Narrator: We come in all shapes and sizes, from different backgrounds, and beliefs. Whether you know exactly who you are or you’re just starting your journey. At your core, you’re a human being. You exist in the world, and simply by existing, you’re entitled to certain basic rights, your human rights. These are the same rights that every other human has. Your child, your neighbour, a refugee, a farmer. We all get these rights at birth, without exception. Because human rights don’t have to be earned, they’re yours, regardless of who you are, or what you’ve done.
They exist at three basic levels: International, Constitutional and statutory. You may have heard of the right to education, the right to food, the right to housing. They apply to every single person around the world and they’re enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
You also have rights that are specific to Canada. These are protected by our Constitution, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They include the right to vote, the right to equality and freedom of expression. These rights all dictate how governments should treat people.
But there’s a third level. Statutory. The laws that dictate how people should treat each other in certain situations. Unless there’s a justifiable reason, these laws protect you from discrimination by other people, or organizations. For example, if you’re looking for a washroom, there should be one you feel safe using. If you’re trying to get medical help, you should be able to make it inside of the doctor’s office. If you’re interviewing for a job, you shouldn’t be rejected because you’re pregnant. And if you’re looking to rent a home, you shouldn’t be turned down because of your race.
If you live anywhere on the lands now known as British Columbia, your rights are protected by the B.C. Human Rights Code. This code is a shield. It’s a tool to seek help, and justice. It protects you in the areas of employment, housing, and services, like stores, and restaurants. This means people like your landlord, your boss, or your server, can’t discriminate against you based on certain characteristics, or grounds. Things like gender expression, ability, family status, age, religion, the list goes on.
The Code is here to support you, because you have rights. We all do. And we also have responsibilities. To respect the rights of others. To recognise discrimination. To speak out against injustice. And together, to preserve dignity, respect, and the beauty of the human experience.
Are you looking for human rights teaching resources for your students or children? Check out our Intro to human rights learner kit with activities and resources for educators and learners.
3 levels of human rights laws
There are three levels of human rights laws.
International human rights
These human rights include the right to food, education, and a place to live. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an example of international human rights law. If you live in a country like Canada that has committed to this law, you have these rights.
Constitutional human rights
These human rights are specific to Canada. They protect rights like your right to vote, to equality and to freedom of expression. Constitutional rights are part of Canadian law and most of our rights are written in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Statutory human rights
These human rights help protect you from harmful treatment by other people or by organizations. All provinces and territories in Canada have statutory human rights laws. In B.C. that law is called the Human Rights Code.