Statement - After 40 years of human rights progress, many people in Canada are still waiting for equality

July 17, 2017 – Ottawa, Ontario – The Canadian Human Rights Commission

Upon the 40th anniversary of the passing of the Canadian Human Rights Act and the creation of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Chief Commissioner Marie-Claude Landry, issues the following statement:

“Forty years ago, on July 14, 1977, Parliament made it illegal for people in Canada to be discriminated against because of who they are, where they come from, and what they believe. 

“The framers of the Canadian Human Rights Act, including Pierre Elliot Trudeau, envisioned an inclusive and diverse Canada that would serve as a model of human rights around the world. 

“In the 40 years since, Canada has made great strides. We are a diverse nation that is seen around the world as a place of acceptance and inclusion. Since the Canadian Human Rights Commission opened its doors 40 years ago, we have received over 46,000 discrimination complaints from people in Canada. One by one, they have come forward and used the Canadian Human Rights Act to fight back against discrimination. One by one, their discrimination cases have helped change Canada for the better. 

“But as we celebrate this important milestone, the reality is after 40 years of progress, Canada still has a long road ahead. There are still far too many people in Canada—including children—who are facing discrimination and exclusion every day, both individually and systemically. 

“They should not be alone in their fight for equality. They should not be alone in the fight against exclusion and bullying towards persons with disabilities in our schools and workplaces. They should not be alone in the fight for equal rights for trans Canadians. They should not be alone in the fight for the right to healthy lives for families and children on First Nations reserves. They should not be alone in the fight to protect the rights of migrant families who are incarcerated like criminals.

“It is our job, as Canada’s human rights watchdog, to join them in their fight, to speak out on their behalf, and to do what we can to ensure that they have swifter access to justice.

“That is why this year, on the heels of our organization’s 40th anniversary, the Canadian Human Rights Commission is throwing our efforts into putting people first, and into making it easier for everyday citizens to fight for their rights and defend themselves against discrimination. Here are just some of the actions we are taking this year:

  • Promoting the 40/40 Project, an anniversary video series showcasing 40 vignettes that touch on human rights in Canada—yesterday, today and tomorrow. Watch the first videos in the series now!
  • Hosting the 2017 Beyond Labels Symposium in Ottawa—a conference aimed at challenging people’s ideas about the labels currently used in our society, and what the next 40 years might hold for human rights in Canada.
  • Welcoming two new grounds to our Canadian Human Rights Act—“genetic characteristics” and “gender identity or expression.”
  • Launching soon a new website that will help people find human rights information and submit a human rights complaint in the quickest, easiest way possible.
  • Exploring other ways to modernize the Canadian Human Rights Act so that it makes access to justice swifter for people in Canada, and so that it can be a law that protects everyone in Canada—today and for the next 40 years.
  • Continuing to nurture our valued partnerships and collaboration across Canada’s human rights community. 

“Human rights progress does not happen in a vacuum. It happens when groups of like-minded people and like-minded organizations work together towards the shared goals of improving the lives of people in Canada, and promoting goodness, inclusion and equality in our society.

“That is the Commission’s goal for the next 40 years. But we cannot do it alone. We must all work together, to listen to the voices of those who suffer, to ensure that Canada continues to be a leader in human rights for the next 40 years.”

Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E., is Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

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