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December 10, 2009

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For immediate publication

Jodi Lundmark -

Thunder Bay - Janice Kakegamic said when she and her friends are standing outside Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School it’s not unusual for people to drive by and yell ‘dirty Indians’ or give them the finger.

So when the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Committee, Barbara Hall, came to talk to the DFC students Thursday – International Human Rights Day – the Grade 11 student’s curiosity was piqued.

"I thought it was pretty neat and I was really interested," Kakegamic said, adding she’s planning on looking up just what rights she has a Canadian citizen when she got home that night.

And that’s all Hall was asking of the students – to find out what their rights are and to just think about the issues.

"I’m sure they all have some experience of discrimination or experience of stereotypes or attitudes that have negatively impacted them," Hall said. "They also have had some classmates who have been involved in cases that have been in the media, so I think they understand this has some significance on them."

Hall said Aboriginal people deal with discrimination on a daily basis, but the stereotypes don’t end there. People of all races, genders, sexuality and those living with mental illness and physical disabilities also experience the effects of stereotyping on a regular basis.

"We need to confront them. We need to talk about them," she said. "We need to get away from blaming, but rather identify, name them and take steps to get rid of them. We can’t rest on our laurels. We can make progress. We can change the harmful attitudes.

Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed 61 years ago, Hall said many Canadians don’t realize human rights are an issue in this country; they don’t see the application to their lives.

Women who are fired because they become pregnant, young people denied housing and seniors fired because of their ages are all human rights issues.

"We all have a role to play in bringing about change," Hall said. "We have to speak out when we see discrimination. We need to use the process available to protect rights and when we do that we get change."

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