From 1948 to 1966, the United Nations worked to create a common legal standard for human rights protection around the globe. Resisting Rights traces the Canadian government’s changing policy toward this endeavour, from initial opposition to a more supportive approach. Jennifer Tunnicliffe takes both international and domestic developments into account to explain how shifting cultural understandings of rights influenced policy, and to underline the key role of Canadian rights activists in this process.
In light of Canada’s waning reputation as a traditional leader in developing human rights standards at the United Nations, this is a timely study. Tunnicliffe situates policies within their historical context to reveal that Canadian reluctance to be bound by international human rights law is not a recent trend, and asks why governments have found it important to foster the myth that Canada has been at the forefront of international human rights policy.
Introduction: Resisting Rights
1 The Roots of Resistance: Canada and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
2 Canada’s Opposition to a Covenant on Human Rights
3 A Reversal in Policy: The Decision to Support the Covenants
4 The Road to Ratification, 1966–76
5 Conclusion: The Making of the Myth
Jennifer Tunnicliffe is an assistant professor of history with the Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University. She has published articles in Histoire Sociale/Social History and History Compass and has contributed chapters to several edited collections, including a study of Lester Pearson’s relationship with international human rights.
Tunnicliffe weaves primary sources including parliamentary debates with private and public archival materials and secondary sources to produce a fascinating reflection.
~Charlotte Skeet, University of Sussex, British Journal of Canadian Studies