over $50,000 recovered by Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit.

Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, holds a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
COVID-19 vaccines: Canadians torn between helping the world and helping themselves

MONTREAL — The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is highlighting the disconnect between the… Continue reading

Most Read