The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) contains 30 articles on human rights that encompass a wide range of basic rights. These include the right to form and join trade unions, the right to be free of discrimination based on sex, race and other protected grounds, as well as the right to health, education and equality, among other fundamental rights. These rights are key to binding us together as workers and as a global community.

The Declaration remains as relevant today as it was seven decades ago. The pandemic has uncovered deep-seated inequalities in Canada and across the globe, leading to calls for human rights-centred response and recovery measures.

COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on people who are marginalized by forms of oppression like sexism, racism, colonialism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia. Women, Black, Indigenous and racialized people, persons with disabilities and LGBTQ2+ people are more likely to be struggling in the face of the global pandemic.

A recent report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives makes this clear. During the pandemic, Indigenous and racialized households in Canada found it most difficult to meet basic financial commitments. Racialized workers were over-represented in industries that accounted for 80 per cent of job loss during the pandemic. Moreover, Indigenous women had the highest share of employment in occupations facing a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 at work. 

Alongside the pandemic, state violence against Black and Indigenous people continues and the numbers of far-right hate groups have increased.

For these reasons and more, the United Nations 2021 theme for this day is “Equality - Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights”, relating to Article 1 of the UDHR, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. Human Rights must be centred during recovery efforts in a post-COVID-19 world on the basis of equality and non-discrimination so that all workers can move forward together.

CUPE’s long-standing commitment to human rights recognizes that human rights struggles are deeply interconnected with workers’ rights struggles, and that we share common goals with community movements for gender, racial and social justice. Working in coalition and mobilizing in our communities is the most effective way to achieve change and the realization of equity and respect for human rights.

Actions you can take include: