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Human Rights on the Hill
Human Rights on the Hill
July 7, 2017

The Senate is a stronghold for human rights.

From studying Canada’s human rights obligations and record to taking a stand on Indigenous women’s rights, persons with disabilities’ rights and bullying, the Senate Committee on Human Rights has been a megaphone within Parliament, constantly calling on the government to uphold Canada’s values and commitments while charting a course to a better tomorrow.

On June 9, 2017, two of the Senate’s human rights experts, Senators Marilou McPhedran and Grant Mitchell, took part in a panel of parliamentarians on the past, and next, 150 years of human rights in Canada. The event was part of Realizing Rights 2017, a three-day conference organized by the University of Ottawa’s Human Rights Research and Education Centre.

“Human rights are creatures of the law, created by countries, provinces and territories. So, if we’re looking at human rights, we need to turn to those who make the law,” said Senator McPhedran.

“That’s why we brought together a panel of parliamentarians to discuss their work in human rights, and to cast forward, in our 150th year, what our future Canada will look like. How do we want human rights to be articulated in our laws and experienced by our people?”

Some of the topics discussed included gender rights and indigenous rights. A letter from Senator Kim Pate was also read on prisoners’ rights and the concept of “decarceration.”

Senator Mitchell mentioned some of the great strides made since beginning his public service in 1986, including the passage of the Civil Marriage Act, which legalized same-sex marriage in Canada.

“To see what was right win gave great energy to my work. It was a quintessential Canadian moment,” said Senator Mitchell.

Respect for human rights is never guaranteed — it relies on visionaries and vigilant citizens alike to help light the way. In this struggle, Canadians can count on the Senate.

Senator Marilou McPhedran discusses human rights at a panel on June 9, 2017, Parliament Hill, Ottawa.

Left to right: His Excellency Henk van der Zwan, ambassador of the Netherlands and panel moderator, and Senator Grant Mitchell during a discussion on the senator’s work on the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and the links between climate change and human rights.

Senators Mitchell and McPhedran answer questions and speak with members of the audience after the panel.