“Recover Better: Stand up for Human Rights” is the 2020 United Nations (UN) theme for International Human Rights Day (IHRD)

The first Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declared that  “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.This Declaration was adopted by the United Nations (UN)  on 10 December 1948  guaranteeing  the rights of every individual everywhere without distinction of nationality, place of residence, gender, national or ethnic origin, religion, language or any other status.  It is considered as the most translated document in modern history and is available in over 500 languages.

A Canadian lawyer, John Peters Humphrey, the first Director of the UN Human Rights Division, played a major role in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1947. 

In 1960 the Government of Canada passed the  Canadian Bill of Rights – the first human rights law in the country protecting basic human rights and freedom.  In 1977  the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) was passed preventing discriminatory practices in many prohibited grounds, including race, sex and disability, and in 1982 the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom came into effect.

In spite of Canada’s commitment we still have a long way to go as there are more signs emerging constantly that human rights are being attacked.  The most common ones are:

  • the violations of basic human rights of our Indigenous peoples.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report from 2015 lists a call for action, many of which do not, as yet,  have any meaningful plans of action.  
  • Access to basic universal affordable child care
  • Trans and Gender diverse identities
  • Accessibility rights
  • Racism

In 2019, The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau stated:  “Protecting and defending Human Rights is a shared duty.  Today we honour those who have dedicated their lives to uplifting others, and we commit to continuing their important work.”   The Union of Veterans Affairs Employess (UVAE) would like to echo this sentiment.

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. […] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

In Solidarity!

Human Rights Committee

Union of Veterans Affairs Employees

International Day of Remembrance and Dignity of the Victims of the Genocide and the Prevention of this Crime

The 9th of December is the anniversary of the adoption of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.  Also called the Genocide Convention, is an international law instrument that codified genocide as a crime.

Genocide is the intentional destruction of a particular group through killing, serious physical or mental harm, preventing births and/or forcibly transferring children to another group. The Canadian government has formally recognized five instances of genocide abroad: the Armenian genocide, the Holodomor, the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.

What else do we know about the Genocide Convention, other than, it is an international law?

  • It was the first human rights treaty adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations.
  • International community’s commit to ‘’never again’’ will this happen after the atrocities committed during the Second World War.
  • The genocide convention is a list of articles that dictate prevention methods and punishments should a nation commit or is on the verge of genocide.
  • The Genocide Convention has been signed by 152 United Nations States (as of July 2019). The other 42 United Nations Member States have yet to do so. From those, 19 are from Africa, 17 from Asia and 6 from America.

These states’ obligations:

  • Obligation not to commit genocide (Article I);
  • Obligation to prevent genocide (Article I);    
  • Obligation to punish genocide (Article I);
  • Obligation to enact the necessary legislation to give effect to the provisions of the Convention (Article V);
  • Obligation to ensure that effective penalties are provided for persons found guilty of criminal conduct according to the Convention (Article V);
  • Obligation to try persons charged with genocide in a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed, or by an international penal tribunal with accepted jurisdiction (Article VI);
  • Obligation to grant extradition when genocide charges are involved, in accordance with laws and treaties in force (Article VII), particularly related to protection granted by international human rights law prohibiting refoulment where there is a real risk of flagrant human rights violations in the receiving State.

As defined in the Genocide Convention its role of prevention and combating the crime of genocide will be commemorated on December 9th in order to raise awareness and honour it’s victims.

Human Rights Committee of UVAE

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

World Health Organization (WHO) – “A Day For all”

International Day of People With Disabilities (United Nations) – “Not all disabilities are visible”

Since 1992 – December 3 has been promoted by the United Nations, as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.  It is celebrated to support the dignity, rights and well-being of persons living with disabilities, visible and invisible.

According to  WHO’s World Report on Disability more than 1 billion people are living with a disability, and approximately  450 million are living with a mental or neurological condition.  It is estimated that about two-thirds of these will not seek professional or medical help – mostly due to stigma and discrimination.  The report also indicates that one (1)  in 160 children are identified as being on the autism spectrum.

In July 2019 The Accessible Canada Act came into force with extensive and inclusive consultations from disability communities.  Canada is working very hard to ensure that the accessibility law is helping to create workplaces and services that treat all Canadians fairly and equitably and will give everyone the opportunity to participate fully in society.

As members of UVAE, let us affirm  that we will do all we can to ensure that  our brothers and sisters suffering from a  visible or invisible disability , are able to fully and equitably participate in all aspects of our society, and let us make a commitment to speak out loudly against any injustices and discrimination.

In solidarity!

UVAE Human Rights Committee

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Around the world at least one woman in three has been beaten, raped, violently attacked, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused. Most often the abuser is a member of her own family. Increasingly, gender-based violence is recognized as a major public health concern and a violation of human rights.

Most forms of violence are not unique incidents but are ongoing and can even continue for decades.  Because of the sensitivity of the subject, violence is almost universally under-reported. Nevertheless, the prevalence of such violence suggests that globally, millions of women are experiencing violence or living with its consequences.

November 25th was declared as a day to combat and raise awareness of violence against women and to highlight that the scale and true nature of the issue is often hidden. This date was selected to honour the Mirabal sisters, three political activists from the Dominican Republic who were brutally murdered in 1960 by order of the country’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961).

Actually, November 25th  (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) is the beginning of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. This international campaign runs through until December 10 (World Human Rights Day). During these 16 days, organizations around the world will encourage people to reflect on what they can do in their own communities and in their own lives to eliminate the disproportionate violence faced by women and girls.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is also a day to remember the missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ2+ communities, persons with disabilities, newcomers, as well as people of every age that have been victims of violence.

If you are affected by family violence, know someone who is, or simply want to learn more, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/stop-family-violence.html to help you be safe or to be part of the solution.

Human Rights Committee

TRANSGENDER DAY OF REMEMBERANCE NOVEMBER 20TH

November 20th, 2020 will mark the 21st annual day of Trans Gender Day of Remembrance.  First marked in 1999 to honour Rita Hester, a transgender activist who was brutally murdered in her home in Boston.  It is a day set aside to honour those who have been killed or targeted because of who they were.

Not only does this day honour those who have been lost due to hate and transphobia, but also to bring attention to the work that still remains to be done.  Although we have come a long way from 1999, the hate and transphobia for our gender non-conforming brothers and sisters is still present and we need to work harder to eradicate this and promote human rights.

In 2017, Canada adopted legislation to provide protection for gender identity and gender expression which in turn updated the Canadian Human Rights Act as gender identity and gender expression were added to the prohibited grounds for discrimination. It was a step forward in inclusion; however a lot more needs to be done as trans people are still being targeted disproportionately by gender violence, especially racialized people.

At UVAE we support all our transgender non-conforming brothers and sisters and make a vow to work harder to eradicate hate and violence!

Human Rights Committee


REMEMBERANCE DAY 2020

In 2019, I had the privilege, on behalf of the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees, to lay a wreath at the November 11th Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa.  It was the first time I was going to be actually involved in the ceremony.  It was a cold morning and not knowing what to expect I arrived at the venue looking lost.  One of the dedicated volunteers came up to me and offered help, which I gratefully accepted.  He walked me to the spot where I could pick up the wreath and explained the process to me.  I was a bit apprehensive as I did not want to commit a faux pas and embarrass the UVAE members. 

Standing among these great people the emotions are overwhelming.  You get to meet veterans whose stories you hear first hand, you watch the pride on their face, you see some tears, you see some sorrow, you hear about those who are no longer here.  You feel part of this great family, and as soon as the ceremonies start your feelings become more somber more intensified, you feel so  insignificant compared to those standing there who have sacrificed everything.  A quote I had once read keeps playing in my mind “I’m proud to be Canadian, where at least I know I am free and I won’t forget the ones who died, who gave this right to me.”, (John G. Diefenbaker)

November 11 is a day when we honour and remember Canadian men and women from all communities who served and sacrificed for our great country, Canada, in times of war and peace and the efforts to fight for freedom.  It was first observed in 1919 throughout the British Commonwealth – referred to as “Armistice Day” commemorating the agreement that ended the First World War on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918.

From 1921 to 1930 Armistice Day was observed on the Monday in which November 11th fell.  In 1931, a Bill was introduced by Alan Neill, Member of Parliament for Comox-Alberni, and passed by the House of Commons to observe Armistice Day only on November 11th  and change the name to “Remembrance Day”.  The Poppy is the symbol of Remembrance Day.

On this day we should not forget that minority groups played a vital role during the various wars as they were eager to serve and protect the country they lived in, Canada.  They had to face a lot of difficulties and prejudices in being accepted into the Canadian Forces and receiving the same respect and benefits as other Canadians.  However, their perseverance paid off and they played a vital role both on the battlefield and  behind the scenes, such as fund raising, organizing patriotic leagues, knitting and sewing socks and sweaters for soldiers, nursing, war supply production – weapons, ammunition and shipbuilding, etc.

Men and Women stood and worked side by side proudly to serve their homeland and contribute in whatever way they could.  We stand proud for these Canadians and bow our heads in silence to honour their sacrifices.

Zarina Khan,
On behalf of the Human Rights Committee,
UVAE