International Human Rights Day

What really happened in the last Seventy years, this year will mark the 70th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights today December 10, 2017. Many unions hold the belief that labour rights are human rights. It’s a core principal and one we are proud of. I think it’s fair to say that it is the labour movement that is advancing the fight to protect and enhance human rights for all. Our unions take on many struggles that go beyond equality in the workplace, and we work hard to eliminate discrimination and abuse.

A great example is right here in Nova Scotia with our battle to maintain to bargain collectively for our members, in the wake of government imposed bills. Bills such as bill 30, 37, 148 and bill 75 imposing a collective agreement on our Teachers. Let’s remember that Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the right not just to join a union but to be able to bargain collectively.

Let’s also remember that 70 years ago our Country signed the declaration to ensure the protection of these rights for every person. That means from the most basic human needs such as food, shelter, and water, all the way up to access to free and uncensored information, those were some of the goals laid out on that day some sixty-nine years ago. Take a few minutes and reflect on that. Human Rights Day is a time to remember and reflect that no matter where we live, what we believe, we are all deserving of the most fundamental needs of people.

Sisters and Brothers lets take some time to appreciate the effect that this UN resolution has had on you and your life. Take some time to look around your community and see the differences made on a local scale for the health and well-being of those who are less fortunate. Those who suffer from human rights violations must see real actions and sadly with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 we have much to do. We must recognize efforts aimed at strengthening our national and international goals for the protection and promotion of our human rights, or lack of living up to those goals.

Remember the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled several times that our labour rights are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Maybe our government doesn’t know that international law established these rights including our right to strike through two international human rights treaties to which Canada is a signatory. We can sit around all day and blame our political leaders, and they do deserve some blame, but together we must make and hold them accountable. It’s our actions that will make our political leaders at all levels take on the issues and take corrective actions. We just cannot leave it all up to our elected leaders in our Canadian parliament, our provinces legislatures and in our municipal council chambers to set the goals of protecting the human rights of individuals. We as individuals can and must step up to the plate, as can our unions and others, and we have for sure, but we all know we still have lots of work to do. Just how far have we come in those 69 years, ask yourself that. I am sure that reflection will give you pause and gain a better understanding of why together we all must ensure that these ideals are pursued, and the Human Rights of every person becomes a priority no matter where we are at in the world.

Sadly, we see more family and child poverty, more food bank use, still many abuses of human rights in our communities and workplaces by some employers. So, if you’re your able, let’s all get out there and make a difference, whether it’s donating to one of the organizations that work towards helping the global purpose of human rights. When you see an abuse happening to someone stand up and speak out. The need is enormous, but our collective actions that will lead to improving the quality of life for some. Take a few minutes and write your local elected leaders and ask them, better still demand that they do more here at home and on the world stage. After 70 years we should be much further down this road and not feel like we are going backwards.