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August 12, 2010: Lachine celebrates International Youth Day with Play It Fair!

Enthusiasm was running high on International Youth Day when more than 100 children between the ages of 6 and 12 geared up at the Parc Lasalle Day Camp in Lachine to participate in the second annual Play It Fair! event – an initiative of Equitas. On this day, more than 4,000 children in 6 cities across the country joined together to celebrate their rights. Throughout this summer more than 40,000 children across the country participated in Play it Fair! games that promote inclusion, respect for diversity, and peaceful conflict resolution. In Montréal alone, the program was at work in 150 day camps. At the Lachine Day Camp the program got off to a festive start with camp counselors decked out in costumes representing diverse countries and cultures from around the world. The organizers decided on an Olympic theme (without the competition) complete with the lighting of the flame. Among the special guests invited for the occasion were Bernard Blanchard, local councillor for the district of J.-Emery-Provost, Marc Rivest, responsible for cultural diversity for the City of Montréal, Martine Tousignant, from the Ministry for Immigration and Cultural Communities, and Sylvain Girard, former player with the Alouettes, as well as a large representation of staff, Board of Directors and volunteers from Equitas. When Virginie Gagnon was training to be the coordinator at the Lachine Day Camp, three hours of it was devoted to learning all about the Play It Fair! program. “When I first implemented the program the kids loved it.” Virginie, with her B.A. in International Studies and working on her Masters degree in International Law is well suited to implementing this kind of program. “It has been a very positive experience for me. It helps me do interventions, and I learned how smart kids are.” Observing the different groups, there were always some children who were willing to speak up and give their opinions about how to make sure that every child would be included, and how issues of language difference and cultural difference could be resolved. And these children gave other children the courage to do the same. Ian Hamilton, Executive Director of Equitas, is proud of the fact that the Play it Fair! program received a provincial award for its role in fighting racism in Québec. It’s clear to him that this form of human rights education for children is extremely beneficial. “Kids are naturally empathetic,” said Hamilton, “but often they don’t have the opportunity to really think about what’s happening. Once they realize how the kids being excluded are feeling then they’re moved to act to change the way they behave.” It worked for Cody Jon. It’s all about respect, collaboration, and cooperation. “If you respect people, and talk to them and try to make friends, you have succeeded,” according to Cody. It was a very successful day as was evident when head counselors Noémie and Ariane, dressed in suitably vibrant costumes, were joined by the entire day camp in a joyful demonstration of dancing moves aided and abetted by an eclectic mix of rhythms from around the world. Learn more about the Play it Fair! Program ›

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