Historically, on Canada Day we waved the flag, dressed in red and celebrated how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful and free country.
More recently, many of us are rethinking what it means to be Canadian in light of the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Many have asked that we put aside our celebrations in favour of a more sober reflection on the atrocities that have been and continue to be perpetuated on the Indigenous peoples of this land that we share.
And then this past winter, we saw the Canadian flag being used for more seditious purposes as an ultra-right faction decided that they would demand that democratically elected officials be ousted from their positions in Government. They lay siege to our national capital and to our downtown streets and border crossings, in the name of “freedom.”
South of the border, the US Supreme Court that was populated with a majority of conservative justices, several appointed by Donald Trump, just struck down the Roe v. Wade decision, allowing individual states to ban abortions outright. Justices who promised that they would not meddle with that 50-year-old case proved themselves to be liars.
The fallout of that decision was immediate, and the implications will become known in the upcoming weeks and months. Without a doubt, women will suffer and die because they will be forced to seek out abortions in unregulated and unsafe facilities.
In Canada, we can become rather smug at times and take for granted the human rights gains that we have. We forget the fights, the protests, the lobbying and all the other efforts that it took to ensure that women had authority over their own bodies and that they should be able to make their own health decisions. Unions were leaders in those battles.
As a union with nearly 80% of its members who identify as women, HSAA is watching these developments closely.
We take note, with a great deal of nervousness and even fear, at how easily our human rights can be snatched away from us.
We need to turn that fear into resolve.
We resolve that we will stay vigilant.
We resolve that we will continue to push for expansion of human rights, knowing that the moment we stop moving forward we will be pulled backwards.
We resolve that we will fight any political or judicial body or person who attempts to erode our rights, even incrementally, because we know they are only looking for a toehold.
It is exhausting for women to have to be constantly on guard against the erosion of our rights. But it is essential that as unions, particularly health-care unions, we don’t let down our guard for even one minute to ensure that women maintain rights over our own bodies and every medical decision that affect us.
We know that if even one of our human rights is weakened, that it empowers the ultra-right to go after others. Any gains we have made in our understanding of Indigenous folks, people of colour, 2SLBGTQI+, folks who are differently abled and more will be the next targets.
This Canada Day, and every other day, being Canadian should mean that we are compassionate, empathetic and stand for the human rights of all of our neighbours.