Presentation on theme: "HUMAN RIGHTS – Historical Context. Much of Canada’s Human Rights legislation developed during the 20th century. The British North America (BNA) Act did."— Presentation transcript:
Much of Canada’s Human Rights legislation developed during the 20th century. The British North America (BNA) Act did not address the issue at all. It focused instead on the division of powers between the federal government and the provinces and territories. In the early part of this century, Canadian women were not legally defined as “persons” under the BNA Act and therefore could not sit in the Senate.
In 1929, after years of court battles by Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung and others, the British Privy Council decided that women were in fact persons under the Act and, in 1930, Cairine Wilson became Canada’s first woman senator.
One of Canada’s most famous human rights cases, Christie v. York (1940), clearly emphasized the lack of human rights laws in this country. Explanation below: Mr. Christie and several friends had gone to the Montreal Forum to view a hockey game. In the bar at intermission, Mr. Christie was refused service because he was a man of colour. He went to court over the issue and the judge awarded him $200 for loss of dignity and worth. However, the business community appealed the ruling on the basis that under current legislation they were allowed the freedom to serve anyone they chose. The higher court agreed and overturned the original judgement, making it clear that there was no law to protect Mr. Christie’s rights.
Following World War II and as a direct result of the human rights atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis, the United Nations was formed to protect human rights and stabilize international relations between countries. Its Charter made specific reference to protection of human rights. This was later expanded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed by U.N. member states on December 10, 1948.
The Declaration is a common standard of conduct for all people and nations to ensure certain fundamental human rights.
In summary, it recognizes that: “the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” “human rights should be protected by the rule of law,” “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
The UN Declaration has influenced the development of human rights in Canada. It is referred to in several of the federal and provincial human rights acts that were passed At the federal level, the government passed the principle of equality in the Bill of Rights in 1964. This was followed by the enactment of the Canadian Human Rights Act in 1976, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.