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Marty Warren Statement for International Human Rights Day, December 10th, 2017

Each year on December 10, the United Steelworkers observe International 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 Steelworker values and activism. As the Director of District 6, I strongly support human rights internationally, and specifically, for the regions of Canada that District 6 covers. 

In Ontario, it is significant that new labour laws came into effect in November. Some of these laws have direct consequences for equality-seeking groups, specifically women, people with physical and mental disabilities and parents.

Victims of domestic or sexual violence, or parents who have experienced or are threatened with it, will get five days of paid leave and 17 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave. Employers will not be allowed to request a sick note from employees taking personal emergency leave. Parents whose children die will get unpaid leave of up to 104 weeks.

We know that most workers in home care and community services are women and racialized people. It is important that new legislation makes unionization easier for workers in these sectors.

In major urban areas, carding and racial profiling of equality-seeking groups continues to be a problem. It is notable that the Human Rights Commission in Ontario is launching an inquiry into police practices in Toronto. The inquiry will insist that data be used to determine the impact of police practices on Black and other racialized communities. The use of data is important as it moves police bias away from public stereotypes of racialized people. 

In the Maritime provinces, the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (the Working Group) visited Halifax in 2016. In the 1960s, the city of Halifax forcibly evicted Africville’s Black residents, demolished their houses and church, and relocated them to a housing project in the north end of Halifax. Few residents saw any compensation for the loss of their homes and livelihoods. The Working Group’s report recommended that Canada apologize for slavery, pay reparations and build a national department of African Canadian Affairs. 

To advance human rights in our District, I urge members to:

  • Join with like-minded labour and community allies to stop racial profiling by police.
  • Continue our organizing efforts in sectors of employment and workplaces with large numbers of equality-seeking workers.
  • Create and maintain Human Rights Committees in our locals and units.
  • Promote and attend Steelworkers education workshops in human rights and anti-harassment in the workplace.
  • Lobby federal, provincial and municipal politicians to implement the UN’s Working Group recommendations.

In solidarity,

Marty Warren
USW District 6 Director

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