World Human Rights Day

Today is World Human Rights Day, and it marks the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN Declaration).  Sixty years ago, following the horrors of World War II, the nations of the world came together to declare a common set of principles and standards upon which lasting freedom, justice and peace could be achieved.

The UN Declaration is one of the most influential human rights documents of our times. Interestingly, one of the principal authors of the UN Declaration was a Canadian, John Peters Humphrey. The document outlines the inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms of all people, including those who are imprisoned.  In federal Corrections, this principle is entrenched in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which affirms that offenders retain the rights and privileges of all members of society, except those that are necessarily removed as a consequence of incarceration.

Last year, the UN Secretary-General launched a year-long campaign to celebrate this milestone. The theme of the campaign is "dignity and justice for all of us". To pay special tribute to this anniversary, Ms. Louise Arbour, then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, reached out to all national human rights institutions around the world to focus their attention on the situation of persons deprived of their liberty in prisons and other places of detention. 

The Office of the Correctional Investigator was established 35 years ago to provide oversight of federal Corrections and to promote human rights compliance. The Office's mandate continues to contribute to an open, transparent and accountable Correctional Service of Canada, and to public safety in general. Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration in both words and deeds afford us an excellent opportunity for all to reflect on our responsibilities in ensuring the protection and promotion of human rights within our correctional systems. 

Howard Sapers
Correctional Investigator