Human beings like us have been around for about 100,000 years. In the last 7,000 years, we have built a world with big cities, powerful governments, rapid trade, special traditions, and beautiful art. Depending on where we live, we eat different food, wear different clothes, live in different houses, speak different languages, worship different gods, and play different games. These many differences are what make human beings so amazing. But history has shown that these differences can also lead to conflict and war.
After World War II, people around the globe began to wonder — in a world of so much difference, how can we promote peace, life, freedom, and respect? This is how the United Nations was born. One of the first jobs of the United Nations was to decide on a list of rights that belong to every human being. A right is something that everyone deserves to have, just because they are human. The list of rights was called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:
- It doesn’t matter how rich or poor we are. It doesn’t matter what colour our skin is or what country we are from. It doesn’t matter what gender we are or what gender we are attracted to. It doesn’t matter if we have a disability. We all have equal rights. No one can legally treat us as less than human.
- We have the right to be safe from harm.
- We have the right to believe what we want and to express ourselves.
- We have the right to work.
- We have the right to vote and to disagree with the government.
- We have the right to get help from our government if we are out of work, sick, disabled, or old.
- We have the right to food, housing, and health care.
- We have the right to a free basic education.
Canada created many laws to make sure Canadians would have all the rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But did you know that our government has not always stood up for equal rights? In the history of Canada, people have often been treated as less than human. So how did we get to where we are today? In these pages, you will read the stories of Canadians who dared to stand up for our human rights.