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Celebrating Identity and Diversity

Words from our Executive Director, Joan Gignac

Previously published as "Letters to ECEBC: Celebrating Identity and Diversity"

ECEBC Journal, Winter 2021


Celebrating Identity and Diversity

Upon reading the Fall 2020 issue of the ECEBC Journal, I found myself questioning the language used in the articles. I appreciate the intention and efforts of the authors and I would like to challenge the conflicting messages that came out of this issue for me, starting with the title ‘Anti-Racism Edition.’


Consider our ECE practices with children – we focus on what we WANT children to do instead of what we DON’T want them to do. For example, we say “walk quietly” instead of “don’t run.” Words have so much influence and our minds absorb what they hear and see. So instead of ‘Anti-Racism,’ I encourage you to consider ‘Celebrating Identity and Diversity’ as a more appropriate language and means to address racism.


As teachers, we must model curiosity, wonder, and respect. We need to demonstrate that each and every person is valued; that where people come from matters; and that our ancestors and family cultures and languages are what make each person unique and who they are.


I’m an Early Childhood Educator, celebrating 30 years in the profession, and for the past 23 years I’ve dedicated my life to working in Aboriginal Head Start (AHS). It is a holistic, strengths-based program for children and families that is founded on the 12 Statements of Beliefs and Values (included below).


Culture and Language is at the heart of AHS. This provides children with a positive sense of themselves and others, by building on knowledge of their languages and cultural experiences. Over the past 25 years these programs have been offered in communities across Canada. Aboriginal Head Start can be proud of their contributions to reviving Indigenous culture and growing retention of languages.


Here are a few of the AHS guidelines with regard to diversity and inclusiveness within our programs:

  • encourage thoughtfulness and reflection about creating comfortable places for people to be who they are.

  • demonstrate an understanding of, respect for and responsiveness to cultures and languages.

  • focus on the cultures and languages of the children attending.

  • provide opportunities for children, families, and communities to enhance their knowledge of their respective cultures and languages.

  • apply cultural values and beliefs to all aspects of daily programming, program governance and administration.

One of the 12 AHS Beliefs states: “We believe that children acquire knowledge by watching, listening and doing, and adults are responsible for encouraging and guiding them in all those activities.” So, if we as the adults in the lives of our children model acceptance, celebrate and appreciate diversity, and wonder about others with genuine curiosity, we can begin to grow a world for our children where each person is valued for who they are.


In closing, I’m grateful to the contributors of the Fall Issue for challenging me to share some teachings that I learned at Aboriginal Head Start. I hope we can use every opportunity to promote positive approaches, care and kindness towards all peoples.


Sincerely,

Joan Gignac, Aboriginal Head Start Early Childhood Educator

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