SASKATOON: Unionized workers at the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission called on the Calvert government today to reverse cuts contained in the recent provincial budget that will see their workforce decline by 12.5%.
Saskatchewan was once a leader in human rights in North America, said Bill Rafoss, spokesperson for CUPE Local 1871, which represents the workers. The Saskatchewan Legislature passed the first Bill of Rights in North America in 1947. But the commission has been under-funded in recent years and these cuts will set us back further.
The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission receives its budget through the Department of Justice. This years provincial budget reduced funding to the commission from $1.22 million to $1.19 million. Once negotiated salary adjustments are taken into account, the budget reduction amounts to a $100,000 cut in funding. As a result, the commissions workforce has been reduced from 20.3 to 17.8 full-time equivalents.
The courts have described human rights as fundamental. These cuts will not sit well with the people who use our service Aboriginal people, marginalized women, visible minorities and disabled people, said Rafoss.
Last year, the commission received over 3,500 inquiries and conducted more than 250 investigations.
Rafoss said prevention and program services are also at risk. Public education that could prevent discrimination, and which is in high demand, could be curtailed by the cuts and the K-12 education equity program, which is unique in Canada and widely-praised for its success, may also be in jeopardy, he said. These programs promote diversity and inclusion in our society.
These cuts put an important government watchdog on a short leash, said Rafoss. The result will be longer waiting lists and greater backlogs. We are moving backward instead of forward.
CUPE is calling on Members of the Legislative Assembly to restore funding for the commission. Now is the time for MLAs to stand up and vote for human rights, said Rafoss, who added that the union is also mobilizing others in the labour movement and community to protest the cuts.
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For more information contact Bill Rafoss, CUPE Local 1871, at