Our interest in a human rights and health discourse emerges from our efforts as social scientists to bring a meaningful social justice perspective to the realm of public health. In Canada, as in many countries, "health" is still firmly within the domain of the biomedical and the clinical. While considerable effort has been made to include more social, economic, and cultural perspectives, efforts to frame these issues as political phenomena have tended to be polarized into either a rich body of theoretical literature or case studies of interventions which have in varying degrees incorporated a social justice approach. What is still missing is a framework of discourse that allows various concepts of social justice to inform policy, intervention strategies, evaluation and evidence-based measures of effectiveness. This commentary examines the human rights discourse as conceptual space from which to build this framework.