Ontario Federation of Labour

Ontario Federation of Labour

December 10, 2015 06:00 ET

Canadians Must Respond to Humanitarian Crises at Home and Abroad

OFL Statement for December 10, 2015, International Human Rights Day

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Dec. 10, 2015) - December 10 is celebrated around the world as International Human Rights Day to mark the anniversary of the United Nations' adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This historic document is heralded for setting out fundamental human rights that would be universally protected and which set a common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations.

This year, international Human Rights celebrations are set against the backdrop of the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the Middle East. This catastrophe has blurred the boundaries of every international border; challenged every nation; and summoned the compassion of every citizen to re-evaluate our collective role in promoting peace and human rights around the globe. However, it is impossible for Canada to examine its international humanitarian obligations without critical self-reflection about ongoing humanitarian crisis in Aboriginal communities within its borders.

"Canadians rejected the fear-mongering and divisive politics of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper but it is going to take time and unwavering resolve to restore Canada's human rights reputation," said OFL President Chris Buckley. "The OFL applauds Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for staying firm on his commitment to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees and to withdraw Canadian warplanes from Iraq and Syria, but much more needs to be done."

In particular, the OFL is calling on the Canadian government to immediately rescind its blanket exclusion of single, unaccompanied men from Canada's refugee strategy. The plan to limit Syria asylum seekers to women, children and families was announced last month under the guise of security concerns, but it discriminates against many young men who are fleeing for their lives.

"This kind of profiling of young Syrian men amounts to a policy of international 'carding' and it plays into racist stereotypes about Arab and Muslim men being terrorists," said Buckley. "If these exclusions were in place last September, the father of little Aylan Kurdi, whose family died making the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean, would be barred from entering Canada. Canada should be opening its doors to every legitimate asylum seeker and relying on sound security screening, rather than xenophobia and Islamophobia, as the basis for refugee policy."

The OFL is also calling on the Government of Canada to act quickly to begin addressing the shameful treatment of Canada's First Peoples - whose land rights were ignored by the Harper Government and for many of whom poverty, sub-standard education and boil-water alerts are pervasive. Prime Minister Trudeau sent a strong and powerful signal to Canada's Aboriginal, Métis and Inuit people this week, when his government announced that it would begin the formal process of launching a national inquiry into the more than 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women who have disappeared since 1980.

"The ongoing oppression of Aboriginal peoples across the country is a reflection of Canada's colonial history," said OFL Vice-President Ahmad Gaied. "We are hopeful that answers will finally be delivered to the families of Canada's 'stolen sisters,' but human rights in Canada cannot be achieved until justice and reconciliation have been delivered to our Aboriginal, Métis and Inuit peoples. Canada must do more than investigate individual crimes committed against these Indigenous women, we must examine the root causes and systemic racism that prevented justice for far too long."

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow the OFL on Facebook and Twitter: @OFLabour.

Contact Information

  • Ontario Federation of Labour
    Joel Duff
    Communications Director
    416.707.0349
    JDuff@ofl.ca
    (ENG/FRE)