Human Rights in Canada
Paper 233 pp.
Online discount: 25%
This book shows how human rights became the primary language for social
change in Canada and how a single decade became the locus for that
emergence. The author argues that the 1970s was a critical moment
in human rights history—one that transformed political culture,
social movements, law, and foreign policy. Human Rights in Canada
is one of the first sociological studies of human rights in Canada.
It explains that human rights are a distinct social practice, and
it documents those social conditions that made human rights significant
at a particular historical moment.
A central theme in this book is that human rights derive from society rather than abstract legal principles. Therefore, we can identify the boundaries and limits of Canada’s rights culture at different moments in our history. Until the 1970s, Canadians framed their grievances with reference to Christianity or British justice rather than human rights. A historical sociological approach to human rights reveals how rights are historically contingent, and how new rights claims are built upon past claims. This book explores governments’ tendency to suppress rights in periods of perceived emergency; how Canada’s rights culture was shaped by state formation; how social movements have advanced new rights claims; the changing discourse of rights in debates surrounding the constitution; how the international human rights movement shaped domestic politics and foreign policy; and much more. In addition to drawing on secondary literature in law, history, sociology, and political science, this study looked to published government documents, litigation and case law, archival research, newspapers, opinion polls, and materials produced by non-governmental organizations.
Dominique Clément is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta. He is the author of Canada’s Rights Revolution as well as Equality Deferred and is also the co-editor for Alberta’s Human Rights Story and Debating Dissent. His website, www.HistoryOfRights.ca, serves as a research and teaching portal on human rights.
“Anyone interested in human rights in Canada should read this engaging book. Clément provides a thorough history of the topic, from the 18th-century conquest to contemporary debates on the meaning of human rights. Of particular note is his stress on Aboriginal rights, women’s rights, rights of sexual minorities, human rights in Quebec, and human rights in Canadian foreign policy. A readable, comprehensive volume, Human Rights in Canada is especially suitable for classroom use.”
— Rhoda Howard-Hassmann, Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights; Professor, Department of Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Balsillie School of International Affairs
“In remarkably lucid prose, Dominique Clément reveals the evolution of Canada’s rights culture from British conventions to post-Charter innovations, from civil liberties to human rights, from mere equality before the law to ’the most sophisticated human rights legal regime in the world.’ Along the way, he reminds us that rights don’t exist in the abstract, that they evolve within a culture as that culture evolves, that the rights revolution is far from complete, especially for Indigenous Canadians, and that in the end, ’human rights are, and always should be, a dialogue.’ An invaluable book.”
— John Ibbitson, Writer at Large, The Globe and Mail
“Clement ... presents a history of how Canada developed ’its own unique rights culture,’ shaped by the idea that human rights are a sociological and historical phenomenon as well as a legal fact.’ ... Human Rights in Canada: A History will be an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the formation of modern Canada.”
— Publishers Weekly, 2016/03/21
“Clément’s book is a useful introductory tool that, accompanied by his online portal at HistoryofRights.ca, provides an important resource about something that can be so easily swept away.”
— Matthew Behrens, Quill and Quire, 2016 February 1
“Dominique Clément takes us on an invaluable journey through history, law, politics and society, examining how those forces have embedded human rights at the heart of what it is to be Canadian. From the political rebellions of the 1830s, through to highly charged social change in the 1970s and ground-breaking Supreme Court rulings in 2015, there is hardly a crackdown, social movement or court ruling of human rights significance that is not woven into this remarkable account. He stresses throughout that Canada’s rights culture has been a continuing evolution, reflected as much in ongoing social dialogue as it is in laws that have been passed. Understanding our unique national rights culture helps illuminate the past. It also importantly frames the human rights challenges and responsibilities that lie ahead.”
— Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada (English Canada)