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What Does it Mean to Be Human? Shayna Plaut About Human Rights in Canada

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To discuss human rights in Canada, we invited Shayna Plaut, a critical researcher and instructor in human rights and social justice throughout Canada, the United States, and Europe. Plaut is the current director of the Centre for Social Science Research and Policy. 

For Plaut, human rights are more than just laws. Human rights are a social fabric, economic structure, and institution enabling individuals to live dignified lives. Plaut moved to Winnipeg 5 years ago and previously lived in BC. Based on Plaut’s observation Winnipeg is one of the most racist and classist cities in Canada. However, many people really know what’s going on and know how to work to fight to make it better. 

“It has some of the strongest refugee-led and immigrant-led organizations that are working on refugee and immigrant issues, so it’s not just in terms of charity, being benevolent to the stranger but actually refugees and immigrants themselves working to make things better, and also in terms of Indigenous or LED organizations,” says Plaut. 

In that sense, Plaut believes that Winnipeg has some of the worst human rights violations happening but also some of the strongest advocacy. She emphasizes that Canada has, for a while now, understood the relationship between development and human rights much better than other countries. When it’s going forward in terms of doing international development work, it does, and it has integrated certain human rights practices and its development work.

The other thing that Plaut says is that Canada is in a position right now where it really recognizes the grave human rights abuses that take place in terms of Indigenous people here. Canada is really struggling but taking steps to recognize Indigenous and human rights. 

“Canada is one of the leaders in recognizing that you cannot just talk about human rights over there. You have to also be talking about what is happening in your own country. And in your own country, here in Canada, it’s very much in terms of the ongoing human rights abuses with indigenous peoples, as well as reconciling in the past”, says Plaut. 

– Yuliia Kovalenko, U Multicultural

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