Justice and Human Rights
The promotion of justice and human rights is of particular importance to the Bahá’í Community of Canada. In 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the Son of the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, Bahá’u’lláh, toured Europe and North America delivering lectures on world peace, the equality of women and men, the elimination of racism, and other related topics. During his visit to Montreal he spoke out strongly on issues of economic justice, peace, and the rights of women.
In the 1920s, May Maxwell, Rose Henderson, and Emeric Sala were among the early Canadian Bahá’ís active in working for the elimination of prejudice, the advancement of women, and the alleviation of poverty. May Maxwell’s daughter, Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum, wife of the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, grew to be an outspoken defender of aboriginal peoples and the environment.
Siegfried Schopflocher, of Montreal, participated in the San Francisco meetings that established the United Nations in 1945. Representing the Bahá’ís of Canada, he later lent support to the development of the Bahá’í International Community’s collaborative work at the United Nations.
In 1970, the Bahá’í International Community was granted consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), facilitating extensive participation through a series of Bahá’í submissions at UN conferences on human-rights issues. Canadian Bahá’ís have participated energetically in UN international conferences. There were more than 20 Canadian Bahá’ís, for instance, at the Beijing World Conference on Women in 1995.
In recent years, representatives of the Bahá’í Community of Canada have sponsored regional workshops on human-rights education and participated in national meetings on human rights. The community was an active member of the now-defunct Network on International Human Rights, a national coalition of human-rights organizations.
Bahá’í interest in justice and human rights is understandable. The Bahá’í teachings promote the elimination of all forms of prejudice and uphold dignity and respect equally for all peoples, regardless of their racial, ethnic, religious, or national background. Equality of men and women, the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth and economic justice for all peoples, universal education, and the dignity of the individual are central Bahá’í principles.
Bahá’ís have often been forced to seek protection for members of their own community who have faced persecution. The Bahá’í Community of Canada has worked with the Government of Canada in defending the rights of the Bahá’í Community of Iran, that country’s largest religious minority. The Canadian government has led or co-sponsored strong resolutions at the United Nations and through the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva since the mid-1980s.