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Dear Sisters and Brothers:

Born out of the atrocities and enormous loss of life during World War II, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948 to provide a common understanding of what everyone’s rights are.

December 10 is observed by the international community every year to commemorate International Human Rights Day. The declaration was one of the UN’s first major achievements, and remains a powerful instrument and symbol worldwide, whichprovides a basis for a world, built on freedom, justice and peace.

CUPE has a long history of defending human rights and fighting discrimination and remains diligent in monitoring and denouncing all forms of discrimination, especially in the face of rising social conservatism.

In the last few years, the mainstream media and the government have been relentless in their attacks against Canada’s values of equality and inclusiveness enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and human rights laws. The federal Conservative government, in particular, has been dismantling the very systems that promote human rights and equality.

The following are a few examples:

  • Court Challenges Program - funding discontinued, affecting women, persons with disabilities and other equality-seeking groups seeking legal recourse for systemic discrimination.
  • Canadian Human Rights Commission - office closures in cities with large number of registered complaints and where racialized communities numbers are high.
  • Status of Women - funding slashed, mandate eroded and women’s organizations closed.
  • Immigration and Refugee Act - changes punish migrant workers, refugees and newcomers.
  • Citizenship Handbooks - rewriting our history to mask the incarceration of Japanese Canadians and deportation of labour radicals.

Events focused on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are held worldwide on and around December 10. CUPE BC and CUPE Alberta are organizing human rights conferences later this year to educate and challenge members about human rights and the importance of upholding these in their own communities and regions.

The Canadian Labour Congress is hosting Rise UP for Your Rights, a human rights conference in December 2010 to challenge the current Conservative government’s changing laws, changing the rules and dismantling Canada’s democratic traditions.

We urge you to participate in these important events to help build a strong, diverse and inclusive labour movement as they provide opportunities to work together – politically and strategically. 

We encourage CUPE members and our communities everywhere to seize the opportunity of Human Rights Day 2010 to join hands to embrace diversity and end discrimination.

For further information on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other equality initiatives, please contact CUPE’s Equality Branch at www.cupe.ca/equality.

Have a wonderful International Human Rights Day Celebration!

In solidarity,

National President

National Secretary-Treasurer