NUPGE celebrates UN Human Rights Day | National Union of Public and General Employees

NUPGE celebrates UN Human Rights Day

Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always: Theme of 2015 UN International Human Rights Day

Ottawa (09 December 2015) — The United Nations 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.

Canadian had role in creating Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Canada can take great pride in the development of the Declaration, as the document’s first draft was written by a Canadian. In 1946, John Peter Humphrey, a native of New Brunswick, was appointed as the first director of the Human Rights Division of the United Nations Secretariat. One of Humphrey's first tasks was to prepare the first draft of the Universal Declaration.

This year's Human Rights Day is devoted to the launch of a year-long campaign for the 50th anniversary of the two International Covenants on Human Rights: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966.

Canada’s core labor rights defined by the Universal Declaration, ICESCR and ICCRP

Canada is party to the Universal Declaration and both Covenants. Together, the Declaration and these two international treaties define Canada’s international human rights obligations, including core labour rights. Article 23 of the Universal Declaration recognizes the right to join a union and bargain collectively as a basic human right and a cornerstone of democracy. ICCPR and the ICESCR both expressly protect the right to form and join unions, and the ICESCR specifically endorses the right to strike, as fundamental features in international human rights law.

50th anniversary of ICESCR and ICCRP

The theme of this year’s Human Rights Day — "Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always" — aims to promote and raise awareness of the two Covenants on their 50th anniversary. The year-long campaign revolves around the theme of rights and freedoms — freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear — which are as relevant today as they were when the Covenants were adopted 50 years ago.

Supreme Court of Canada recognizes labour rights are human rights

This year has been significant for recognizing the importance of the Universal Declaration, ICESCR and ICCPR with respect to the interpretation of how our Charter of Rights and Freedoms defines labour and other human rights in Canada.

In January 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered a series of three important decisions on labour rights, commonly known as the 2015 Labour Trilogy. Those decisions confirmed that Canadian workers have the constitutional rights under the Charter to join a union of their own choosing, participate in collective bargaining and to take strike action. One of the important factors that guided our chief justices was the international law established through the two international human rights treaties to which Canada is a signatory. 

International human rights now seen as important source for protection of human rights in Canada

We can and should celebrate the fact that a decisive corner has been turned in recognizing these international human rights treaties as an important source for the protection and evolution of human rights in Canada. However it’s critical that we continue to make the connection between the Universal Declaration, ICESCR and ICCPR and strong labour rights — and the critical role they all play in advancing democracy, economic equality and social justice.

Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 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

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