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Pickering student’s bold personal essay wins Passages Canada national contest

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                            

Pickering student’s bold personal essay wins Passages Canada national contest

PICKERING, ON, May 30, 2014 – Mariam Bacchus, a Grade 9 student at Pickering High School, has been selected as the national winner of Passages Canada’s Write and Make Art! Challenge. The contest received over 400 submissions from students in Grades 1 to 12.

Mariam won in the intermediate category for her provocative personal essay, “Unveiled.” In her piece, she writes about being Muslim from Guyana, and challenges readers to consider the discrimination faced by her and others because of their faith.

Mariam explains, “People build up perceptions of a group of people based on what they hear from friends […]. My ethnic culture and my religious identity are two things people make assumptions about.” She feels strongly about changing these notions, and when she saw the Passages Canada contest opportunity, she says, “I thought maybe I could let people know.”

“Through this work, we see a new generation of Canadian artists and storytellers defining crucial questions of citizenship and identity,” said Anthony Wilson-Smith, President of Historica Canada. “The results are impressive not only in creative terms, but in broadening the discussion of how we as Canadians define ourselves.”

In its second year, the Passages Canada Write and Make Art! Challenge encouraged Grade 1 to 12 students across Canada to explore issues of immigration, identity and racism through writing and art. Work was juried by an esteemed panel from Passages Canada, The Canadian Encyclopedia and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

A storytelling initiative of Historica Canada, Passages Canada volunteers share their personal accounts of cultural identity and heritage on-line in our multimedia Story Archive and in person with schools and community groups. Since 2002, over 1,000 speakers have created dialogue on Canada’s rich diversity with over 250,000 youth and adults. Passages Canada is generously supported by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and TD Bank Group.

Historica Canada is the largest charitable organization dedicated to Canadian history, identity and citizenship. Its mandate is to build active and informed citizens through a greater knowledge and appreciation of the history, heritage and stories of Canada.


For more information:

Calina Ellwand, Program Coordinator Fadia Otariste, Communications Officer

t. 1.866.701.1867 ext 392                               t. 1.866.701.1867 ext 259

cellwand@HistoricaCanada.ca                       fotariste@HistoricaCanada.ca




Excerpt from essay by Mariam Bacchus, Grade 9 student winner at Pickering High School:




[…]  My sole claim to culture lies not in my familial past but rather my religion. As a Muslim, there are certain practices, customs and ideologies that influence my way of life and define how I view myself and the world around me. Without them, I would be very different from the person I am today. Without them, I would probably be treated very differently than how I am today. By my skin colour alone, it would be obvious that I am a foreigner. When my clothing and way of speaking are added, it’s obvious that it changes how people react to me. I know what a lot of people say about my religion. I am well aware of their views on ‘outsiders’ and immigrants. I’ve had people judge me based on the way I look, the way I dress, the language I use. There’s a certain attitude used – by many – towards people who believe in certain things – and maybe this is not always the case – but for some, faith is regarded as not something bad, but rather, something stupid. Illogical or irrational, even. There’s a hint of a laugh when I say something about my views, a bit of contempt, confusion. They ask me if I “don’t know what they’re doing in the East” if I “don’t realize I’m being oppressed.” There’s another form of oppression when people are in danger of not being able to practice what they believe in.