Take Action: Defend Human Rights at Home and Abroad

By Lorraine Rousseau

Last week we celebrated Human Rights Day. Globally, UN’s theme was about equality: “Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights.” Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: – “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Let’s look at some history before reflecting on what we can do, collectively, to advance human rights.

Every year, Human Rights Day is observed on December 10. The day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This milestone document is the most translated document in the world, and you can find it in 530 languages. The thirty articles of this document proclaim, “the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

 The world has changed since 1948. There is no doubt there have been many gains, accomplishments and victories won over the decades— thanks to all those who have paved the way for generations to come. But our work is far from finished. The strive towards human rights and equality continues. Inequalities are more dangerous than any pandemic— and a just recovery from COVID 19 necessitates all segments of the population whether globally, nationally or locally be included. No individual can be left behind.

For the past, almost two years, we hear this everyday: we’re going through difficult times. That’s true. We’ve been going through difficult times; everyone has gone through challenges during the pandemic. But the truth is that it has been more difficult for some segments of the population than others. Today, vaccinations are not available to everyone in all nations— due to global inequalities. Vaccine poverty is real. In the battle against the pandemic, it’s not sufficient to have populations in wealthy nations be fully vaccinated— because we’re all affected.

Global decision makers and leaders have a major role to play, but collectively, we’re all responsible. Human rights defenders around the world are changing peoples lives. Let’s never underestimate the power of each action, petition, letter, social media post, rally, etc. in defending human rights and in solidarity of communities and individuals at risk.

Canadians are champions of defending human rights, but it’s crucial to not turn a blind eye to what’s happening at home. Nationally, Canada is not immune from inequalities. We’ve all witnessed the ‘difficult times.’ But they’re more difficult for communities and individuals facing systemic discrimination and inequalities.

It’s 2021, and many women and members of the LGBTQ2+ communities continue to face inequalities and violence that affects their lives at home, school and/or work. Families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls are still waiting for justice.

It’s 2021, and Indigenous communities in the North continue to battle food insecurity. The rates of household food insecurity in the North are appalling:  16.9%, 21.6% and 57% in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut respectively. Communities, families, children, and individuals are not numbers.

Politicians, from all parties, play a major role in ensuring that there is no place for inequalities on this land, Canada. But it’s our collective responsibility to hold them accountable as well as working together to end all forms of inequalities and discrimination.

We’ve won many victories on the path of human rights and social justice, but our work and struggles continue. I do believe that together, we’re able to create real change that makes our world a better place for us and generations to come. It’s almost 2022, time for a reset, let’s pledge to combat inequalities and defend human rights at home, in our communities and in our nations. 

This article originally appeared in the Yellowknifer on December 15, 2021