The first event was a panel discussion exploring the question: what kind of education do we need in a culturally pluralistic society? This session was motivated by the understanding that education is not only the primary means by which knowledge is passed down through generations; but also a tool for nation-building, for defining identities, and for integrating newcomers. The conversation was facilitated by Sauvé Fellow Edison Huynh, a high school teacher and researcher in culturally responsive pedagogies.
The panellists were stakeholders from across the education spectrum: McGill professors Bronwen E. Low and Kevin McDonough brought pedagogical and philosophical perspectives, respectively. François Boucher, a Postgraduate Fellow at Centre de recherche en éthique, along with educational consultant Anne-Marie De Silva, spoke with a focus on policy. Finally, the perspective of on-the-ground educators was represented by Sabrina Jafralie, a Westmount High School teacher and PhD candidate.
It didn’t take long before the new Quebec Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) curriculum took centre stage in the discussion. Sabrina emphasised the thin line that teachers have to walk between communicating their own personal beliefs and providing a safe space in which students can freely explore religious diversity. Across the table, it was agreed that for the ERC curriculum to be effective, more teacher training on how to effectively deliver this challenging curriculum is vital.
Another centrepiece of conversation was Professor McDonough’s assertion that education must be designed and delivered for the common good of all and sundry in a society. After a number of panel rounds, it was agreed that in a democracy, the notion of “common good” should always be flexible and subject to scrutiny and rich discussion. Indeed, this is one of the objectives of the ERC curriculum. This panel on culturally responsive education wrapped up with several questions from a very engaged audience.
The education panel also saw the unveiling of a short film, Refugee Voices of Montréal,dedicated to the experiences of six asylum seekers now living in Montreal. The film was created by Sauvé Fellows Rachel MacNeill, Jaspreet Khangura and Svjetlana Markovic. Focusing on the universal message of human strength and adaptability, the film brings the voices of refugees to the fore as a reminder of the humanity at the heart of the issues we have been exploring this year.
After a stimulating discussion on culturally inclusive education, the Fellows shifted focus towards to community engagement and community building by participating in Restaurant Day. Restaurant Day in Montreal is a citywide event that allows amateur chefs to host pop-up restaurants for the public. The Sauvé Fellows, having shared countless delicious international family-style meals together, decided to hold a pop-up restaurant celebrating diversity and the power of food to unite across differences. The pop-up was called DiversiTable: Bringing Cultural Communities Together, and it was held in a busy alley in the Plateau (generously provided to us by our good friend Frédérique).
Over the last months, the DiversiTable planning team recruited a team of international cooks with celebrated dishes of different countries around the world. The menu highlighted Balkan wheat for Slava, Nepali chicken curry, Iranian aubergine kuki, Pakistani pakoras, Congolese summer salad, Indian lassi, and North American peanut butter buckeyes. No small amount of work went into the planning, logistics and preparation for this event – and every bit of it showed.
DiversiTable was a huge success, serving over 120 people and raising $1000 for McGill University’s International Community Action Network (ICAN). ICAN is a social justice program that works throughout the Middle East creating centres for human rights based advocacy. The money raised by DiversiTable will go towards funding a Syrian refugee to come to McGill for an International Masters of Social Work Fellowship. This cause is dear to the Sauvé Fellows’ hearts, and exemplifies the kind of community-focused action that we believe in. For CBC coverage of Restaurant Day, click here (3:20 mark).
These first two events of our Team Project reinforced our commitment to the integration, inclusion and wellbeing of refugees as a key factor in a healthy and thriving society. They also demonstrated that over the past year, we have worked together, as a true team.
Stay tuned for our final blog post, where we will highlight our two final events and reflect on our learnings at the close of this enriching year!