Former Osgoode Hall law professor and Supreme Court justice, Madame Louise Arbour, recently completed a four-year term as the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights.
She will take on the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Crisis Group in July 2009, but before that she’s making a brief return to the Canadian human rights scene.
Earlier today I heard her speak at the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) convention on the National Day of Mourning, an annual event recognized by the Federal government since 1991 to remember workers who lost their lives or were injured on the job.
Madame Arbour is perhaps best known in constitutional circles for her dissent in Gosselin v. Quebec, which would have given social and economic rights to Canadians.
Despite the court’s decision to the contrary, Madame Arbour is still making the case for social and economic rights in the future of Canada.
She characterized a dichotomy between the West and the East, with the former claiming to champion liberty, the latter championing social and economic rights, and neither side really hearing each other in the process.
Her talk was premised on the Roosevelt’s fundemental freedoms that gave way to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, specifically the freedom from fear and the freedom from want. She related the former fear to legal abuses by Western governments in the so-called “war on terrorism.” The second fear is increasingly relevant in our tough economic times, the true test of which will be our treatment of migrant workers.
The key to our true security lies in addressing social and economic problems by dealing with them as fundamental rights, and the sooner we can realize this the safer and more prosperous we will all be.