MEMBERS of Argyle secondary's Best Buddies chapter have created a video call to action, calling on viewers to cease use of the word retard and instead adopt a new R-word: respect.
"Today the word retard has morphed into a synonym of stupid, essentially equating having intellectual disabilities with being stupid," says narrator Cara McGuire, the school's Best Buddies chapter president and a Grade 11 student, in the video. "We know for a fact that people with intellectual disabilities are not stupid. Although you don't intend on offending anyone but your friend when you call them a retard, you are offending 10 per cent of our world's population as well as their friends, family and others."
The video, viewable at www.youtube.com/ watch?v=m15k5gcmqTc, features a variety of interviews, including those with well known figures in the Argyle community, expressing their thoughts on the use of the word, as well as their commitment to stop using it. So far, it's garnered more than 4,500 views.
Best Buddies (www.bestbuddies.ca) is a national charitable organization fostering friendships between students and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Argyle's chapter sees able-bodied students team up with students within their school with disabilities and engage in group activities, as well as spend time together one-on-one. McGuire led the charge in rallying her fellow chapter members and classmates to get involved in Spread the Word to End the Word (www.r-word.org), an international youth campaign intended to raise awareness of the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word retard. "I was just really inspired to do something this year that would actually make a difference," says McGuire, 17.
McGuire called on Best Buddies chapter member and Grade 11 Argyle Digital Media Academy student Behdad Mahichi, who provided help with the video's animation, filming and editing. Club members showed the resulting work in classrooms throughout the school and so far more than 940 students have pledged their commitment to stop using the word. Local government representatives have also expressed support and McGuire has been invited to make presentations to the school board, an upcoming Best Buddies Vancouver conference and a North Shore Connexions Society event.
The campaign has definitely made an impact within the Argyle community. "I'd be walking in the hallways the week of (the campaign) - or even now - and I'd hear someone say 'retarded' and there would be a little moment and the friend would be like, 'No, you can't do that!' And it was just amazing," says McGuire. "It was instant, the change that it made."