Despite Canada's close connection to the Declaration, it's difficult for many Canadians to celebrate this year's theme. The fact is, Human Rights 365 doesn't exist for most working people in Canada.
Ottawa (09 December 2014) — The UN General Assembly proclaimed December 10 as Human Rights Day in 1950, to bring to the attention "of the peoples of the world" the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. The Declaration, proclaimed on December 10, 1948, was one of the UN’s first major achievements, and remains a powerful instrument and symbol worldwide.
Canada can take great pride in the development of the Declaration, as the document’s first draft was written by a Canadian. The principal author of the Declaration was a native of New Brunswick named John Peters Humphrey. In 1946, Humphrey was appointed as the first director of the human rights division of the United Nations Secretariat, where he was the principal drafter of the Universal Declaration.
Human Rights 365
This year’s theme, Human Rights 365, "encompasses the idea that every day is Human Rights Day. It celebrates the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that each one of us, everywhere, and at all times, is entitled to the full range of human rights", including labour rights which are inseparable from all other rights.
Labour rights are clearly defined in the Declaration; Article 23 recognizes the right to join a union and bargain collectively as a basic human right and a cornerstone of democracy. Labour rights, like all human rights, "belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values."
For several years now, the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has used the International Human Rights Day as an opportunity to promote labour rights as human rights.
“We need to create greater awareness here in Canada and around the world that labour rights are a critical component of human rights, helping to protect and promote the social and economic well-being of the human population,” according to NUPGE National President James Clancy. “Human rights cannot flourish where labour rights are not respected.”
Human Rights 365 doesn't exist for most working people in Canada
Despite Canada's close connection to the Declaration, it is difficult for many Canadians to celebrate this year's theme. The fact is that Human Rights 365 doesn't exist for most working people in Canada. Since 1982 there have been 213 laws passed in Canada that have either eliminated, suspended or restricted the basic labour rights of working people.
In 2014 alone, we have witnessed five restrictive labour laws passed in Canada (see the Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights), including Nova Scotia's Bill 1, which strips away from some 24,000 health care workers the fundamental right to join a union of their own choosing, and Quebec's Bill 8, which denies workers in small agricultural operations the right to even join a union.
Labour Rights are Human Rights
“Labour rights are human rights and in order to appreciate the significance of these rights, one must understand the broad role unions play in society,” noted Clancy. “Unions do far more than negotiate decent wages and benefits for their members; they play a critical role in the advancement of human rights that ultimately lead to greater economic and social justice for all citizens."
“We must continue to make the connection between strong labour rights and our ability to achieve economic justice and equality for all Canadians,” said Clancy.
“Let's hope that in 2015, governments across the country recognize this and respect labour rights and all other human rights 365 days a year.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE