The Declaration of Human Right and Freedoms was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948 and enshrined the rights and freedoms of all human beings. It was to be the gold standard of social justice that countries of the world would acknowledge, sign and function accordingingly. Subsequent human and civil rights law have codified many of these basic rights. We have had 73 years for full implementation. And yet, #MeToo #BlackLivesMatter #IndigenousLivesMatter echo the cries of people waiting for even basic rights to be extended to them in their wealthy countries with developed economies and ability to make it happen.
The premise behind Amnesty International is to “shine a light on human rights” and reveal the facts of imprisonment, abuse, miscarriage of justice, and extrajudicial killings to a wider audience. Yet, the issue is no longer one of awareness. We know many of the stories of travesty. During the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, hearts were broken listening to traumatic stories of residential school survivors and family breakdown of our Indigenous people in Canada. It brought a part of Canadian history, omitted in textbooks, to the forefront of our collective consciousness as a country. Anyone involved in the process had the opportunity for a greater level of empathy and understanding of the complexity and importance of the path to reconciliation with our Indigenous people. And yet, we still have Indigenous communities that do not have access to clean water and many promises going out of the Truth and Reconciliation process have been unmet.
Amnesty International research is known for using triangulation to document facts. Information is checked with three reliable sources before it is published. Often truth is buried in a myriad of fake news sensationalism to feed social media chatter or to sell news. We need to educate ourselves so we are reading and relying on reputable sources for our information. We need to expect governments to believe in the currency of truth. Politicians who garner votes by fueling people’s fears to intensify biases and racism in society need to clearly understand will not be tolerated. Systemic racism in trials or daily life will not be ignored. Secrecy and a skewing of facts will be unearthed and discredit unscrupulous leaders. We need to remain vigilant and take action until basic rights and freedoms are part of the lived experience of all people and we don’t even have to ask – Do you feel valued? It will be a given.