“Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight” – Bob Marley
I wrote a brief “rant” a couple of weeks ago regarding social justice. I had a lot of feedback and a common theme was the request for steps on “how” to be a social justice warrior. I have made a lot of attempts to capture the process on paper since then but was never satisfied with what I was writing. It looked more like a plate of spaghetti than a coherent logical description. I began to realize I couldn’t do it in one sitting.
It was like expecting a kindergarten student to have a grade 12 learning level. I have spend close to 40 years fighting for social justice, learning, developing, adjusting, adapting and applying. How do you take 40 years of experience and condense it down to an 800 to 1000 words article? The reality is you don’t. I cannot justifiably provide a comprehensive explanation to a process I have been learning for over 40 years. However, due to the reasons listed below, I have to do something. It’s not in my nature to turn my back on those who need some help.
In the past week I have had five families contact me looking for an advocate. Families whose children have just entered the world of inclusion by starting schools. Families that have spend the last five years being overwhelmed by the complexities of the world of special needs (hate that term but will use it for now). Families who by their own admission hadn’t given any thought to terms like “social justice” prior to the crisis they now find themselves in through no fault of their own. Families who admittedly held to the belief that there was a social safety net there to assist families in need. Families who, in a minute of childbirth or a five minute medical emergency, entered a world totally alien to them. Families who prior to the situation they now find themselves in had never realized just how lacking or confusing our system is. So for those families I believe that a I can provide a simplified overview of the tools and language they are going to need to know.
There are two mains ways to pursue social justice and that is as an advocate or an activist. These two terms have different meanings but shared values. An advocate tends to focus on one issue, an activist challenges concepts. That’s a very simplified overview but I don’t want to confuse this article by being exceptionally over-detailed.
However I do need to clarify the difference between a Charter Challenge (federal) and a human rights complaint (provincial). A Charter challenge is a federal issue and usually focuses on protections laid out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That is a federal level process but may, as the need requires, be the final step following a provincial human rights complaint. For the sake of this article I am going to focus on the provincial human rights complaint. Continue reading