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SWK 4420H – Human Rights and Social Justice - Elective

All human rights violations are acts which disregard human dignity and the rule of law. Human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, are not understood very well and many are not widely recognized, let alone achieved. In addition, as the 1997 Annual Report of the Canadian Human Rights Commission notes, a significant gap persists between the rights that have been won in law and the reality of people’s day-to-day lives. Professionals have an obligation to not only recognize and respect the rights of their clients but to fully understand the nature of their rights and to help promote their realization. Advocates and activists can use a human rights framework as one means of helping to achieve social change for greater social justice.

This course is focused on the relationship between social welfare issues and Canada’s human rights obligations. The questions addressed include: Do Canadians have the right to an adequate standard of living? What does this mean? What are ‘economic, social and cultural rights’? Where do they come from? How, if at all, are they different from civil and political rights? Can progress in achieving greater social justice be made by advocating the implementation of the right to an adequate standard of living? Having signed all key human rights treaties, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, what are Canada’s obligations; what monitoring and enforcement mechanisms are available?