Human rights advocacy takes many forms. The people featured on this site do not all describe themselves as human rights advocates or activists. The common thread they share is a passion for social justice and a commitment to working across culture, borders or difference in order to better understand and contribute to a fulsome respect for human rights.
If you are inspired to become more engaged in human rights issues by some of the people featured on this website, but unsure of how to proceed, here are some simple suggestions for taking the first steps.
Find an issue that speaks to you
People are most effective advocating for issues they care about. So the first step in becoming engaged in social justice and human rights work is to do some soul searching about what really matters to you – what are you passionate about? Have you experienced discrimination? Are there causes that speak to your sense of justice? Whether it is an international issue or an issue involving your own community or personal life, if you’re passionate about it, you will find yourself far more likely to be effective in helping to create positive change.
Keeping up to date with current events (reading newspapers, websites, blogs, listening to the radio, accessing critical media, etc.) is one way of staying alert to the broad array of human rights violations and social justice issues requiring action. However, for many of us, we need look no further than our own lives and neighbourhoods to find injustice.
Perhaps you or someone in your family have witnessed or been a victim of discrimination? Perhaps a neighbour, co-worker or family member arrived in this country as a refugee fleeing persecution and violence in their home state? Or maybe you have begun to develop a relationship with people in your neighborhood who are less fortunate than you and don’t have access to housing, food, or health care?
Staying alert to the experiences and stories of the people around us, committing to become more aware of our own histories, and learning from our own communities can help to create that initial spark - igniting the fire to effect change.
If you’re looking for inspiration, check out some of the work profiled on this site. You might also draw ideas by looking at the work of some of our partner organizations
Find a project that speaks to you
Once you have identified some of the issues you’re passionate about, you can begin to think about various ways to engage in these issues that utilize your strengths and reflect who you are. The people profiled on this website have all acted in defense of human rights in ways that feel authentic to them.
Do you want to raise awareness about an issue? Do you have skills which could further a cause through a local human rights organization? Are you open to learning about an issue and working with others on social change? If you are a photographer, you could consider creating a photo essay. If you are an IT specialist, your skills could help construct a website to disseminate information. Or is your goal to provide support to refugees of mass atrocity – perhaps because you, your parents, or grandparents came to Canada as immigrants or refugees?
If you are an athlete, consider starting a sports team for affected communities in Montreal. If you are a teacher, think about how you might update your lesson plans to reflect anti-discrimination principles and to ensure your students are informed about the human rights crises engaged by the genocides of the 20th century. If you are a musician, begin to create music inspired by the social justice issues you care about. People of good will, regardless of their formal education or work experience, open to learning and acting can make a difference. Whatever your talents, there is a way to use them towards defending human rights.
These are only suggestions. The possibilities for action are endless.
While some human rights work takes place in formal and well-established institutional settings, other work takes place in theatres, community centres, grassroots organizations, unions, soccer fields, volunteer bureaus, coffee houses, classrooms, blogs, on the street and in our own homes. Every person has the capacity to make a difference and to advance human rights.