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THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION
OF Human Rights

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Statement by Eleanor Roosevelt of the U.S.A. at the 180th meeting of the General Assembly, Palais de Chaillot, Paris, 9 December 1948. Credit: UN Visual Library Department of Public Information.

Statement by Eleanor Roosevelt of the U.S.A. at the 180th meeting of the General Assembly, Palais de Chaillot, Paris, 9 December 1948. Credit: UN Visual Library Department of Public Information.

Transcript

Drafted by John Peters Humphrey 60 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights continues to inspire us today. In this exhibit you can explore the declaration.

Explore the declaration using the navigation to the left. Launch stories images and videos that illuminate the document's meaning and highlight the struggles that have brought us closer to achieving human rights for all.

The Wording The Wording

Click on the pencil icons to explore the language of the UDHR: Some icons open windows with inspiring quotes related to the words and others reveal how the language evolved over time; text from earlier drafts will appear above the final version.

The History The History

Click on the arrow icons to discover historical stories: See images and read excerpts of archival documents that illustrate how government policies and people's actions impacted the progress of human rights.

Today Today

Click on the callout icons to learn about human rights today: Look at images from news stories focusing on issues such as immigrant rights, Aboriginal rights and the rights of women. Questions will prompt you to think about the relevance of the UDHR to our lives today.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948 View historic stories for 1948

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1948
The Declaration is Adopted

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the General Assembly on 10 December 1948, by a vote of 48 to 0. There were eight abstentions: six Soviet Bloc states, South Africa and Saudi Arabia. Although Canada initially rejected the Declaration, citing its conflict with provincial jurisdiction, the country ultimately voted in favor of this landmark document and its stated principles.

On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the full text of which appears in the following pages. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories."

Preamble

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

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"Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice."

- Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

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"You must be the change you want to see in the world."

- Mahatma Gandhi

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1951-1960
The influence of the Declaration

The influence of the Declaration's ideals can be seen in Canadian provincial and federal legislation. It served as a model for the Bill of Rights enacted in 1960, which was later expanded as the Charter of Rights and Freeedoms, in 1982. Did you know the Charter guarantees you freedom of religion and expression, and equal treatment without discrimination? The Charter continues to be amended to include the broaded rights and ptorections for all Canadians. Learn what other rights you have today!

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

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"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side
of the oppressor."

- Bishop Desmond Tutu

Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non self governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

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Women's Rights

A belief of the modern women's movement is that "a woman's place in society marks the level of civilization of that society." In what ways do culture and custom impact women's rights? There are still challenges to achieving equality for all women, in all aspects of their lives. Get informed, and celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th!

Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

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Gay Rights

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Canada in 1969. Discrimination on the grounds of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual status is prohibited, but the gay community still faces challenges to its inclusion. How are laws being expanded to protect the rights of people regardless of sexual orientation?

Article 8.

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

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1942-1949
Japanese Internment

Can you imagine being forcibly displaced from your home and community? After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Canadian government removed over 20,000 Japanese Canadian citizens from the Pacific coast and relocated them to internment camps or forced labour projects. Their property was confiscated and sold. After the war, many were dispersed in the eastern and prairie provinces; others were deported to Japan. Not until 1949 did Japanese Canadians regain their freedom to live anywhere in Canada.

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No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.

Notice the addition of one word to the June 1948 draft text. A simple change can be important. How does the word exile expand the scope of this article?

Article 10.

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.

  1. (1)
  2. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
  1. (2)
  2. No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.

  1. (1)
  2. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
  1. (2)
  2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

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Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own.

Does the June 1948 draft text seem insufficient compared with the final article? Why is it significant to add the right of return?

Article 14.

  1. (1)
  2. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
  1. (2)
  2. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

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1939-1951
Refugees and Displaced Persons

Canada's immigration policy had been one of exclusion. But the crisis of WWII and its thousands of refugees began to change that. After the war, following the persecution of civilian populations in Europe, especially Jews, Canada started accepting displaced persons seeking freedom, safety and a new home.

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Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Every day, immigrants from around the world make Canada their new home, and others hope to find refuge here. Can you imagine what obstacles they face, and how these might impinge on their rights? Find out how to help immigrants and refugees where you live.

Article 15.

  1. (1)
  2. Everyone has the right to a nationality.
  1. (2)
  2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.

  1. (1)
  2. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  1. (2)
  2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  1. (3)
  2. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

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Men and women of full age have the right to marry and to found a family and are entitled to equal rights as to marriage.

Note that the final article is more specific than the June 1948 draft text. Why is it important to include protection at the dissolution of marriage?

Article 17.

  1. (1)
  2. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
  1. (2)
  2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

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Three handwritten paragraphs in English. The paragraphs are numbered 20, 21 and 22 in roman numerals. Every one has a right to own personal property. His right to share in the ownership of industrial, commercial and other profit-making enterprises is governed by the law of the State within which such enterprises are situated. The State may regulate the acquisition and use of private property and determine those things that are susceptible of private appropriation. No one shall be deprived of his property without just compensation.

Do you see substantial differences between John Peters Humphrey's June 1947 draft text and the final article? What are they?

Article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

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Minority Rights

Tolerance and respect for differences is vital to safeguarding the rights of minorities in Canada's multicultural society. How can we ensure that all citizens are treated equally and enjoy equal opportunities? Your attitude and awareness can make a difference.

Article 19.

Everyone has has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

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"Please use your freedom to promote ours."

- Aung San Suu Kyi

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Three handwritten paragraphs in English. The paragraphs are not numbered and the paragraph in the middle is barred. Subject only to the laws governing slander and libel, there shall be freedom of speech and of expression by any means whatsoever, and there shall be reasonable access to all channels of communication. Censorship shall not be permitted.

John Peters Humphrey worded his June 1947 draft text differently than the final article. How does each version relate to our everyday lives? In what ways has the Internet affected how we share information and opinion?

Article 20.

  1. (1)
  2. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  1. (2)
  2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.

  1. (1)
  2. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
  1. (2)
  2. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
  1. (3)
  2. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

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1927-1929
The Famous Five

Today there are thirty-four women senators in the Parliament of Canada. But this was not always the case: in 1927, five Canadian women went to court to claim their right to serve as senators. In what became known as the Persons Case, they petitioned the Supreme Court to examine the word "persons" in Section 24 of the British North America Act to determine whether it included women. The court said it did not. But the English Privy Council reversed that decision on appeal: women were "persons," it ruled, and therefore entitled to hold public office.

Article 22.

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

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Aboriginal Rights

Did you know that the rights of Canada's Aboriginal peoples - First Nations, Inuit and Metis - were not recognized until 1982, in the Constitution Act, thirty four years after the UDHR? Why do you think it took so long? Today, Aboriginal peoples in Canada continue to work for recognition of their cultural and land rights following centuries of mistreatment, forced assimilation and broken treaties. Barriers to education and employment are among some of the challenges facing Aboriginal communities. How can this be changed?

Article 23.

  1. (1)
  2. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  1. (2)
  2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  1. (3)
  2. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  1. (4)
  2. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

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Handwritten English text on a lined page. It looks like an inventory of subjects with which  paragraph numbers are associated. Everyone has the right to such equitable share of the national income as the need for his work and the increment it makes to the common welfare may justify.

Both Humphrey's June 1947 draft text and the final article talk about the right to fair pay. Additionally, what does the draft text imply about the social value of work?

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1919-1949
Labour Rights

By going on strike, working men and women have put pressure on employers to meet their demands: for better wages and working conditions, for union recognition and the right of collective bargaining. Whether vigorously opposed or enjoying popular support, strikes from the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 to the Asbestos mines walkout in 1949 have brought labour rights to Canadian attention. Did you know there are laws in Canada to protect your right to fair employment standards, including equal pay and holidays?

Article 24.

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.

  1. (1)
  2. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  1. (2)
  2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

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Disability Rights

Canadians with disabilities seek the same fundamental human rights that others have. What measures could we take to build a more inclusive society? Does your community, your workplace or your school provide accessibility and services for people with disabilities?

Article 26.

  1. (1)
  2. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
  1. (2)
  2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

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"Human rights are the basis of our future."

- LGen Romeo Dallaire

  1. (3)
  2. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.

  1. (1)
  2. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
  1. (2)
  2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

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Everyone has the right to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement.

The final article was expanded from the June 1948 draft text. How does its second clause ensure that you benefit from your creative efforts?

Article 28.

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.

  1. (1)
  2. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
  1. (2)
  2. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
  1. (3)
  2. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.