Ontario Federation of Labour

Ontario Federation of Labour

December 08, 2006 13:45 ET

DECEMBER 10 IS INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY

Canada & Ontario Have Let Down The United Nations

Attention: Assignment Editor, Media Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor TORONTO--(CCNMatthews - Dec. 8, 2006) - On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"The UN Charter states: …Whereas the peoples of the UN have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom. …."

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) has been in the forefront of the struggle for human rights. This has been especially true in 2006 both provincially but also federally where women's rights are being targeted.

It is now December 10, 2006 and we have just witnessed the McGuinty government ending democratic debate on the critical issue of reforming human rights in Ontario by forcing Bill 107 (Human Rights Code Amendment Act) through the Legislature.

"The proposed changes to the Ontario Human Rights Code under Bill 107 will have a significant and negative impact on the ability of marginalized and disadvantaged people to have access and redress from systemic discrimination in Ontario. We believe that instead of having greater access to the human rights tribunal the McGuinty Liberal's direct access model will have the adverse effect of further marginalizing aboriginals, persons with disabilities and racialized groups - those in the greatest need of protection from discrimination - making them even more vulnerable to human rights abuses," said Terry Downey, OFL executive vice-president.

Human rights protection is the basis for any democratic society. Yet too often we are witnessing racial profiling and violence from law enforcement officials. This is especially so in the current climate of Islamophobia and racism generated in the aftermath of 9/11. The OFL has been working in partnership with the black and Muslim communities to redress issues of Islamophobia and violence.

Federally, the Harper government is a replay of former Ontario Premier Mike Harris, on a national scale, when it comes to attacks on women's equality.

Stephen Harper has been Prime Minister of Canada for less than one year. Here's his track record on human rights for women:

* Cancelled the provincial/federal child care agreements that would have provided much-needed quality child care.

* Refused to introduce pro-active pay equity despite expert recommendations.

* Cancelled the Court Challenges Program so women and other equality-seeking groups can't fight discrimination.

* Eliminated Status of Women Canada's mandate to promote equality.

* Cut Status of Women Canada's budget by 40%.

* Eliminated funding to women's groups who advocate, lobby and conduct research for equality.

On November 20, 2006 OFL secretary-treasurer Irene Harris wrote to Prime Minister Harper "to express our grave concerns with the increasing difficulty of ordinary citizens and groups that represent their concerns, to exercise their democratic rights. We believe that the direction your government is taking will have a profoundly negative impact on Canadian democracy."

"During the last election you stated your commitment to promoting and improving women's human rights in Canada. On December 10, International Human Rights Day and the 25 Anniversary date of Canada's ratification of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, the OFL stands in solidarity with women's groups across the country who ask you to keep your promise, and govern on behalf of all women," Harris said.

The OFL reaffirms our commitment to human rights. We re-commit to working with our affiliates and our communities to create a society that reflects the values of justice, equality and dignity for all.

Contrary to his election promises Premier Dalton McGuinty shut down the public consultations on Bill 107 and silenced over 200 groups and individuals who wanted to be heard. Democracy went out the window. The OFL, one of the groups, represents 700,000 working people in Ontario.

The Federation is asking all its affiliated unions, advocates and activists to call the Premier's Office and tell them that muzzling the voices of people who need human rights protection the most is not okay, write letters to the editor in your own home town and lobby your local MPP.

We will also be asking our affiliates and community partners to join us in Ottawa on December 10 at 1:30 p.m. at the Supreme Court of Canada where women will rally and march for Women's Human Rights, for equality, for access to government and the courts.

Federally and provincially, Canada and Ontario have let down the United Nations Proclamation of Human Rights. There has been no progress, only retreat. Retreat without honour.

History has taught us that when one group's human rights are attacked it affects us all. History has also taught us that when we rally together and voice opposition we can protect human rights.

cope343 /For further information: Irene Harris
OFL Secretary-Treasurer
416.347.0454 (cellular)

Terry Downey
OFL Executive Vice-President
416.578.3230 (cellular)/ IN: LABOUR, MEDIA, POLITICS, OTHER

Contact Information

  • Dana Boettger, OFL Communications Director
    Primary Phone: 416-441-2731
    Secondary Phone: 416-443-7665
    Toll-Free: 800-668-9138