Friday, March 07, 2014

[progress of human rights in canada]

It's easy to see the shortcomings of others, and to ignore one's own failings.

This is noticeable, for example, in the American focus on commemorating the Nazi holocaust while ignoring its own holocaust.

This is noticeable in my life as I thought that Canada - my country - has been doing okay while our neighbour to the south has been pretty messed up. And then on the weekend, I came across the Canadian Human Rights Commission website and read through our own history.... which is pretty horrible.

For a sobering starting point, read this summary of what things were like in Canada in the early 1900's.

rainbow canadian flag, from, no source credit provided.

While the CHRC site also covers the negative aspects in our history, the highlights which I summarize here show how many of the human rights we take for granted in Canada have become a reality only semi-recently.

1918: Women received the right to voted federally (Caucasian women only)
1922: Married Women's Property Act (married women are allowed to own property)
1929: Women are legally considered persons.

1949: Universal Declaration of Human Rights is signed.
Early 1950's: Most provinces bring in "equal pay for equal work".
Mid 1950's: Most provinces bring in "Fair Accommodation Acts" which ban discrimination in the provision of services and accommodations in restaurants, hotels, and other facilities open to the public. Yes, that means that prior to this point, a restaurant or other business could, for example, refuse to serve black people, "just because".

Early 1960's:  Most provinces bring Human Rights Codes.
Early 1960's: Most provinces bring in laws against age discrimination.
Late 60's to 70's: Most provinces create Human Rights Acts.

1970: Ontario creates the Blind Persons Rights Act
1972: Sexual Sterilization Act (which allowed for the forced sterilization of mental patients) is repealed. Ironically, the Alberta version of this act had been supported by leading women's rights activists including Emily Murphy and Nellie McClung.
1977: Canadian Human Rights Act enacted.

1982: Charter of Rights and Freedoms is signed.
1990: Supreme Court rules that British Columbia has the obligation to provide sign language interpretation services where necessary.
1994: Canada-wide: it's against the law to discriminate against someone based on HIV.

1996: The Canadian Human Rights Act is amended to include sexual orientation.
2005: The Civil Marriage Act was passed by the Federal Government. It defined marriage in a gender-neutral way and thus same-sex marriage become legal across the country (several provinces allowed for it previously).

Explore in more detail at the very informative Canadian Human Rights Commission website.

(rainbow canadian flag found at no photo credit given)

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