Delivered at Cultures of Resistance – A Night of Sharing and Celebration December 8, 2019 at OPSEU Region 5 Office
We are a coalition of community organizations gathering in Toronto, who have come together on First Nations territories, to commemorate International Human Rights Day. Celebrated usually on December 10, Human Rights Day honours the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations in 1948. This declaration was intended to prevent war, genocide, and the other atrocities of human history. Yet today, governments are cracking down on progressive peoples’ movements and imperialist wars continue to rage around the world. We are gathering to highlight the continued struggle of our diverse movements to defend our people against imperialist plunder, neoliberalism, and macho-fascism. Further, we are uniting to criticize those who claim to support human rights victims, but instead enable their violators.
Governments in the West focus on individual rights in the civil and political sphere, but often refuse to recognize collective rights in economic, social, and cultural spheres. This refusal is exemplified by everyday violations of the right to food and housing, education and health care, as well as language and cultural practice. In fact, even those civil and political rights are frequently violated, from migrant detention centers in Canada to the lack of legitimate self-governance for First Nations.
Civil and political rights are weaponized against countries that try to exercise their UN-mandated rights to sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence, and equality among UN members. While all states have a responsibility to uphold international human rights inside their jurisdictions, the powerful countries of the West have defined human rights to suit their own agendas. When civil and political rights are violated by Western countries or their allies, Canada and other Western countries will look the other way, as it has done for former military dictatorships, coup governments, and neo-liberal regimes in Latin America and the Carribean. So-called human rights organizations based in the West, such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, are frequently complicit in these one-sided charges from Western governments.
In the worst cases, human rights are used to justify wars of aggression and occupation, or hybrid wars of economics, propaganda and influence. Canada continues to support sanctions that deny access to food and medicine from the people of Venezuela, while supplying arms and training to “friendly” governments in the Philippines, Haiti, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and elsewhere. Canada’s hypocrisy is showing when the government claims to love human rights, but supplies arms to notorious human rights violators, and participates in the violation of human rights itself through international alliances like NATO.
Our coalition defends the right of the peoples of the world to live in peace. This means recognizing all aspects of human rights, both individual and collective, and recognizing peoples’ rights to political and territorial sovereignty. As a coalition based in Toronto, we are a part of a global peoples’ movement that defends these rights against imperialism. We invite you to join our movement by becoming a member of one of our organizations below.
Unite for Human Rights!
- Toronto Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
- Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network,
- International League of Peoples Struggles Canada
- International Migrants Alliance,
- Yemeni Community in Canada
- Palestinian Youth Movement (Toronto)