Social justice is a virtue or societal value which guides human interaction and, in particular, the fair distribution of society’s assets. Social justice is about securing rights but also about our responsibilities and their consequences. It focuses our attention on the relative position of different members of our society and on examining the disparities that might exist, the root causes of these disparities, and opportunities for eliminating them. That is to say, it makes us look at who is in a certain in position in society, how far they are from other people in society, why they are there, and how to make that distance smaller through better laws and more inclusive practices.

Understanding disparities requires us to adopt a systemic analysis of our social context – the institutions (e.g., legal, education, media), infrastructures, and belief systems that shape this distribution. Social justice is linked to the concept of equity and the just treatment of individuals in their own social context to meet their needs and reach their potential. It is also linked to the notion of equality as a socially just society is a ‘society for all’ which provides an equal basis of opportunity. Canadians have accepted a vision of social justice that supports the principle that all peoples, without discrimination, have the right to live in dignity and freedom and to enjoy the fruits of social progress and should, on their part, contribute to it (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 1969).

Related Issues and Topics:
  • Universal human rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Historically marginalized and disenfranchised groups (related to ethnicity, race, culture, class, religion, sexual orientation, gender, abilities);
  • Economic disparities, poverty, quality of life;
  • Access to food, water, health care, education, employment;
  • Child exploitation, human trafficking and slave labour;
  • Action for human rights;
  • Forms of activism (the power of one, resistance to oppression, civil disobedience, conscientious objectors, boycotts, protests, grass-roots movements, local community groups; citizen action groups, social networking and mobilization for change, popular culture and the arts);
  • Labour movement and unions, strikes, non-violent revolution;
  • Indigenous rights and self-determination;
  • Crime and punishment, penal systems and economic implications, ethical treatment of prisoners;
  • Environmentalism and environmental organizations;
  • Ethical treatment and human use of animals;
  • Eco-activism;
  • NGOs and international collaboration, role of governments in international aid (e.g. CIDA, disaster relief, the economics of aid)

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