Human Rights Activism
Documents relating to Canadian human rights and civil liberties groups that were active from the 1930s to the 1980s.
Civil liberties and human rights organizations are dedicated to realizing the aspirations of the modern human rights movement. Unlike groups representing specific constituencies (e.g., women or minorities), “rights associations” are self-identified ‘civil liberties’ or ‘human rights’ groups (e.g., Alberta Human Rights Association or the Nova Scotia Civil Liberties Association). Rights associations seek to defend the rights of all citizens. Each one is fervently non-partisan; the preservation of human rights, and not political power, is their goal. Only a handful of rights associations had been active in Canada before 1960. However, by the 1970s, more than forty rights associations had emerged, at least one in each province. The following documents are related to the activities of rights associations since the 1930s.
- Canada’s Need for a Written Bill of Rights, by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, n.d.. Jehovah’s Witnesses (Watchtower Society) were possibly the most persecuted minority in Canadian history. In Quebec, they were vilified by Premier Maurice Duplessis (1930s-50s). The following Watchtower Society booklet makes a case for the need to create a Canadian needs a bill of rights.
- Speech by John Humphrey to the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, 1949. John Humphrey was a key figure in the international human rights movement. He drafted the original version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and was active in various human rights organizations. In this speech, he discusses his views on the international human rights movement and the universal declaration.
- Survey on Attitudes Towards Denominational Education in Newfoundland by W Graesser Memorial University 1986.
- ‘Une Charte des droits de l’homme pour le Québec’ by Jacques-Yvan Morin 1963 (appears in Volume 9, Number 4 of the McGill Law Journal).
- 1940, Civil Liberties Association of Toronto, newspaper ad, decrying the government’s decision to seize the property of Ukrainian organizations.
- 9 May 1946, letter to Liberal senator Arthur Roebuck, inviting him to address the founding meeting of the Ottawa Civil Liberties Association.
- 15 May 1946, speech by Arthur Roebuck to the founding meeting of the Ottawa Civil Liberties Association.
- January 1947, speech by Liberal senator Arthur Roebuck to a civil liberties rally in Toronto (includes speakers’ guide).
- February 1947, letter from the Civil Rights Union to Justice Minister J.L. Ilsley, calling for the creation of a federal bill of rights. The correspondence includes his response.
- 1950, Association for Civil Liberties brief to the federal Special Committee on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
- 1950, Arthur Roebuck’s handwritten notes on a proposed bill of rights being debated by the Special Committee on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Roebuck chaired the committee).
See also the collection of CCLA Position Papers
- Complete list of briefs and court cases (intervener) involving the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (1960s to 1990s).
- RCMP wrongdoings (1970s): An open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
- Capital punishment: A petition from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
The readings lists available on this site deal with a range of topics from human rights to biographies and specific events.
A history of state funding for nonprofits in Canada including a searchable database of grants from Canadian governments to organizations. Click here.