The first Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declared that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.This Declaration was adopted by the United Nations (UN) on 10 December 1948 guaranteeing the rights of every individual everywhere without distinction of nationality, place of residence, gender, national or ethnic origin, religion, language or any other status. It is considered as the most translated document in modern history and is available in over 500 languages.
A Canadian lawyer, John Peters Humphrey, the first Director of the UN Human Rights Division, played a major role in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1947.
In 1960 the Government of Canada passed the Canadian Bill of Rights – the first human rights law in the country protecting basic human rights and freedom. In 1977 the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) was passed preventing discriminatory practices in many prohibited grounds, including race, sex and disability, and in 1982 the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom came into effect.
In spite of Canada’s commitment we still have a long way to go as there are more signs emerging constantly that human rights are being attacked. The most common ones are:
- the violations of basic human rights of our Indigenous peoples. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report from 2015 lists a call for action, many of which do not, as yet, have any meaningful plans of action.
- Access to basic universal affordable child care
- Trans and Gender diverse identities
- Accessibility rights
In 2019, The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau stated: “Protecting and defending Human Rights is a shared duty. Today we honour those who have dedicated their lives to uplifting others, and we commit to continuing their important work.” The Union of Veterans Affairs Employess (UVAE) would like to echo this sentiment.
Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. […] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
Human Rights Committee
Union of Veterans Affairs Employees