By Céline Ahodékon
Every human being is entitled to the same fundamental human rights: the right to live free from torture, the right to live free from slavery, the right to own property, the right to equality and dignity, and to live free from all forms of discrimination etc. just to name few among others.
Now, if all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, why are we still fighting against discrimination, racism, inequal pay and gender inequality? Why are we still fighting against social and economic inequalities deeply rooted in some communities in this country?
Well! Should we say Equality or Inequality Day instead? Well, let’s see, shall we?
We celebrate Equality Day every April 17 to mark the coming into force of the equality provisions in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter was signed on April 17, 1982. However, Section 15 of the Charter on Equality Rights and Freedoms for all without discrimination, was implemented on April 17, 1985, three years later. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom is here to protect all Canadian’s fundamental rights. -Well, easy said than done, isn’t?
The reality is, many decades later after this great breakthrough, we are still talking in this country about gender inequality: Canadian women still face major income inequality – gender pay gap between women and men. For example, in 2017, on average, women earned between 64 cents and 79 cents for every $1 that men earned. The pay gap is even wider for racialized women, immigrant and migrant workers, indigenous women, women with disabilities and LGBTQ2+ people.
Research also shows that there is a growing gap between the rich and the poor in Canada. Nonetheless, 35 years later, we are still fighting to address gender-based violence towards girls and women, fighting for equal opportunity in our workplaces and fighting against all forms of discrimination and racist behaviors! In addition, and surprisingly some communities are still fighting to have their basic needs met such as clean water, medical accessibility etc.
Yes, the implementation of the section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the rights for equality was a touchstone in Canadian history. It is one of our country’s greatest accomplishments and widely admired around the globe! As Canadian, this is one of the things I proudly brag about. However, have we reached the rights to equality and dignity goals? No! It is work in progress! Let’s admit it, there is still much work that needs to be done at home before reaching full equality rights in all areas in our society, workplaces and community at large.
Friends, Brothers and Sisters and Fellow activists, April 17, is Equality Day in Canada. Let’s celebrate! However, every day should be Equality Day because every day we need to fight against the systemic inequality we experience or witness. In doing so, we reaffirm our commitment to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We don’t need a special day to promote or to defend our rights for equality. Let’s reflect today on the right to equality, its role in our society, and what we can do to promote and protect those rights.
In conclusion, calling April 17th, Equality or Inequality Day in Canada, is up to you and me.
Céline Ahodékon, on behalf of PSAC BC Mainland Human Rights Committee