#WhyRights? Because It’s 2015

This week, to celebrate Human Rights Day 2015, we’re hearing from people across the country on #WhyRights matter to them. In today’s piece, James Armbruster, CWP’s Communications and Development Coordinator, explores what rights should mean to our federal government.

#WhyRights? Because It’s 2015.

By James Armbruster – Communications and Development Coordinator at CWP

The line “Because it’s 2015” which was famously stated by Prime Minister Trudeau is quickly becoming a catch phrase amongst progressive groups to show just how far we’ve come – and just much further we have to go. So when looking at the issue of human rights for those in poverty it begs the question, why in 2015 are will still debating the issue? Why do we continue to fail those who now, more than ever, need their rights protected?

All across the country we are seeing provincial and territorial leaders (save for BC) stepping up to the plate to take on the challenge of poverty. We’ve seen Ontario pledge to eliminate homelessness and we’ve seen Quebec take on the challenge of affordable child care to make it easier for parents, in particular single mothers, to support their families.

Most recently, Prime Minister Trudeau pledged to assist those “wishing to enter the middle class” when he directed the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos, to create a national poverty reduction strategy. This would be the first of its kind in Canada.

It truly was a breath of fresh air to see federal leadership on such a pressing issue. Just last summer CWP went to the UN Human Rights Committee to plead our case for Canada to take seriously its obligations in addressing poverty and to stop stifling those who wish to amplify the voices of those in poverty. To see poverty front and centre in a major government policy address is truly a 180 degree turn around from previous governments.

But something is still missing from these conversations – human rights.

James OutdoorHuman rights are key to any strategy to address poverty – they provide dignity and a sense of equality. In many respects, the purpose of human rights is to assist and protect the most vulnerable. To show that as a human being you are entitled to these basic services and abilities. We all deserve to be treated equally and given the same access to opportunities as everyone else.

At the moment, this isn’t happening for people living in poverty in Canada and that is a shame.

Last week a friend of mine was describing the encounter that he and another friend had with a homeless man. The man had asked my friend for some change and my friend replied, “Sorry I don’t have any but good luck and try and stay warm.” Afterwards his friend turned to mine and told him “you know you aren’t supposed to say that, you really shouldn’t be encouraging them.”

He said this to as if there were some manual for dealing with homeless people; that someone who struggles daily to find a roof over their head should not be acknowledged. Rights promote equality and dignity and at that moment, the person with my friend denied that to the homeless person. That’s wrong, especially in a country that prides itself so much our protection of rights through the Charter and international human rights laws.

So #WhyRights? Because it’s 2015.

What are we waiting for?


As we build up to Human Rights Day next Thursday, we want to know why human rights matter to you in the pursuit to end poverty. Is there a particular benefit of a human rights approach that you think is important? Accountability? Effectiveness? Empowerment?

Share your opinion by tweeting your reason with the hashtag #WhyRights!