Ken Neumann Statement for International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2017

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.

This year, along with recognizing the routine good work of our local equality activists, I would like to highlight three areas of national and international interest. These are the effectiveness of international solidarity, the income gap for racialized and Indigenous workers and hate crimes against equality seeking groups.

The Steelworkers is an international union. It is notable that recently the successful settlement of our nine-month strike at Glencore demonstrated the power of international solidarity. On December 10 this year, our global partners, including IndustriALL, will take global action on International Human Rights Day to highlight Glencore’s violations of workers’ rights around the world. This action relates to Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, maintaining the right to join a union and to take part in union activities.

As a union promoting the wages of our members and economic fairness in Canada, it is important to note that the 2016 census from Statistics Canada shows significant income inequality for three equality-seeking groups – Indigenous people, racialized Canadians and immigrants.

For Indigenous people, the income gap is 25% when compared to the rest of Canadians. Further broken down, there is a 45% income gap between Indigenous women and non-Indigenous men.

There is also significant disparity between racialized and non-racialized Canadians. The income gap for racialized Canadians is 26% compared to the non-racialized population. Holding true to the trend of gender disparity, there is a 47% gap between racialized women and non-racialized men. For recent immigrants, the income gap was 63% when compared to non-immigrants. And for women who are recent immigrants, there is a 59% difference to non-immigrant men. 

Based on the 2016 census from Statistics Canada, we see that hate crimes against equality-seeking groups continue to rise in this country. It is important to note that one-fifth of Canadians in 2016 were foreign born, with diverse religious practices.

2017 began with a violent mass shooting at the Grande Mosquée de Québec. This violence left six men dead. Actions such as these are recognized in the Criminal Code of Canada as crimes recognized to be hate propaganda or hate crimes. These types of crimes include advocating genocide, public incitement of hatred, willful promotion of hatred and mischief motivated by hate in relation to religious property.

Yet hate crime extends beyond Islamophobia. According to Statistics Canada, police-reported hate crime in 2016 showed increases against South Asians, Middle Eastern people and the LGBT2S population. Notably, the 2016 census shows that more hate crimes were violent. Seventy-one per cent of hate crimes motivated by the victims' sexual orientation were violent crimes, and 27% of hate crimes targeting religion and 45% targeting ethnicity were violent.

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

  • Continue to lobby for equality legislation both in Canada and internationally.
  • Continue our strong presence in the labour movement in Canada and internationally.
  • Negotiate strong equality language in our collective bargaining agreements, particularly with global companies.
  • Support global solidarity through negotiated contributions to the Steelworkers Humanity Fund.
  • Close the income gap for workers from equality-seeking groups in our workplaces.
  • Extend our support for associations and social justice partners in the fight against hate crimes.

In solidarity,

Ken Neumann
National Director

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