International Human Rights Day: Unions as allies in the fight to advance human rights

Each year on December 10, we celebrate the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a ground-breaking document recognizing that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

73 years later, the fight for human rights is far from over, and Canada continues to fall short. Indigenous, Black, racialized,  LGBTQ2+ communities, women, gender-diverse people, and people with disabilities continue to experience human rights violations.

As union members, we benefit from a legacy of strong labour activism rooted in human rights, and we must continue to fight for equality and human rights for all. That’s why PSAC continues to fight for a universal, affordable and accessible child care system and  overwhelmingly supported the ban on conversion therapy. This victory would not have been possible without the tireless work of LGBTQ2+ activists and shows the power movements and people have pushing our governments to make sure nobody is left behind.

The pandemic and failures to uphold human rights

As we near the two-year anniversary of the pandemic, it’s increasingly clear that COVID-19 has exposed systemic inequities faced by marginalized people across Canada. Members of the LGBTQ2+ community and people living with disabilities were disproportionally affected by job losses and layoffs. In the first six months of 2021, 92 women and girls were killed in Canada  due to repeated lockdowns, isolation, and lack of access to shelters.

Anti-Black, Anti-Asian and Islamophobic hate, violence, and racism have always existed, but have worsened during the pandemic. Since June 2021, the remains of over 7000 Indigenous children have been found at residential schools across Canada. Indigenous people continue to be impacted by effects of colonization and race-based genocide. They deserve justice.

What we can do as union members

Union activists have long fought for our right to work in safe environments, for protections from harassment and discrimination, sick leave, maternity leave, and employment equity to name a few. Their legacy lives on in every union member taking up the fight for human rights. Let’s keep fighting for everyone’s rights in our workplaces and communities.

The Liberal government reaffirmed their commitment to human rights in their election platform and in the Throne Speech. We will continue to hold them accountable to their promises to reach an agreement with remaining provinces on universal child care, develop plans to end gender-based violence, combat hate and racism and improve employment opportunities for workers with disabilities, and prioritize reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace need to remain a top priority for our governments and our union. That’s why we’ll continue our work to improve Canada’s Employment Equity Act, support initiatives like the Black Class Action lawsuit against the federal government and push forward all our work to make our workplaces free of harassment and discrimination.  

Get involved


December 9, 2021