Blog: Human Rights Day- Sharing strength in the journey
Human Rights Day, celebrated on December 10, provides an opportunity to honour and share strength on the journey of human preservation and freedoms journey. This year’s theme is a celebration of Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All.
By Eanimi Deborah Agube, ESPC Volunteer
Since 1948 on December 10, we have celebrated Human Rights Day. This celebration stems from the United Nations General Assembly adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. December 10 recognizes the many trials the world continues to face and stands as a call to action for more equitable representation and activities promoting human freedom preservation. Recognizing Human Rights Day does not negate the reality of human rights concerns. Far from it, it brings the realization that although we have come far as a society, we are still miles away from recognizing and accepting the other freedoms of humans. In this post, we highlight why Human Rights Day is important and how we can get involved in celebrating.
“The Declaration states each person is entitled to fundamental rights, including the right to equality and the right to life, liberty and security of the person. It also recognizes the right to freedom of religion and speech and the right to participate in the cultural life of the community.” (Government of Canada, 2017)
Why is Human Rights Day important?
More than ever, Human Rights Day is important and needed because human rights concerns continue to rise and take up many forms. For example, issues with Indigenous Peoples’ rights, labour rights, immigration and more (Human Rights Watch, 2021). Recently, we have been experiencing protests to support human rights in Canada and internationally. On Human Rights Day, we can remember people who have taken a stand to fight for human freedoms and their actions. We also take on the opportunity to build and give power to those who continue to take action to preserve spaces for members of their communities, locally, in workplaces, nationally and globally.
Over the years, different themes have been celebrated on Human Rights Day to focus awareness on pressing issues; in 2021, the theme was “Equality.” This year, the theme is Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All (United Nations, 2022a). The Declaration of Human Rights has inspired instruments that constitute international text and binding agreements that serve as a legal source to protect human rights. Although the Declaration is not legally binding, the United Nations member states’ solidarity substantially impacts our daily lives (OHCHR, n.d.). International Human Rights Day holds great significance as our societies find new ways to decolonize practices and shift from the norms that do not serve marginalized people.
Human Rights Representation in Alberta
Human Rights have been a point of interest in Alberta for years, with the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC). The AHRC promotes advocacy and learning platforms to support Albertans under the Alberta Human Rights Act. The AHRC works on two mandates, “to foster equality and to reduce discrimination” (Alberta Human Rights Commission, 2019). Doing so provides spaces to advocate for workers and public members who face discrimination based on various protected grounds. Also, within Edmonton, local groups and communities organize protests, rallies and vigils to support and raise awareness of multiple human rights issues locally and internationally. These awareness and support actions are usually shared on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook and by word of mouth. While there is still a long way to go in stepping away from the rigid systems that have not favoured various groups, the Edmonton community is rallying for change.
How to get involved?
Different communities and individuals have celebrated Human Right Day in ways that have meaning to them. These celebrations have ranged from live art demonstrations in Mexico to the organization of a Philharmonic Orchestra in Lebanon to creating spaces for stories to be shared (OHCHR, 2013). The importance of involvement and recognizing meaning in your actions is big or small. Some suggestions include reading about the history of the people around you and learning more about your human rights. The Government of Canada’s website highlights ways to get involved in the celebration and honour the actions taken to preserve human dignity and rights. In the Edmonton area, organizations like the John Humphrey Center for Peace and Human Rights, is hosting learning opportunities.
December 10 provides the opportunity to reflect on the journey of the human rights demand. On Human Rights Day, we can honour the efforts and steps taken to preserve human freedom and dignity. While there is still a journey ahead, we can take solace in the actions happening and draw strength and courage to keep going. This day can be respected and celebrated in whatever way you draw meaning to it. All activities, whether considered small or big, are a step closer to learning more about our rights and the rights of others and addressing the inequity in the systems.
Resources from the Government of Canada- Human Rights
- Visit the United Nations Human Rights Day website.
- Watch a film from the Human Rights Playlist curated by the National Film Board of Canada.
- Learn more about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- Discover the history of human rights in Canada through the Canada History Week digital magazines (2017 and 2019 editions).
- Explore the Canadian Museum for Human Rights’ Story Collection.
- Learn about significant human rights milestones from the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
- Download the illustrated version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and share it with family.
- Take a voyage through the time portals of the Human Rights in Canada: A Historical Perspective website to learn about the evolution of human rights in 20th century Canada.
- Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action (PDF version, 299 KB) and choose one that you will act on.
Eanimi Agube graduated from the University of Alberta with a BA in Sociology and Economics and is currently completing her master’s in Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia. She is interested in community development and social policy.
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Alberta Home Rights Commission.(2019). Pages- Resources. Retrieved November 24, 2022, from Albertahumanrights.ab.ca website: https://albertahumanrights.ab.ca/Pages/default.aspx
Film Affinity. (2022). Cine a mano (C) (2008).Retrieved December 1, 2022, from: https://www.filmaffinity.com/es/film385711.html
Government of Canada. (2017). Heritage Canada: Human Rights Day. Retrieved November 20, 2022, from: https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/human-rights-commemorative-days/human-rights-day.html
Human Rights Watch (2021, December 13). World Report 2022: Rights Trends in Canada. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2022/country-chapters/canada
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR]. (2013). Human Rights Day Celebrated Around the World. United Nations. Retrieved November 24, 2022, from: https://www.ohchr.org/en/stories/2013/12/human-rights-day-celebrated-around-world
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR] . (2022). Human Rights Day. United Nations. Retrieved November 24, 2022, from: https://www.ohchr.org/en/about_us/human_rights_day#:~:text=What%20are%20Human%20Rights,-What%20are%20Human&text=Human%20Rights%20Day%20is%20observed,Universal%20Declaration%20of%20Human%20Rights.
United Nations. (2018). Human Rights Day Concert 1958 Part 1. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from: https://www.unmultimedia.org/avlibrary/asset/2279/2279295/
United Nations. (n.d.). Universal Declaration of Human Rights Retrieved November 20, from: https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights.
United Nations. (2022a). Human Rights Day December 10. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from: https://www.un.org/en/observances/human-rights-day
United Nations. (2022b). OHCHR: The Core International Human Rights Instruments and their monitoring bodies. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from: https://www.ohchr.org/en/core-international-human-rights-instruments-and-their-monitoring-bodies