There is no Peace without Justice!

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born in the aftermath of horrors and ashes of the Second World War and several centuries of colonialism and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  The UDHR says, “All human beings are born free and equal in rights and dignity.”[1]  And that, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living…health, food, clothing, housing, medical care, social services and social security… “[2]

Canada is a signatory to international human rights treaties in which it undertakes to full realization of these rights.   An undertaking that remains unfulfilled.

Today, “taking stock of multiple crises can seem depressing and distressing. Antonio Gramsci wrote of the interregnum, that in between time when the old world is dying and the new world is not yet born.  He warned of morbid symptoms.  A time of monsters. But, also a time of hope and possibility.”[3]

“Our gross national product, now, is over $1.643 Trillion US[4] a year, but the GNP – if we should judge Canada by that – the paraphrase the words of Robert F. Kennedy spoken 5 decades ago, “it counts air pollution and cigarette sales, and ambulances to clear to clear our highways of carnage.  It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our forests and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.  It counts the bullets and the cost of bombs…and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.  Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, their quality of their education, the air they breathe, or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our friendships and love; …it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”[5] 

Here at home, we have 215 unmarked graves at Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and thousands more across the country. We’ve had massive wildfires, heat dome, a global pandemic, attacks on science and health care workers, on media and democratic institutions, anti-vaxxers and convoys that sought to overthrow a democratically elected government and try the PM for treason. 

We experience manifestations of racism, misogyny, conspiracies, threats and intimidation, anti-immigrant and anti-women, and rise of the far right, despoiling the idea of freedom – elements of fascism. And, all this legitimized by one of our mainstream political parties.  

“We don’t even have a common set of facts.  Disinformation and misinformation wrapped up in ideology result in disparagement and denial of climate science that risks our planet and human life.  Forty years of neoliberalism and politics of austerity – tax cuts, privatization, deregulation, financialization”[6]  –  have fueled extreme inequality, governments focus on protecting the market and those who most profit from it – oligarchs, and concentration of enormous wealth and power in few hands.  All this, has fed insecurity and fed hate and division.  

How do we end this ideology, this ideology, this misery?  With a consensus and mobilizing for a peaceful, just and sustainable future. 

First, few key points for countering this unravelling, the encroaching threats and tyranny, from Timothy Synder[7]:

  • Defend institutions. They need our help. Choose an institution you care about – a court, a newspaper, a law, a labour union, a human right – and take its side.
  • Vote in local, provincial and federal elections.
  • Take responsibility for the face of the world. Pay attention. The symbols of today enable the reality of tomorrow.  Notice the swastikas, symbols of hate.  Do not look away, nor get used to them. Set an example for others to do so.
  • Believe in truth.  To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then none one can criticize power.  If nothing is true, then all is spectacle.  The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.
  • Listen for dangerous words. Be alert to the use of words of traitors, terrorists, enemies.  Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

Indifference and silence is the breeding ground for injustice.  It enables the oppressor.  

Be courageous!

Although, we stand in a crucial time, in Gramsci’s interregnum, we can win the future.

Building a caring economy and strengthening our democracy and human rights. Fighting for a clean environment and sustainable planet, for universal rights but with an understanding of diverse needs.  After all, we all of us – are stronger together.  

George Bernard Shaw: “Some people see things that are and ask ‘Why?  I see things that never were, and ask ‘Why not?’

We can do it. We can do better!  Organize.  Mobilize. For Peace, Justice, Reconciliationfor clean air, water and earth.  Toward a better society and world.  

Thank you.  Kukwstsétsemc.

[1] Art. 1

[2] Art. 25

[3] Alex Himelfarb, Interregnum: finding hope and solidarity in times of crisis and division,

[4] 2020 (-5.4% due to covid-19 pandemic).

[5] The Last Campaign, Robert F. Kennedy and the 82 Days That Inspired America, Thurston Clarke, Henry Holt & Company, New York, 2008, p. 49.

[6] Himelfarb, ibid.

[7] Timothy Synder, ON TYRANNY, Twenty lessons from the 20th Century, Tim Duggan Books, New York, 2017.

About Bill Sundhu

Canadian lawyer, Former Judge, Member of Kellogg College of University of Oxford (Masters Degree in International Human Rights Law 2010).
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