On December 10, 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The rights enshrined in that declaration—among them the right to equal access to public services and the right to equality without discrimination before the law—were deemed to apply to all. But 70 years later, our province, our country, and the world are moving backward rather than forward in upholding these universal rights.
The rise of far-right politics predicated on xenophobia, gender inequity and violence, persecution of LGBTQI2S+ folk, failure to provide basic services to Indigenous communities, systematic discrimination against people of colour—particularly Black people—and other abuses force us to reflect whether the principles of that declaration are being honoured.
Ontario is no exception to this disturbing trend. The Ford Conservatives’ agenda of cuts has damaged the public services equity-seeking groups depend on. They have pursued numerous policies that undermine our human rights, including attempts to revert the sex-ed curriculum to 1996, the disbanding of provincial sub-committees on anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous discrimination, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, the abolition of the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, the attack on our Charter right to collective bargaining under Bill 124, the merger of the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation into Energy, Northern Development and Mines and the elimination of the Indigenous Culture Fund and education curriculum, the slashing of legal aid funding, and more.
Our commitment as a union is to ensure that human rights are upheld in our workplaces and in our communities. We recognize that workers’ rights and equality rights are one and the same. That’s why CUPE Ontario is undertaking campaigns to tackle workplace and sexual violence (https://cupe.on.ca/antiviolence/ & www.cupe.on.ca/believesurvivors / www.cupe.on.ca), implement our comprehensive Anti-Organizational Racism Action Plan and Anti-White Supremacy campaign, and pursue wide-ranging programs though our International Solidarity, Aboriginal Council, Pink Triangle, Racial justice, Workers with Disabilities, Women’s, and Young Workers Committees. This week, over 200 delegates representing 270,000 CUPE members across the province are gathering for our annual Racial Justice and Human Rights Conference to plan how we integrate human rights into all the work we do.
Generations ago, in the face of the horrors of Fascism, the world decided “never again.” The time to live up to that promise is now. In our province and across the country, CUPE members will not be divided by far-right politicians who would roll back the guarantees of the Universal Declaration. We will defend our communities from the rising tide of hate and attacks on the public services we all depend on.