Make your human rights an election issue!

Download: Human Rights Election Message

Make your human rights an election issue!

Do you want decent affordable housing, childcare, good wages, safe and healthy air water and food, access to the best possible healthcare and education, secure and enjoyable retirement?

Did you know these are all actually human rights that you have a right to claim from our governments in Canada?

In this election, we need to be talking about human rights! Before we lose them!

Canada is obligated by international law treaties to respect and provide for all human rights – including civil, political, economic, social and cultural. All governments are supposed to make the best use of our tax dollars to provide for and protect human rights before any other use of tax revenue.

In fact, our governments have to report on how well (or not) they are complying with human rights covenants they have ratified, including the rights of children, women, and other vulnerable groups. Ngo’s also get to report from the people’s point of view, and groups like Amnesty International and LIFT have been there to make sure the UN committees hear from those who live the realities created by government cutbacks.

In 1998 the UN found Canada to be in violation of basic human rights, in1999 the UN ruled that Canada was violating the right to life for allowing homelessness and hunger to grow in spite of having resources to prevent it.

In 2006 the UN again found Canada had chosen to continue to undermine basic human rights. Among many other violations they listed the failure to have a national housing strategy or adequate social security, in spite of our great wealth.

For a country to choose to cut back on human rights when other choices could be made and there is enough wealth to provide human rights is one of the worst kinds of human rights violation.

In the past 15 years our human rights have been undermined or lost on too many fronts. But because most Canadians have never been educated about their human rights we don’t claim them, and so our governments are not held accountable to treaties they have signed long ago and chosen to ignore.

Canada has failed to set up systems to ensure our parliaments respect human rights commitments when making legislation. Many human rights are poorly protected, especially for people facing discrimination, yet there is no effective remedy or recourse for those whose rights have been violated because they are poor.

However, the Senate has issued a report recommending that Canada create procedures for parliament to follow, to ensure that human rights laws are being applied and respected in domestic Canadian law. (see Promises to keep, Report of the Standing Committee on Human Rights

Suggestions for talking to candidates about human rights:

  1. Do you know that your first duty as an elected official is to work to ensure that the human rights of all people in Canada are respected and provided for?”
  1. Have you heard of the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights?
  1. It is a treaty Canada signed that says that everyone is entitled to the best possible healthcare, housing, healthy food, income security, fair wages and working conditions, access to higher education and more…”
  1. If they haven’t heard of this treaty, tell them Canada and the provinces ratified it in 1976 and have to report every 4 years on their government’s compliance.
  1. Do you know that the treaty on the rights of the child is the most powerful international law in the world? That the rights of the child come first in Canadian law, according to the Supreme Court?
  1. Do you wonder why you haven’t heard about human rights treaties? Even though educating the people about their human rights is an obligation under the treaty we signed?
  1. Will you work to put a national housing strategy in place for providing affordable, safe and sustainable housing?” (… or focus on whatever human rights issue you choose.)
  1. Will you work to ensure that Canada is governed according to human rights it has agreed are the primary purpose and responsibility of the government and all Canadians (1993 Vienna UN declaration – see www.unhchr.ch/huridocda/huridoca.nsf/)
  1. Why not value funding for basic human rights as investment that increases our wealth, rather than labeling it as spending that increases the deficit?
  1. Will you work to reinstate the original mandate of the Bank of Canada, to issue credit to fund government spending free of debt to ensure adequate resources for governments to invest in fully implementing human rights?

You could tell your candidate: “Our future and that of our children depends on governments and individual MPs doing their job to implement and protect human rights including a safe environment for all…

If you want my vote, make human rights for a sustainable future your top priority.”