DEBATE: Are we asking for too many rights?

On this week's show, we convene a debate between a sociologist who says the demand for rights in Canada has been inflated, and a lawyer who says we're just seeing a natural evolution of the way we interpret human rights.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, in downtown Winnipeg. (Cameron MacIntosh/CBC)

Dominique Clement says that, because of "rights inflation," the fundamental concept of human rights is being rendered meaningless. He is an historical sociologist at the University of Alberta, who has specialized in the history of human rights in Canada.

He says that the tendency to turn sociological and legal issues into rights claims detracts from the important role of social movements in democracy.

A lot of these issues, which are legal rights, are simply not recognized by most Canadians as human rights. And I wonder if we're imposing our conception of human rights by suggesting they should be.- Dominique Clement

Pearl Eliadis, a Montreal lawyer who specializes in human rights law, disagrees. She says that it's not rights inflation that we're seeing but a "rights evolution," that reflects a changing society. She argues that the expansion of rights and freedoms is fundamentally Canadian and she says polls of public attitudes back her up.

The only thing closer to Canadian hearts than human rights and what's in the Charter of Rights and health care.- Pearl Eliadis

To hear the whole debate, click "listen" above. 


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