The anti-racism youth leadership workshop was organized by the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan (MCoS).
“The purpose is really for us to understand racism as well as get into cross-cultural communication,” MCoS executive director Rhonda Rosenberg said. “Most importantly, the emphasis is on what can we do together and make our community a better place for everybody.”
Around 50 students attended the workshop from clubs and classes at Thom Collegiate, Dr. Martin Leboldus Catholic High School and Carry the Kettle First Nation. Activities explored ideas like stereotyping, colonization and the sharing of personal experiences.
Rebecca Mhozya, a Grade 12 student at Leboldus High School, said she felt racism when she got a job shortly after moving here from Tanzania.
“When I started the job, my manager, she used to give us ‘two black people’ harder work than other people,” Mhozya said. “Sometimes she might not give us shifts, like other white people get more shifts than us.”
Many of the students said they see racism at school on a regular basis.
“One of the main incidents that I see is different types of groups that disallow people to join them because of their races,” Thom Collegiate student Ethan Rugg said.
Rosenberg said it’s important to begin discussing racism at an early age. By the time people reach high school, she explained, they’ve already been exposed to racist tendencies for years.
“I’ve read studies where preschool kids, three or four years old, are using racist language and terms. They know it’s hurtful and they know not to say it in front of their teacher. They say it to hurt other kids,” she said.
“Sometimes the ideas come from home, media or entertainment. We get them in our heads and by engaging in ideas like this, we get to question those.”
Mhozya says she’s seen the benefits of such communication first hand.
“When I spoke to my manager, when I told her everything, she was like ‘at that time I was feeling this and this and this’ so she changed from that time.”
MCoS holds this event annually with funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage, Ministry of Education and SaskCulture and Canadian Lotteries. This year, they’ve done workshops in Yorkton, Fort Qu’Appelle, Swift Current, Battleford, La Ronge and Regina.
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