Dignity is a sister to Freedom: Global Dignity Day 2015

Arviat youth joined Mrs. Universe along with thousands of students across Canada and around the world for the 8th Global Dignity Day. It’s an initiative I’ve been proud to support since 2012.

Global Dignity is an international youth empowerment organization established in 2005 by His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway; Operation HOPE Founder John Hope Bryant from the United States and respected Finnish philosopher and professor Pekka Himanen.

Global Dignity is an independent, non-profit, non-political organization focused on empowering young people with dignity. It aims to inspire respect, self-esteem and tolerance of diversity, as well as promote the idea that every human being has the universal right to lead a dignified life. Arviat has been participating in Global Dignity Day since 2012.

This year’s Global Dignity Day national video conference was hosted from Ottawa by Giovanna Mingarelli, National Chair for Global Dignity Canada at Carleton University’s @1125 Living Lab with the support of Cisco Canada’s Connected North program.

The event brought more than 2,000 students together from schools across Canada, including Alaska, from coast to coast to coast!

Joining an impressive and growing list of national role models encouraging youth to share what dignity means to them this year were Mrs. Universe 2015 Ashley Callingbull-Burnham and Emery Rutagonya from the Rwanda Survivors Foundation.

Callingbull-Burnham joins the ranks of Liberal Party of Canada Leader and newly-elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Arviat Television’s Innosar Issakiark and Niki Ashton, Member of Parliament for Churchill-Thompson who are just a few of the National Role Models and Champions that have supported Global Dignity in Canada.

This year’s Global Dignity Day was also a demonstration of the capabilities possible through Cisco Canada’s Connected North program. Connected North is an innovative program led by TakingITGlobal that aims to foster student engagement and enhanced education outcomes in remote communities through immersive and interactive virtual learning.

The program, announced in April 2014 by Cisco Canada and Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna (See stories in Nunatsiaq News and Kivalliq News), leverages the latest Cisco collaboration technology to bring unique experiences, experts and opportunities for real-world problem solving into classrooms, while building educator capacity and developing cross-cultural understanding through two-way connections between remote and partner schools.

Locations taking part in this year’s gathering included Alberta Distance Learning, Queen Elizabeth High and St. Justin Elementary Schools in Edmonton; Vincent Massey Collegiate in Winnipeg, Manitoba; John Arnalukjuak High School in Arviat; Cresent School in Toronto; Joliette High School in Joliette, Quebec; Lockeport Regional High School in Lockeport Nova Scotia, along with Soldotna Prep School in Soldotna, Alaska.

Watch Global Dignity Canada’s National Webcast here:

The training does not end.” – Ashley Callingbull

The first Canadian and First Nations woman to win the Mrs. Universe pageant, 25-year-old Ashley Callingbull-Burnham from Alberta’s Enoch Cree Nation, was named a National Role Model this year. From Harvard University to TED Talks, Callingbull-Burnham speaks to youth around the world about her life, ambitions, self-esteem, health and education.

In her dignity story, Callingbull talked about how she created a quote for herself. “Love and live fearlessly,” she said. “When I say that, I mean that you should love and appreciate your self worth and never let fear stop you from achieving your dreams. So i ended up using this quote in every aspect of my life.”

“I take pride in my self-worth,” she said. “It’s because I believe in myself. I believe that I am worth so much and I can achieve as much as I possibly can. And by pushing myself and all these passions that I love to do in my life, I am so happy.”

Amongst her accomplishments, Burnham was also chosen as Miss Canada for the Miss Friendship International Pageant held in Hubei, China in September, 2010, and represented Canada at the Queen of the World Final held in Germany 2010. She also represented Canada at Miss Humanity International in Barbados in October 2011.

“I believe because I take pride in myself, I found happiness in my life. And when when you find happiness, so many doors will open for you. You’ll see life differently and you’ll feel differently about yourself.”

“Never feel bad,” she said. “You should always feel proud of who you are, the way that you were created and where you came from because it made you the individual that you are today.”

“I literally came from nothing in my life,” said Callingbull. “I had nothing and I worked so hard every day to get where I am now, and I couldn’t be prouder but that’s because I took pride in myself and I motivated own self to get where I am today, and there’s so much more for me now.

She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree focusing on drama, acting and television. Callingbull-Burnham is also a recipient of the Top 20 Under 30 Award.

“The training does not end,” she told students. “This is the just the beginning and I believe anyone can do this.

“You can come from nothing and build something so wonderful and create an amazing life for yourself and truly find happiness.”

– Ashley Callingbull-Burnham, Mrs. Universe 2015

Dignity is a sister to Freedom – Emery Rutagonya

“Sometimes our dignified life is interrupted,” said Emery Rutagonya, speaking from Crescent School in Toronto.

Emery Rutagonya was born in Rwanda, moved to Canada in 2012 and studied sociology. He is the founder of Rwanda Survivors Foundation and works to support the healing process in Rwanda through education.

He lost most of his family in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi people. He spoke about his youth, enjoying the life of his parents and friends. “But little did I know that a tragedy of big proportions was coming my way.” He told students about the genocide in Rwanda that struck his country. “I was left with only a few people I know. My entire world all of a sudden collapsed.”

He told students everybody deserves a dignified life, “But in reality that’s not always how things happen.”

“What I want to say to you is that dignity is a sister to freedom,” he said. “It’s the way you live. It’s our humanity.”

-Emery Rutagonya

Here in Arviat, we don’t have a lot of resources. It can be hard to organize and execute events. But we make up for it by bringing together as many people as we can, being resourceful with what we have and working together with as many people as possible.

Global Dignity Canada this year was made possible with an incredible amount of support from Nunavut Arctic College, John Arnalukjuak High School, the Arviat Leadership Resiliency Program, Carleton University’s @1125 Living Lab, the University of Guelph, Isuma TV, Arviat Television, Cisco Canada’s Connected North Program, TakingITGlobal, the Hamlet of Arviat and the Samuel Family Foundation.

Many hands make light work. I am thankful for the hundreds of thousands of students and thousands of educators, teachers and volunteers who work so hard every year to make events like Global Dignity Day both possible and unforgettable. I hope more schools and communities take part next year.

It was absolutely wonderful to see so many old and new friends and supporters coming together for this year’s event. Dr. Zacharias Kunuk was in town doing work with some of the youth and Elders. Jennifer Corriero from TakingITGlobal was here. Dylan Clark from McGill University also made it. We also met our wonderful new friend, Dr. Andrea Breen from the University of Guelph. For me, this was the best Global Dignity Day yet.

Visit globaldignity.ca to learn more about Global Dignity Day in Canada, and how you, your school and community can take part.

Author: Jamie Bell

Jamie Bell is one of the co-founders of the Arviat Film Society and Arviat Television. He has worked in public affairs, communications and media for more than two decades. He can often be found supporting cross-cultural, participatory action knowledge mobilization and community-based research with Inuit and Indigenous youth.

Leave a Reply