Message from Michael Gottheil,

Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission

(December 10, 2018)

Human Rights Day is December 10
Standing Up for Human Rights. Standing Up For Each Other.

Human rights are about the principles of equality, justice and human dignity. On the ground, every day, human rights are about respect for one another, communities showing kindness, and coming together when one of us is under attack.

This is simple and straight-forward. It is something we can all easily embrace. The more difficult questions, and ones we must ask, are who shall be part of our community, who shall be considered one of us, and who is included as a "human" when we speak of human rights?

Human Rights Day is celebrated every year on December 10th to mark the proclamation in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Declaration). This year is the 70th anniversary of the Declaration, and the United Nations has announced the theme of this year's commemoration as "Stand Up for Human Rights."

The Declaration was developed as a result of the atrocities the world had recently experienced, as whole communities were stripped of their citizenship and their personhood, and subjected to the gravest of indignities and inhumanity in the name of progress. Of course, the principles of equality, liberty, and individual freedom were not new. They had been a rallying cry for more than 150 years earlier during the French and American revolutions. The former declared the "rights of man" and the latter declared, among other grand democratic truths, that “all men are created equal." However, what history had shown, and what those who were drafting the proposed Declaration had to confront, was that these fundamental democratic principles only mattered to those who were considered men and citizens. When people weren't, not only did they have no access to those rights and freedoms, but they also were not entitled to basic dignity. They were seen as property, savages, or enemies of the state. Again history has shown us just what kind of indignities we are capable of unleashing on those who we do not consider persons.

Still, for every story of violence that we hear about, there are many more of support and recognition. This past summer, residents gathered at a solidarity rally, which was held in response to a spree of anti-Semitic graffiti painted on surfaces around two Edmonton neighbourhoods. In St. Albert, the community held a block party in support of an Indigenous family who had received hate mail. In response to racist rants at a restaurant in Lethbridge and another in a grocery store in Calgary, the public responded with an outpouring of support and an overwhelming message against intolerance.

Albertans are known for their strong community bonds. They are known for strength of character. They are known for kindness and generosity and treating everyone with dignity and respect.

Standing Up for Human Rights?

In Alberta, it’s just what we do.

Our vision is a vibrant and inclusive Alberta where the rich diversity of people is celebrated and respected, and where everyone has the opportunity to fully participate in society, free from discrimination.