International Human Rights Day: Bridging the gap between the promise and reality
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
— Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1, December 10th, 1948
On December 10th, 1948, Canada voted in favour of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. By voting in favour of the declaration, it agreed to uphold and live by the 30 articles of an international document enshrining the rights and freedoms of all human beings worldwide.
Since then, we collectively commemorate and celebrate a day in which we agreed to the promise of freedom and dignity for all. However, we should also take this time to acknowledge and address the ever-widening gap between that promise and the reality for racialized and Indigenous people in this country. It is a time for self-assessment and to take stock of how far we have come and how much further we need to go as a nation.
We learned of a Grade three supply teacher in Chelsea, Quebec, who was abruptly removed from teaching her class this past week. She was removed from her classroom for wearing a hijab, violating Bill C-21. This law bans civil servants from wearing religious symbols in their place of employment. Any law that only serves to divide citizens and targets people because of their race or religion is counter to that universal promise we endorsed all those years ago. This incident reminds us of how important it is to uphold human rights and civil liberties, particularly among historically oppressed people.
Human Rights Day must go beyond grand statements and hashtags every 12 months– we have to make it a daily call to action. It must be a call to action for the Afzaal family of London, Ontario, and all the Muslim men, women, and children violently attacked for their race and religion. For the worshippers of Montreal’s Shaar Hashomayim Congregation and many other Jewish Canadians who live in fear of antisemitic abuse. For the hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls whose cases remain unsolved. It is for Black Canadians who continue to fight for criminal justice reform. For Asian Canadians who have experienced some of the worst racial discrimination since the Second World War due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Looking to 2021 and beyond, CRRF will continue to work with partners toward the goal of a society free of racial or religious discrimination so that we entirely close the gap between what we promise and what we practice. Let us all reaffirm our commitment to a Canada where human rights and racial justice that supports unity and harmony for all.