Human Rights Day: Speak Out Against Discrimination

SEIU-West joins the worldwide community in recognizing December 10 as Human Rights Day. We have so much work to do to ensure our basic human rights are met – for example, did you know poverty is a human rights violation? The United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was signed by Canada in 1976 – this Covenant verified that every person has the right to an adequate standard of living – we should have achieved the elimination of poverty by now – and yet food bank use continues to rise and inequality is vast in this country, causing mass frustration.

Due to the growing frustration with our economy, we know how it can be tempting to place blame on others. Yet the decision-makers and influencers who benefit from exploitation want us to pit ourselves against each other – because when we recognize and understand that it is the majority of us who are experiencing poverty and inequality, decision-makers and influencers know they are outnumbered. That’s why we must confront discrimination and stop it in its tracks before the situation is manipulated – if you hear someone say ‘immigrants are taking our jobs’, that’s discrimination, and it must be confronted. These type of phrases inflame the conditions of racism – left untreated, the future is bleak for us all. We cannot allow racist and discriminatory feelings and sentiments to be deemed acceptable.

The only way we can expect justice for workers is to ensure all people achieve justice. Human Rights Day refers to the fact that we are all human, and we must look out for one another. That is why SEIU-West has put together a list of tips for confronting discrimination because in this trying times, we must build solidarity and push away any hate that crosses our paths.

Tips to Confront Discrimination:

  • Bystander Action – if you’re witnessing/overhearing someone acting/speaking in a discriminatory way towards someone else: do not engage the perpetrator – they are usually looking for confrontation. Instead, provide comfort to the person being abused. Say hello, introduce yourself – and just stand with them, and keep talking. It could be about the weather, sports, the neighbourhood. When you form a group, the perpetrator has a harder time getting their discriminatory message out and will start to lose interest due to the lack of attention.
  • If someone you know is acting/speaking in a discriminatory way: react calmly, and communicate your discomfort/disapproval. Make it about the words of behavior, not the person. Instead of saying “you are offensive” say, “that phrase is pretty offensive to Indigenous people.”  Question their words/action: “Why do you say/do that?” If they say it’s a joke, ask them, “Why is that funny?” Ask them to not say/do that around you. Know that you are not overreacting.

While the global recognition of Human Rights Day is just one day a year, the need to stand up for our rights must occur every single day. We as unions should recognize and live by the famous labour phrase, “an injury to one is an injury to all.”



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