Toronto – December 8, 2013 – International Human Rights Day is commemorated annually on December 10th. Sixty-five years ago, on this date, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) was born, as a mechanism to promote human rights for all people.
These rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and inter-related. The interrelation and interdependency between human rights and the rights of working people and families – to earn a decent wage, to be able to provide for their children, to have protective shelter, and to thrive – is an often overlooked facet of human rights. These labour rights have allowed Canada to prosper for over a century. The immense contribution and struggles of aboriginal workers, immigrants, women, men, disabled workers and the LGBT community, has meant that some of us have been able to celebrate, provide, and share, while others continue to face ongoing struggles for basic necessities in society.
International Human Rights Day marks a time for reflection as the New Year approaches and 2013 falls to the history books. Unfortunately, 2013 marks a pivotal year of mean-hearted attacks on the human rights and labour rights of individuals and families in Canada. Horrendous Harper Tory legislation has created immense challenges for seasonal workers who migrate to work in Canada as a way to improve the lives of family members in the global South. The impact of these spirited attacks can be seen close to home where many families must deal with the prospects of lost wages now and in the year to come, such as those who work for the Heinz Plant in Leamington, Ontario, set to close in 2014. An attack on working families IS an attack on human rights.
Corporate world greed resulting in the 2008 meltdown unfortunately seems to be the ongoing pattern for 2014. Mr. Harper and the Tory caucus will attempt to ram through two pieces of legislation that attack working families and Canadian values: Bills C-525 and C-377. Both bills have a central goal – to undermine the ability of working people to come together in their workplaces. Bill C-377 attempts to tie up unions with red tape and bureaucracy a mile high so that they are too busy to do their first job: to represent and protect working people and families. Bill C-525 makes it exceptionally more difficult for working people to join trade unions, as is their right under Section 23 of the UNDHR. Indeed, less money in the pockets of those who most need it, working families, is to be the result of these atrocious and unnecessary changes brought on by these bills.
International human rights day marks exactly two weeks prior to Christmas Eve. With the impending holiday season, let us all be thankful for the contribution of all workers towards laws that protect working people and families, and let us vigorously commit to ensuring that these human rights won't be so easily trampled on in 2014.