Human rights come into question in times of crisis. But should we wait for crises to arise before we discuss these rights? Advancing human rights should be everyone’s business, not just that of a select group of public interest lawyers, conspiracy theorists or those who prefer tinfoil hats.
Human rights are routinely debated in the wake of scandals. Think about the quality of care in nursing homes, the treatment of illegal immigrants, and police practices towards Indigenous people in custody—all examples of crises that demand remedies and receive less than satisfactory solutions. Our rights certainly became an issue of heated public debate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michael Mintrom argues that the advancement of human rights is an investment: our efforts today will create ongoing benefits for society. He finds the answers in enhancing the quality and accessibility of early childhood education, shutting down the school-to-prison pipeline, and assisting former prisoners during their re-entry into society. Beyond these powerful examples, he also suggests other candidates for policy change that will lead to the progression of human rights.
In a caring society, the question of how to advance human rights should lie at the heart of public policymaking. But does our political class have the will to make the changes needed to ensure a fairer and more just society?
Opinion piece by Michael Mintrom in The National Forum