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Voices of Winnipeg: The Biggest Human Rights Issues of 2019

Indigenous Rights Many people responded to my question with a persistent Canadian human rights issue: Indigenous rights. Winnipeggers demonstrated their commitment to taking action on Indigenous rights earlier this year when hundreds of people rallied together at Portage and Main to support the Wet’suwet’en – check out our blog post about it here!  Kirra Strickland, who attended the rally, said that Indigenous land rights are the most pressing human rights issue of 2019: “Indigenous people still fear for their lives, that’s something people shouldn’t fear in 2019. The ongoing discrimination and exclusion of Indigenous people from Canadian conversations about human rights will be something the people of Winnipeg will be tackling this year.” “The big debate on UNDRIP {the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples}, the repercussions, the discussion, and the arguments will frame the future of Indigenous rights of 2019.”  (Christopher Sundby) Monica, a North End mathematics teacher says that she has a firsthand understanding of the oppression of Indigenous people from the children she teaches. “By continuing the conversation, and including Indigenous people- then we will start implementing real change for their rights!” “Indigenous rights, as well as the rights of migrants and refugees. They are both giant issues, as well as continuing issues that need to be addressed more this year. ” (Eman Allieu) Mia Perrier says, “The systematic discrimination that is continuing against Indigenous peoples is the biggest human rights violation in Canada to date. It is continuing the colonialism and displacement of them!” “I personally see the gravest issue has been against Indigenous people in Canada, as their land is constantly under attack. Most of which is not ceded and their (Indigenous) point of view is ignored from most policies and voting strategies.” (Alex Bakkum) Nicholas Warsza says, “Indigenous issues is the biggest human rights issue in 2019, but is a problem Canada has been facing for decades. They have additional barriers that non-Indigenous people don’t face.” “The biggest human rights concern is the abuses against Indigenous people and colonialism in general, vestigial and current.” (Keegan Wagner) “Indigenous issues, the population of Indigenous people are growing and issues of intergenerational trauma and structural racism will have to be dealt with in the coming years for our society to go positively." (Thrishank Chintamaneni)

Women’s March On January 19th, Winnipeggers braved extremely cold temperatures to gather and show their solidarity with women’s rights. We also asked a few attendees what they thought were the biggest human rights issues of 2019. Julia Howard-Craft thought that one issue Canadians should be keeping in mind is women’s rights. “We’ve come so far but also not far enough. I mean it’s 2019 and we’re still being taxed for tampons. That’s just a Canadian lens on it, but looking globally, women’s rights are being denied every day.” “The rights of women of colour I think will take up a lot of dialogue in advocacy this year- as it should be. When women as a collective come together it is magical, and I believe this coming year we will see the progression of diverse women speak up and speak out!” (Marla Gregory) Micaela Crighton says that the top human rights issue for 2019 will be addressing: “The systems of white supremacy upheld in our society that allow continued oppression, occupation and genocide. Everything intersects with the white supremacist and colonial systems of oppression; climate, women’s rights, 2SLGBTQ+ and Indigenous rights are all impacted by these systems!”

Racialized Issues “Racism and the marginalization of people of colour. I believe racism umbrellas a wide range of human rights violations, this could be the marginalization of people of colour in the LGBTQ* community or to Indigenous issues.” (Haneen Al-Joqobi) “Structural violence and minority groups exposed to pollutants will be a major human rights violation for this upcoming year. The less fortunate neighbourhoods do not have representation, this is showcased with lack of their voices in government, as well as nobody is lobbying for them. So they are over-represented in many issues such as health issues because of pollution or lack of basic facilities for them to exercise/get proper nutrition et cetera.” (Jomer Ruiz)

Migrant/Refugee Issues Yuni Li, who immigrated to Canada seven years ago spoke about the discrimination of newcomers in many of Canada’s policies and laws. “There are so many additional roadblocks for us/them. Many of us fear of getting deported, our visas being revoked and other punishments for things that born-Canadians just get a slap on the wrist for.”  “Immigrant and refugee rights will be a major human rights focus this year. Refugees and forced migrants have the right to seek asylum, so by rejecting refugees we are denying them their fundamental human rights.” (Jenny Jang) “The refugee crisis, it is still very recent and I know policymakers and the government specifically have been trying to address the issue but it has not been a priority, especially in light of finance and economic issues. That said, there are lots of organizations that do advocate for... the change which is needed to welcome newcomers into Canadian society.” (Gina Loewen)

The Environment “Everything that is environmental issues - I do believe this will be the best year to date in action for the environment {by Canadians}. Just look at how many children are here today, that’s just a pure example of what I believe will come!” Leslie Kenningston, a foster parent who attended the January 11th students strike to demand action on climate change. “The conversation surrounding climate change I believe will be a huge topic of discussion for this year. Canadians are seeing our impact with this insane weather we have been having recently. This year I predict we {Canadians} will realize our impact on the earth and not using straws is not going to cut it, we will need to make real change with real action.” (Imad Faez)

PovertyWinnipeggers also spoke about migrant/refugee rights and poverty. Two Winnipeggers who wished to not be named or photographed described that the discrimination against the impoverished will be the most pressing human rights issue locally. “When you look at the schools the children are attending; it’s just a glimpse at how the North Enders are being treated. I think the hate on the poor isn’t just a Winnipeg problem but it’s heavily occurring here {Winnipeg}.” “Poverty and the results of poverty will be one of the biggest human right issues. Lack of shelter is an issue primarily in effect of it {poverty}. With the past two weeks, it has been deathly out there and there isn’t enough proper support for people to protect themselves from this cold weather.” (Miranda Lohvinenko) “The first thing that came to my mind was homelessness; so many services are being cut right now. I think a place like Canada, there shouldn't be anybody on the streets, especially in the winter months. We have the resources/space why are there people on the street? As well, the visible majority are Indigenous, which should not be happening as they are the landholders of Canada. Providing decent homes for everybody is a fundamental right and no one should be on the street.” (Liz Ardila)

Want to get involved?2018 was a busy year for human rights in Winnipeg – our events calendar listed over 1,000 human rights-related events taking place around our city! While there is no shortage of issues to take action on, it is encouraging to hear Winnipeggers speak about using their voices, challenging injustices and fighting for the rights of everyone. Check out our events calendar to learn more about upcoming human rights events and our opportunities portal to discover volunteer and employment positions!    

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