As told to Susan McClelland
Since World War II, 800,000 displaced people and refugees have called Canada home. In recent years, those who have come from Africa speak of suffering, war and poverty. Léo Kabalisa from Rwanda and Dr. Acol Dor from Sudan, parents who have experienced fear and loss firsthand, hope their accounts will help other parents talk to their own children about Africa and our shared humanity.
Shyrna Gilbert is a schoolteacher with Ontario’s York Region District School Board and author of Afro Probe (africafiles.org/afroprobe), an integrated literacy-based series of units, that presents images and information about African people and cultures not usually conveyed through mainstream media sources.
Gilbert cautions that parents should not reinforce negative stereotypes about Africa but portray Africa in a manner that is accurate and respectful. “It’s extremely important to balance the discussion with positive images of African society and ways of life.” What are these stereotypes? “We tend to characterize Western conflicts as struggles for freedom and incorrectly characterize African conflicts as tribal violence,” she says. “This depiction feeds into what many believe that Africa is a place of violence and darkness.”