Alberta Human Rights Information Service December 10, 2018

Human Rights Day is December 10

December 10, 2018 marks 70 years since the United Nations' (UN) signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In 1948, for the first time in history, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Declaration) set out fundamental human rights to be universally protected, and it provided a common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations. This foundational document outlines the many freedoms to which we are all entitled, including that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

The Declaration has inspired the development of other instruments and institutions for human rights protection, including Alberta’s human rights legislation and Commission.

You can read the message "Standing Up for Human Rights. Standing Up For Each Other" from Michael Gottheil, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission.

United Nations 2018 Campaign Theme: #StandUp4HumanRights

On December 10, 2017, UN Human Rights launched a year-long campaign—70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—that celebrates the Declaration and the standard it set for the world. It will culminate on December 10, 2018, the actual occasion of the Declaration’s 70th anniversary celebration.

This year’s #StandUp4HumanRights campaign encourages all people to stand up for equality, justice, and human dignity. It suggests that:
  • The Declaration empowers us all: it establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person.
  • Human rights are relevant for all of us, every day.
  • Our shared humanity is rooted in these universal values. We are inter-connected.
  • Equality, justice and freedom prevent violence and sustain peace. 
  • Whenever and wherever humanity's values are abandoned, we all are at greater risk.
  • We need to stand up for our rights and those of others. Each of us can stand up.

Read more about the #StandUp4HumanRights campaign and how to participate.

Human Rights in 2018

This year, one of the best examples of standing up for human rights was two of the largest and most impactful crusades of our time, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. What started as grassroots approaches to address sexual harassment, sexual assault and violence, and inequality in the workplace, #MeToo and Time’s Up have transcended into global movements.

Founded in 2006, #MeToo aims to help survivors of sexual violence, particularly Black women and girls, and other young women of color from low income communities, find pathways to healing. This work has expanded to reach a global community of survivors from all walks of life and has helped to de-stigmatize the act of surviving by highlighting the breadth and impact of sexual violence worldwide. Powered by women, Time’s Up addresses the systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace that keeps underrepresented groups from true equality.

Not only do #MeToo and Time’s Up seek to advance equality for women and girls through awareness-raising, education, and support programs, they also seek to impact systemic change through legislation and policy change. These forces aim to shift the power structures that exist in our society today. Although led by women, they endeavor to include men as allies, advocates, and influencers.

By their sheer force, these movements have awakened our collective conscious and illuminated the magnitude of the issues that women and girls continue to face.

Taking Action

In Alberta, many organizations, businesses, and other workplaces are taking action in response to these movements. The Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of Alberta’s Fall 2018 Alberta HR Trends Report indicates that 61 per cent of organizations they surveyed took some sort of action in response to #MeToo, noting “the most common actions were: reviewed the complaint investigation policies and practices (22%); held training for managers on preventing violence, harassment, or bullying in the workplace (21%); and reviewed reporting policies (21%).”

Every person can take steps in their life to help end gender discrimination and live the values set out in the Declaration and the Alberta Human Rights Act. In Alberta, gender discrimination is protected under the Act. This legislation also allows organizations to establish ameliorative policies, programs, and activities that are likely to improve the conditions of disadvantaged people or groups, including those who are disadvantaged because of their gender, gender identity, or gender expression. Provisions for equal pay are included in the Act.

Individuals, workplaces, civil society organizations, and governments in Alberta are working hard to end gender discrimination. They are developing policies, programs, and innovative strategies to break down the barriers that women and girls continue to face. Those wanting to better understand harassment and how to prevent and respond to incidents of harassment in their workplaces can watch the Commission’s four-part webcast series, Understanding and Preventing Harassment in the Workplace. The Commission also has a number of other resources to help organizations protect against gender discrimination.

On December 10th, all Albertans are encouraged to attend local events and take action to uphold the human rights that protect us all in their workplaces, communities, and daily lives.

Michael Gottheil, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, attended the following Human Rights Day events:

  • 12th Annual Human Rights Awards: Michael Gottheil brought greetings from the Commission to the guests attending the 12th Annual Human Rights Awards of the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights on December 9, 2018, in Edmonton. Mr. Gottheil spoke about why human rights are still as relevant now as they were when the Declaration was signed 70 years ago, stating: “What a constant reaffirmation of our commitment to human rights means, is that whatever our aspirations, they must always be founded on shared values of equality and human dignity.”

  • Community Round Dance: Honouring the Children: On December 8, 2018, Michael Gottheil attended a Community Round Dance “Honouring our Children,” hosted by the Calgary Police Service in partnership with the Commission and various organizations. The date for the Round Dance was chosen to coincide with International Human Rights Day and provided an opportunity to celebrate relationships forged in the community and support the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action. Mr. Gottheil participated in a Pipe Ceremony prior to the Round Dance and later spoke to those in attendance about how all Albertans can make significant steps in addressing racism and discrimination in order to allow Indigenous people to fully participate in society.

    Earl Nini, Steve Barlow and Michael Gottheil with Pendleton Blankets.

    Earl Nini, RCMP Superintendent; Steve Barlow, Acting Chief, Calgary Police Service; and Michael Gottheil, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, were honoured to receive Pendleton Blankets in a ceremony at the Round Dance.

  • Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre: Michael Gottheil offered greetings from the Commission at the International Human Rights Day event hosted by the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre on November 27, 2018 in Calgary. Mr. Gottheil noted that Alberta was marking the commencement of 16 days of Action Against Gender Based Violence, stating: “It is quite amazing and disturbing that in 2018 we still need to fight against gender-based violence. One would have hoped the time had come where such violence and hatred was a distant memory, a thing of the past. Unfortunately women face the possibility of violence every day, walking on the street, at the workplace and at home. We all have a role in standing up for women’s equality, safety and dignity. Until we have achieved these goals, none of us should feel proud of who we are.”
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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.