The World Day of Social Justice – first observed in 2009 and every year since on February 20 – traces its roots back to the United Nations World Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1995. At the summit, Canada and 117 other nations made a social justice pledge to reduce poverty; to create jobs and full employment; and to respect equity, justice, human rights, and a safe and healthy community as fundamental to public policy.
So each year on February 20, the World Day of Social Justice is an opportunity to remind the people who govern us about their commitment to social justice in Canada.
Social justice means a Canada that works well for all who live and work here. That includes equal access for all to healthcare, education, affordable housing, and safe and decent work. It means ‘a society for all’ where everyone can fully exercise their rights, and have the opportunity to contribute on an equal basis with others.
Social justice means a civil society where the voice of families and everyday workers in Canada should have priority over the interests of corporations. It includes respecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that guarantees the right to “work under just and favourable conditions” and the right to form and join unions.
These are just some the commitments that the leaders of Canada signed on to in 1995, but as we mark the World Day of Social Justice, the reality is action talks louder than words. The Harper government sees corporate profits as more important than labour rights, job creation and pension protection. Its immigration policy divides families instead of supporting their reunification. Its treatment of migrant workers like disposable commodities is a slap at the human rights of hundreds of thousands of men and women whose contribution is vital to the community.
On February 20, the World Day of Social Justice, we must hold government accountable. As a union we must also redouble our efforts to promote and pursue social justice, so that all who live and work in this land are treated with respect and have fair access to the greatness that a just and equitable Canada could certainly provide.
Vol. XI No. 07 • February 14, 2011