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Who we are

Based in Montreal, Equitas is Canada’s oldest and most active human rights education organization. We work for the advancement of equality, social justice and respect for human dignity through transformative education programs. In the last 50 years, we have reached over 2 million people worldwide.

Who we are

Equitas was founded in Montreal in 1967 by a group of eminent Canadian scholars and social activists, including the co-drafter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, John P. Humphrey, women’s rights activist Thérèse Casgrain and the “ambassador of persons with disabilities”, Dr. Gustave Gingras.

The co-founders strongly believed that education in the field of human rights would lead to more social justice.

Equitas, formerly known as the Canadian Human Rights Foundation, was created to transform that belief into reality.

In the complex mosaic which is our world today, how does Equitas make a difference? 


Whether promoting women’s and young girls’ rights in Senegal, reinforcing the LGBTQI rights movement in Haiti, equipping young leaders in the Middle East and North Africa to participate more effectively in community life, or developing new partnerships to support work with Indigenous youth in Canada, our efforts have taught us that human rights education requires a long-term commitment to individuals, communities and to future generations.


We know that tackling big problems requires addressing issues at a deeper level. There are no quick fixes to solve racism, sexism, bullying, homophobia, or violence.


Equitas’ unique education programs address the root causes, transforming individual and community attitudes and behaviours and producing sustainable solutions to discrimination, inequality and violent conflict.


Today, Equitas continues to innovate and act as a global leader in the human rights education movement. Our tools and methodology are recognized in Canada and around the world for their quality and innovation.

As we are celebrating 50 years of accomplishments, we pursue our commitment to open up spaces where the voices of women, children, youth and marginalized groups are amplified and their leadership as solution makers in building safer, more inclusive and more equitable communities is recognized.

We are a movement of human rights changemakers. Join us.  



  • A network of over 5,000 human rights defenders trained in over 140 countries
  • More than 700,000 children and youth reached in 45 communities in Canada



1967: John Humphrey returns to McGill University

Equitas (then known as The Canadian Human Rights Foundation) was founded by a group of scholars and social activists with the mandate to advance democracy, human development, peace and social justice through education programs when John Humphrey, one of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, left his position at the United Nations to return to McGill University.

Other founding members of the organization include The Hon. Harry Batshaw, Ms. Beatrice Bazar, Senator Thérèse Casgrain, Prof. Maxwell Cohen, Prof. Paul-André Crépeau, H.E. Jules Deschênes, Mr. Jacques Gagnon, Dr. Gustave Gingras and Justice Antonio Lamer.

From the McGill Faculty Club to National Prominence

The organization initiates pioneering national research, conferences and publications on human rights issues: racism, aboriginal rights, minority rights, rights of the aged and more.

An Annual Human Rights Training Program

An annual summer program in Prince Edward Island is launched for Canadian law students. The organization continues to do research and hold conferences on human rights issues.

The International Human Rights Training Program

Equitas adopts the participatory approach for all its education programs. With funding from Canadian government agencies, international participation in the summer program grows so that by the end of the decade, the program attracts 120 human rights educators a year from over 60 countries annually. The first activity overseas takes place in Bratislava in 1995 to be followed by many more in Asia and Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union.

Spreading Knowledge At Home And Globally

Fully fledged education and training programs taking place in Asia, Africa, the Americas, Central and Eastern Europe and Former Soviet Union, the Middle East and North Africa in partnerships with organizations that have participated in the International Human Rights Training Program focusing on: Training of Human Rights Trainers • Formal and Informal Human Rights Education for Children • The Protection of vulnerable groups in society, including: Women, Migrant Workers, Children and Minorities • The Strengthening of Independent National Human Rights Institutions and Government Agencies mandated to promote and protect human rights • The Promotion and Protection of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights• Training in Human Rights Advocacy and Monitoring

2004: The Play it Fair! program was launched and its educational toolkit is now in use in day camps and after school programs across Canada.

2005: The name of the organization is changed from the Canadian Human Rights Foundation to Equitas – International Centre for Human Rights Education.

2008: The Global Human Rights Education Program was launched, building upon the experience of the International Human Rights Training Program to provide systematic follow-up and support to the alumni of Equitas programs to further enable them to become more effective agents of social change in their communities

2009: Equitas’ Play it Fair! program was awarded the Prix Québécois de la citoyenneté – Anne Greenup in recognition of its contribution to the fight against racism.

2010: Speaking Rights, a program for 13-17 year olds, was launched.

2011: Equitas awarded the YMCAs of Québec Peace Medal for its international initiatives.

2012: Equitas received the Canadian Race Relations Foundation’s Award of Excellence for engaging youth in the fight against inequality, exclusion and racism through its Speaking Rights program in Montreal, Vancouver and Winnipeg.

2013: Launch of Young Women, Young Leaders Program; Launch of 5-year project: Strengthening Human Rights Education Globally

2014: Equitas receives Rights and Freedoms Prize from the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec (CDPDJ); Equitas awarded Children’s Rights Trailblazer Award from the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children for the Play it Fair! program; Launch of Promoting Religious Harmony and Inter-Faith Dialogue in Sri Lanka

2015: Play it Fair! – three year $450,000 commitment by TD Bank Group; National Child Day activities in the Canadian Senate

2016: The Mosharka Project (2012-2016) engaged 1,661 youth and 16,675 community members in 5 countries in the Middle East and North Africa; Launch of a new project on Preventing Torture in the Francophonie, in partnership with Swiss-based organization International Bridges to Justice (IBJ) and partners in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Burundi, Rwanda, Senegal, the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo; Strengthening the movement against homophobia and for the rights of LGBTI people in Haiti – a new project funded by the European Union; New speaker series with RBC focusing on Diversity and Inclusion of youth in Montreal