Human Rights, Culture and Everyday Lives

By Cassin, A. Marguerite | British Journal of Canadian Studies, September 2006 | Go to article overview

Human Rights, Culture and Everyday Lives


Cassin, A. Marguerite, British Journal of Canadian Studies


In a world made small by technology, science, politics and human migration, and in which differences among people are accentuated, human rights are an increasingly important part of creating harmony and practising democracy. It is not surprising then that human rights are receiving increased attention in politics, the economy and civil society internationally.

Canada is a 'cobbled-together country' composed of indigenous peoples and subsequent waves of immigrants. Most immigrants to Canada were marginalised by poverty and prejudice in their own lands. They came to Canada (often involuntarily) to seek a better life. One result of the composition of Canada is that we cannot assume our national identity; it must be made together. We can see in both our politics and our literature an ongoing interest in discovering and creating who we are as a nation and people.1

Another feature of the cobbled-together character of Canada is ongoing concern for social cohesion. We have important differences among us and those differences include those we are creating through culture, politics, education, economics and orientation to identity. Notwithstanding Canada's high ranking on the United Nations Human Development Index, we have challenging inequalities that are measured by health status, (dis)ability, distribution of income and wealth, education, group identity and citizenship and culture. We need to be equality-seeking not only because it is right, but because we need equality to live and work together cohesively as a people and country.2

In Canada, human rights have been and continue to be an important dimension of seeking and defining equality and aspirations for equality (Ignatieff 2000: 12). The point of human rights is to assure that all people are treated as individuals within society. Through human rights legislation, Canada at the federal level and the individual provinces protect rights in areas that include religious belief, political affiliation, race, gender, ability and origin. While it is important that we have legislation and policy that seek equality, in the end equality is an experienced reality that must exist 'on the street' and in our ordinary lives. It needs to be present in the ordinary dimensions of what we think of as culture. Equality must be part of the culture.

This article explores the links and tension between official mandates and everyday realities in identity and social cohesion through an exploration of the role of human rights as they contribute to the everyday lives of people in Nova Scotia. It considers how human rights, and in particular the work of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRC), contributes to community, workplace/economy and governance.3 It seeks to show that human rights are for all of us - they benefit everyone - and that the NSHRC is a cultural and democratic asset because of the contribution it makes to the community, workplace and governance and thus the quality of life in Nova Scotia.

Human Rights, Democracy and Participation

Human rights are based in the idea that all human beings are equal as people. All people have the right to participate as individuals in civil society, politics and the economy. In Canada, human rights law and Human Rights Commissions at both provincial and federal levels assure the protection of the rights of individuals against discrimination.4

In practical terms liberal democracies are generally defined by the rule of law, representative electoral institutions, governing institutions, defined separations and inclusion of citizens as individuals with entitlements. However established in law and institution, democracy in practice is a living set of relationships with shifting emphases, expectations and commitments. Politicians, public servants, business people and citizens can all see and contribute to changes in democracy as it is practised. Democracy in Canada is and has been expanding.5

Currently we can see politics and governance responding to heightened expectations of increased citizen participation beyond voting, expanded consultation with groups, communities, organisations and sectors, expectation of the inclusion of many voices in decisions, programmes and results and the movement for reform of the public sector expressed in new forms of transparency, accountability and integrity.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Human Rights, Culture and Everyday Lives
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.