Across Saskatchewan, throughout Canada, and around the world, today, December 10, is International Human Rights Day. This day marks the anniversary of the General Assembly of the United Nations’ adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. In recognition of the atrocities of the Second World War, International HumanRights Day stands as a testament against fascism, racism, and discrimination.
Today, all provinces and territories in Canada recognize that discriminatory behaviour is an affront to our citizenship. While human rights commissions in Canada have many similarities, and they often learn from each other, they are also known for their individual successes. Ontario is known for its support of senior’s rights, Nova Scotia for its focus on mediation, and Saskatchewan for citizenship education.
Over time, human rights concerns may change and, in the best of outcomes, issues generate improvements thatfade the original concern. It is worth remembering that human rights leaders often stand alone. When others join those leaders, we often forget the efforts of those who cut that first path in the snow.
Freedom of expression in Saskatchewan, for example, does not include expressions of hate, or the publication of extreme material which vilifies groups or individuals based on their race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or other prohibited grounds. Over time Canadians have come to realize that demonstrations of hatred, ridicule, belittlement, and disrespect for the dignity of a person or persons are not right.
In Canada, we do have rights but those rights also come with responsibilities. Those responsibilities hinge on our ability to respect the rights of others. Responsibilities, rights, and respect – not only are these qualities enshrined in the heart of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, they are also at the heart of what it means to be Canadian.
David M. Arnot
Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission