Chief Commissioner’s message
As we look to the start of a new decade, and a new session of Parliament, I believe there is an opportunity for Canada to renew its commitment to the principles of equality, dignity and respect.
As Canadians, we can be proud of how we have woven these values into the rich fabric of our society. Study after study confirms that, for the vast majority of Canadians, human rights are a large part of our national identity. We are caring and compassionate people who step forward to help others in times of need and show support in times of tragedy. It is who we are.
These values continue to influence the creation of strong and progressive human right laws. The new Pay Equity Act, the National Housing Strategy Act, and the Accessible Canada Act are all examples of how Canada continues to lead the way in creating an inclusive and just society.
We are optimistic that these new laws will address inequality in Canada and bring about positive change for people across the country. We are honoured and excited that Parliament has made the Commission a central player in all three of these new regimes.
However, celebrating our accomplishments and our diversity can make it easy for some to overlook the inequality experienced by many who call this country home.
Indifference threatens to unravel our accomplishments, compromise our values and stall our progress.
It is easy for some to take their rights for granted or to look the other way in the face of injustice because they do not think it affects them. This could not be further from the truth.
When people are denied the opportunity to participate and contribute to society, it touches us all. It limits the peace and prosperity within our communities and it shapes the world we will leave to our children. If one group of people’s rights are at risk, everyone’s rights are at risk.
We must acknowledge that hatred, intolerance and aggression targeting vulnerable members of our communities is on the rise. Women, children, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, racialized individuals, religious groups, and individuals with diverse sexual orientations or gender identities all continue to experience discrimination in Canada every day.
History has shown us that meaningful change happens when we stand together with a common purpose and common vision. I believe that, as Canadians, we must and can do more to advance equality so that every single person in this country is safe, valued, and included.
We must work towards meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and address the lasting legacy of colonialism. We must address the systemic discrimination and violence against Indigenous women and girls, including those who are members of the 2SLGBTQI+ community. We can put an end to the inequitable funding to Indigenous communities and ensure equal access to safe drinking water, adequate housing, education, healthcare, and child and family services.
We must acknowledge that racism — whether overt or unconscious — remains a pervasive and deeply rooted influence within our society. We can take meaningful action to ensure that no one is made to feel like a second-class citizen because of the colour of their skin, what they believe or where they are from.
History has shown us that meaningful change happens when we stand together with a common purpose and common vision.
We must ensure that people with disabilities are able to move through life without barriers — inclusive design and accessible infrastructure and services are the future and will benefit us all.
We must stand together and oppose any law that violates the human rights of minorities. Together, we can denounce Islamophobia and Antisemitism as well as all forms of xenophobia aimed at demonizing immigrants and refugees.
We must address the systemic barriers facing trans, non-binary, and gender- diverse people in employment, housing, healthcare, immigration, safety and security, and access to identity documents. We can do more to promote acceptance and counter the discrimination, exclusion, hostility and violence that is still a part of their daily lives.
We must shut down online hate and hold accountable those who spread it. We can bring together all levels of governments, telecommunication and internet providers, social media platforms, and civil society as an important first step.
Looking back at 2019, we can be encouraged by the efforts that were taken to advance human rights in Canada. We can be proud of how Canada continues to strive to live up to our reputation as a country that stands for diversity, freedom and inclusion. We can hear it in our discourse, and we can now see it more and more in our laws.
It is now time for concrete action. It is now time to push even harder for a society where everyone feels included, safe and valued. It is time to renew our commitment to equality, dignity and respect for everyone in Canada.
In short, it is time to stand together.
Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E.
Canadian Human Rights Commission