What do you get when you combine enthusiastic and energetic student leaders with a passion for societal justice, and a school community dedicated to equality for all?
Garneau’s brand-new Equity and Social Justice Committee is a student-led group for those interested in resolving social justice and equality issues both locally and globally. From planning events to raise awareness, to holding assemblies to promote education on issues and voices otherwise silenced, the group holds bi-weekly after school meetings to discuss and decide on the issues affecting the Garneau community.
Between phone calls, e-mail responses, and the omnipresent weight of academics, co-chairs JiaRui Pu and Yanxiu Wu agreed to talk to me about their committee.
The subject of social justice itself, seems hugely daunting and immensely complicated. What’s social justice, as how the committee sees it and why’s it important?
Wu: Social justice…it’s anything that’s wrong in society, really. Social injustice can take many different forms, like poverty, violence, abuse, class-segregation, and so much more.
JiaRui: With a school as diverse as Garneau, there are certain actions we have to take to ensure a safe, positive learning environment for the students, as well as the teachers.
That makes sense. So, what are some issues the group is looking to address this year?
JiaRui: Our committee reaches out to deal with issues surrounding the five pillars of equity, including racism, class-ism, and sexism.
Intense. How are the issues going to be addressed?
Wu: We’ll address them through facts. It’s not going to be a “Hey guys, don’t do that because it’s not nice” sort-of thing. We want to put information out there, and hopefully in a creative way to reach a broad audience, and then let students make their own decisions and draw their own conclusions. We’d sort-of be like a loudspeaker, if you will.
JiaRui: Our active members serve as representatives for the student body. It’s difficult for two people to learn about all the problems that students need to deal with, so with a diverse group we’re able to learn about a wide array of issues faced by the community, and then generate the awareness to solve them.
Sounds like a plan. What’s planned for this year?
Wu: The committee will be promoting one cause every month, with the exception of the exam months. Currently, ideas include a “buy nothing” event in November, something gender violence related in December, Black History Month, and also something environmental for Earth Day.
Jiarui: But we don’t want to simply provide the students with information. We want to help them understand the causes and effects of these issues.
So, anything upcoming we should keep an eye out for?
JiaRui: YES! Look out for a surprise near the end of the month!
Wu: Yeah, we’ll keep it as a surprise for now, but it’s in support of a charitable organization. Spooky stuff, too.
JiaRui: It’s going to be everywhere. Think big! Watch out for mysterious posters circulating around the school!
Sounds like fun. How would an interested student join the committee?
JiaRui: Either send a request in the SAC office, find us on Facebook (MGCI Equity Social Justice), or send us an e-mail at [email protected]. We’re always looking for new members. If you’re truly interested, talk to us, and we can go from there.
How about the future?
JiaRui: I think I speak for our entire committee when I say that I would really love to see the group serve to its maximum potential. I hope the committee lasts, and that students will be willing to co-operate with us to construct a more positive learning environment.
Wu: Yeah. Really look forward to this coming year, everyone. We’re going try to make things exciting, instead of assemblies people sleep through and things like that.
Out of curiosity, how did you two come up with the idea?
Wu: Apparently, it’s part of my mandate as the Social Justice Rep to create this committee, but prior to this I wanted a way to engage the truly passionate students and provide a space for Garneau’s clubs to come together, interact, and collaborate.
JiaRui: I think it started with the reasons Wu and I wanted to run for our current SAC positions. We wanted to make a difference. A positive change. However, having been at Garneau for a little over a year, it was unrealistic for us to be fully aware of everything that goes on at school. Hence, our idea of a committee. Through collaboration with a diverse group, we can branch ourselves out to every and all in need.
Sounds great. Any final thoughts?
JiaRui: Don’t forget that we’re still SAC and we’re here for you. If you need to talk about something that really bothers you, feel free to send an anonymous e-mail to [email protected]
Wu: And if you have any ideas you’d like to present to the committee, you’re more than welcome to attend a meeting. Just shoot us an e-mail to give us a heads’ up.
And there it is. One of Garneau’s newest groups, ambitious, determined, and proud, already making big plans for a big school. Change is in the air, Garneau. Socially just, equitable change is in the air.
Massive thanks to both JiaRui and Wu for their time and patience with my questions and what-not. Thanks again!