What are the top two human rights issues that Justin Trudeau needs to address?

Pick the two top fundamental human rights issues the new Trudeau government should address? Yikes!

Actually, a domestic choice is easy. There is no greater stain on the history of Canada than the way indigenous people have been treated over the centuries. There is no greater current challenge for our wealthy, highly-developed country than the maddeningly complex factors that lock people in situations where they are overly susceptible to violence, disease, limited education, and suicidal despair.

The new federal government needs to demonstrate a serious and sustained commitment to work with indigenous peoples to address the issues. It’s not about government solving problems for “them”. It is about removing political and legal barriers to people actualizing their rights. It is about carefully building enough trust and respect between the government and indigenous people to change the underlying relationships. Mr. Trudeau campaigned on the basis of strengthening nation-to-nation relations. Will he follow through?

On a global scale, the most monumental challenge is our warming environment. The next round of international talks will be happening soon in Paris, and Canada needs to be ready. But I am going to pick a different matter, Canada’s policy with respect to refugees and the current crises of displacement in the Middle East and North Africa. Tackling climate change requires sustained collaboration with business, other governments in Canada and internationally, and a host of citizens.

But changing the way we process refugee claims, and putting people in the field to do what needs to be done to process files is wholly within the control of the PM and his cabinet. Bury forever the notion of picking and choosing refugee claimants on the basis of their religion. Increase the number of government sponsorships, and provide enough staff to process private sponsorship files expeditiously.

Winter is coming. The Canadian public is ready to respond with compassion and generosity. Taking more refugees into Canada won’t solve the cause of the dislocations, but a refugee policy reset is immediately do-able, and paves the way for longer-term strategies to work at root causes, and reconfiguring Canada’s place in the world.

Dean Peachey


Check out the other blogs in this series:
Two for Trudeau: MARL
Two for Trudeau: IIWR
Two for Trudeau: Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter