A new series of children's books on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has one book set in Oxford and features a young hockey player trying to protect his French heritage.
TORONTO – Oxford is the setting for one of the newest additions to a series of books designed to educate children about Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Prince Edward Island native Dustin Milligan has written the series of 14 books to introduce children to the Charter, setting each story in a different province or territory with each book addressing a different right or freedom.
The book, Bario Leblieux, is about a young hockey player in Oxford. His family is French Canadian, but most of the blueberries speak English. While the rest of his hockey team is excited about making it to the Stemley Cup finals, Bario has the blues because he’s worried that he’s slowly losing his ability to speak in French.
“Every book touches on a section of the Charter and this book is about the language rights that are in the Charter, specifically Section 23 and the ability of francophones to be taught in French,” Milligan said. “The main protagaonist is a hockey player who’s afraid he’s losing his ability to talk in his native tongue.”
Milligan said the series uses popular Canadian names and culture to help educate the children. In this case, instead of Mario Lemieux, it’s Bario Leblieux, while Sidney Crosberry (Sidney Crosby) is also featured.
He also uses names like Alanis Morissette and Anne of Green Gables in his other books.
In the book, the main character approaches the school board with a list of all the French blueberries in Oxford to have his courses taught in French so he can protect his language and culture.
Milligan said he got the idea for the book from Oxford being the blueberry capital of Canada. Being from P.E.I., he often drove past Oxford on the way to Halifax and saw the sign on the Trans-Canada Highway about the community’s significance to the blueberry industry.
“I started the series when I was a law student at McGill. I was visiting elementary schools in the Montreal area to talk to students about human rights. Every time we went into a school we were relying on makeshift materials so at the end of the first year of law school I decided to take it upon myself to develop the resources so I could teach them,” Milligan said. “That’s where the idea of creating a children’s series came from. The goal is to teach children about their rights.”
The first six books were released in 2012, four were released last year and the remaining four – including Bario Leblieux – were released this summer. Milligan said the books are being used across the country, primarily in the school system but also by children’s rights organizations and YMCAs.
The books come with lesson plans for teachers to incorporate into their classes and he has spoken to school across Canada about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The books are aimed at students in Grades 1 to 8, but primarily they are being used in Grades 3 and 4.
Milligan said he knew little about the Charter himself until he entered law school. He said the document is Canada’s moral charter and he feels young people need to learn what it is at the youngest age.
Most adults, he said, can go online to learn about the Charter, and by making it fun and creative he’s hoping young people will want to learn about it as well so they will become better informed citizens as they get older.
“It’s an age group where there’s the least amount of resources or information about the Charter,” he said, adding he hopes young people use the books to embrace everything that’s special about Canada including its diversity and its freedoms.
Charter of Children Index
- A Large Jaw in Moose Jaw – Right to participate and be included
- Anne of Green Tomatoes – Right to be safe and secure
- The Case of the Missing Montreal Bagel – Right to privacy and security
- A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Lobster – Right to speak, sing and laugh
- The Golden Hook – Right to believe and have faith
- A Plight Beneath the Northern Light – Right to meet and form groups
- The First Flock – Rights based on aboriginal heritage
- The Greyest Tale of the Yukon Trail – Right to be treated fairly no matter what colour you are
- Alexander the Grape – The right to be considered no matter how old you are
- In the Hoofsteps of Emooly Murphy – The right of boys and girls to be treated equally
- The Two Two-eyed Potatoes – The right to choose a best friend
- Little Courthouse on the Prairie – The right to play and be free
- Bario Leblieux – The right to learn in English or French
- An Unusual Thrill on Parliament Hill – The responsibility to respect the rights of others.