Lesson 9 – March 10
Global and Domestic Human Rights
Part 1: What are human rights?
How would you define human rights? How should they be promoted and protected?
• Human rights generally mean those that are inherent to who we are as individuals, enjoy our
rights with distinctions. Human rights law protects individuals and groups from actions that
interfere with fundamental freedoms and human dignity. This takes place through treaties,
international laws, and other laws. National states have an obligation to act in such a way to
not violate these rights, but conversely, according to the United Nations, rights are not
established by law, they are inherent to who we are as people. Human rights are indivisible
and are universal helps us have a stable and prosperous society.
• UDHR: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed
with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
• Human rights reflect our choices and our actions and our decisions to act based on our sense
of responsibility towards all other people. Canada is defined as an ongoing struggle for
inclusion; we also have people fighting for a sense of agency.
Part 2: Interdependence and Canada’s Gradual Embrace of Human Rights
We revisit the concept of interdependence to try and explain how Canada could be slow to
implement human rights even though it was involved in the drafting of the UDHR, and how it
could also become one of the world's most forceful advocates of human rights.
• Human rights are an example of global issues and international social movements affecting
Canada. The Canadian government initially wanted nothing to do with the UDHR.
International activities led to a growing emphasis on human rights and this created pressure
on Canada to start getting involved (Charter of Rights and Freedoms).
• Interdependence and how do we use it to think about Canada’s embrace of human rights?
Part 3: The Case of Refugees
Canada’s treatment of refugees is a good reflection of the pushpull surrounding human rights
noted in the previous module.
• Refugee protection is all about human rights – a safe life, political and religious views,
respected, etc. States who subscribe to refugees are obligated to not send someone back to
their country if their life or freedom is going to be affected. Canada had finally signed the
Refugee Convention 18 years after the UN adopted it.
• Safe Third Country Agreement: a deal between Canada and the US that in which the two
countries partner on the management of refugee claimants at our shared land border.
According to this agreement, people making refugee claims must make a claim in the country
in which they first arrive.
• Queue jumping: the conservative government created Designated Countries of Origin – there
are some places where people are less likely to be prosecuted (make people refugees). People
abuse the system by leaving safe countries to come to Canada/US. We don’t have a shortage
of space for refugees, but most of our refugees come from poor countries, we spend a lot of
efforts and resources to keep people away from our borders. We have the issue that when you
speed up the process, it takes a while for people to get documentation. • Outline Canada’s evolving treatment of refugees. How does it relate to your vision of
Canadian values and the role of Canada as a global actor?
Part 4: Canadian Democracy
We look at the foundations of Canadian democracy to see how a rights culture might have been
absent in the early years of Canada, and consider the importance of democracy for thinking about
• Canadian democracy is short, incomplete and vulnerable. Canada hasn’t been democratic for
that long, our practices can be improved and it is possible that certain forces don’t respect
democratic rights. We have a very limited perspective of democracy and it is much more than
just electing leaders. We need to understand how it emerged and evolved, and how we
engage with it on a daily basis. We cannot assume our rights will be protected.
• Canadians have constantly from over the years for greater inclusion in the Canadian body
politic: women, ethnic and racial minorities, aboriginals, sexual minorities, and Canadians
with disabilities. Governments do respond to popular pressure, and the Charter of Rights and
Freedoms had advanced this. There is still an ongoing struggle for inclusion and people are
still fighting on a daily basis.
• Canadian democracy compares well to other countries, but the nature of our democracy is
limited to elections and formal politics. Very few of us are engaged in political and social