INTERIM CHIEF COMMISSIONER’S MESSAGE
As the interim Chief Commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, it is a privilege to present this annual report, a summary of the activities and accomplishments of the past year, and a celebration of the Commission’s 50th anniversary.
Anniversaries are a time for remembering past accomplishments, reflecting on progress that has been made, and also to prepare for the work that still needs to be done.
Reflecting on what has been done, it is clear there is a long tradition of championing human rights in Saskatchewan. For the past 50 years, the Commission has played an essential role in upholding that tradition by promoting and protecting the individual dignity, fundamental freedoms, and equal rights of every Saskatchewan citizen.
Since 1972, the Commission has worked with government and stakeholders as human rights evolved to meet the needs of our times and assisted the courts in landmark cases, such as Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v. Whatcott, that have changed the human rights landscape of Saskatchewan. The rights of women (1979), of persons with disabilities (1989), and of people in 2SLGBTQ+ communities (1993 and 2014) have been strengthened and supported through Saskatchewan’s human rights legislation and the Commission’s mandate.
Since its inception, the Commission has formalized more than 10,000 human rights complaints and fielded thousands more inquiries that have affected the lives of countless individuals.
When the challenges and discrimination people face run deeper than individual complaints, the Commission uses systemic advocacy to great effect. By bringing people together, working with stakeholders, and forging partnerships, systemic initiatives address big issues that affect groups of people throughout the province.
All of this would have been impossible without the inspired work of passionate and dedicated staff members. And while the Commission has done much over the past half century to define, refine, and advance human rights in Saskatchewan, our work is far from finished.
Equality and human rights are at the heart of a prosperous and unified vision for Saskatchewan. They are not abstract issues. They matter every day, particularly for racialized, marginalized, and disability communities. Human rights protections create equity, enable economic participation, and remove barriers. They connect us to each other through shared sets of rights and responsibilities. They require us to treat each other fairly and with respect.
Investing in human rights is an investment in people and in our shared future. Human rights – and the equality, respect, and dignity they promise – must be central to our policies and decision making.
Together, we can put into place the tools future generations need to ensure another 50 years of human rights advancements and build a province in which rights are respected and everyone can live free and equal.
Barry E. Wilcox, K.C.