Ken Neumann Statement for International Human Rights Day

Each year on December 10, the United Steelworkers observe Human Rights Day. The day commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations. The recognition of human rights is at the core of Steelworkers values and activism.

Without a doubt, 2020 will be remembered internationally as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. With regards to human rights in Canada, I must point out that the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on racialized populations. During this second wave, neighbourhoods with the highest numbers of racialized people are also those with the lowest income groups. These neighbourhoods account for 80 percent of cases. Many Steelworkers who live in these areas are also “front-line” workers in healthcare, eldercare and other essential services to the public. 

2020 will also be remembered for racism and anti-Black racism. In May, the murder of George Floyd in the U.S. ignited international protests against police violence against Black people. 

Canada is not excluded from crimes of race hatred. In our own country, some of the worst incidents deserve to be mentioned:

  • Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation who was brutally beaten by RCMP officers in Fort McMurray, Alta.
  • Chantal Moore, a 26-year-old woman from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation was shot as police carried out a wellness check in New Brunswick
  • Numerous verbal and physical attacks on Asian people across Canada during the pandemic
  • Joyce Echaquan, an Indigenous woman who, just before she died, filmed her mistreatment by nurses in a Quebec hospital
  • A Toronto mosque that was forced to temporarily close its doors over Thanksgiving due to death threats
  • The dispute in Nova Scotia between Mi'kmaw lobster harvesters and non-Indigenous fishers that has escalated into violence and arson 

As a union committed to human rights, I call on Steelworkers to:

  • Continue to lobby for equality legislation both in Canada and internationally
  • Negotiate strong equality language in our collective bargaining agreements
  • Extend our support for associations and social justice partners in the fight against hate crimes
  • Stay safe during the pandemic and observe scientific, evidence-based advice from health experts

In solidarity,

Ken Neumann
National Director

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