On December 10, 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The rights enshrined in that declaration – among them them the right to seek asylum from persecution, freedom from arbitrary detention, and equality without discrimination before the law, were deemed to apply equally to all human beings.
Yet 70 years later, our province, our country, and the world seem to be 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 problems force us to consider whether we are upholding the spirit of that declaration.
In Ontario, widespread anti-immigrant sentiment, the cancellation of the 2015 sex-ed curriculum, legislation targeting Transgender folk, the abolition of the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, the rolling back of labour rights under Bill 47, the merger of the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation into Energy, Northern Development and Mines, the suspension of our Charter right to freedom of speech due to municipal election gerrymandering, and other abuses by the Doug Ford Conservatives compel us to mobilize in defence of equity-seekers and all workers.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a living document that codifies our responsibilities to each other in a globalized world. Our commitment as a union is to ensure that its principles 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 a comprehensive Anti-Organizational Racism Action Plan, and pursue wide-ranging programs though our International Solidarity, Aboriginal Council, Pink Triangle, Racial justice, Workers with Disabilities, Women’s and Young Workers Committees. With the active support of our over 260,000 members, we will continue to include the fight for human rights in 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 stand in solidarity against the rising tide of hate as public sector workers.