Toronto – December 7, 2019 – On December 10, people around the world observe International Human Rights Day to celebrate the rights and freedoms affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration includes the inherent right to life, liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of expression, and freedom to join a union.
Despite these guarantees, governments across Canada consistently fail to protect and advance human rights. In doing so, they regularly disregard the standards laid out in the Declaration, as well as our own federal and provincial laws.
Case in point: on June 6, 2019, United Nations Special Rapporteur Baskut Tuncak visited Canada and stated that “throughout the lifecycle and value chain of economic activity in Canada, Indigenous peoples appear to be disproportionately located in close proximity to actual and potential sources of toxic exposure.”
In October 2019, UN Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha analyzed Canada’s housing landscape and concluded that “in a country with more fresh water than anywhere else in the world, 75 percent of the reserves in Canada have contaminated water.”
In addition, white supremacy and terrorism were not only felt in Christchurch, New Zealand this year – with the March killing of fifty Muslim worshippers at two mosques – but also remembered in Canada, as activists honoured the victims of the Quebec City mosque shooting in February 2017. Meanwhile, anti-black racism continues to normalize and condone prejudice against African Canadians with alarming frequency.
All of this points to the fact that moving towards progress and inclusion is a slow, arduous, and painful process. But, as advocates for working people, unions can play a leading role in helping to ensure that workers’ rights are upheld and respected. In representing diverse work environments, for example, unions have first-hand knowledge on the problems facing workers of colour. And it is incumbent upon us to ensure that racism and discrimination are addressed head-on – in our workplaces, our communities, and at the legislative level.
As we move into a new year, UFCW Canada will continue to advocate for the rights and dignity of all workers, and we will carry forward the message that human rights must always be placed above corporate profits. Happy International Human Rights Day.
Paul R. Meinema