Rights arise from what everyone need to live in dignity, as God intends. Rights are inseparable from our responsibility to care for others; to ensure their rights; and to not take more than is needed to fulfill our rights at the expense of others’ rights.
In Canada, we are used to thinking in terms of rights, like those to free speech or peaceful assembly. People also have rights to things like land, work and housing, all needed to flourish and be healthy. But rights are more than individual. Communities, nations and peoples, too, have rights to things like self-determination and peaceful coexistence. Wherever these rights are denied, we are called to defend them.
Cultures in the Global North are often loud about individual rights and quiet about collective rights. An emphasis on individual rights can cause us to ignore our obligations to others. We are called to not only assert our own rights, but also to be open and present to others, recognizing that no right can exclude or override the needs of others, in particular the poor.
Rights and responsibilities are rooted in dignity and should not be tied to access to markets or privileges. Together, Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada and our partners are working to overturn systemic barriers to equal rights and responsibilities.