Submitted by Kim Davidson
“March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, asks each of us to make a commitment to end racism, which grows best in the soil of bigotry and prejudice. By accepting this challenge, we keep Canada a country to be proud of; we bring our vision of Canada closer to reality.”
Hedy Fry, Secretary of State for Multiculturalism.
On March 21 1960, 100 police officers opened fire and killed 69 people and wounded 180 at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid “pass laws”.
Proclaiming the day in 1966, the United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all racial discrimination.
To combat racism, the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1963. The declaration affirmed the fundamental equality of all people, regardless of their race, color or ethnic origin. An International Convention followed two years later.
As early as 1960, the United Nations called on South Africa to end apartheid (It should be noted that Canada also strongly opposed South Africa’s racist policies. In fact, Canadian-led opposition to apartheid within the Commonwealth caused South Africa to withdraw from the Commonwealth of Nations in 1961). Over time, UN members took progressively stronger steps to pressure South Africa to end apartheid. The international pressure, which effectively isolated South Africa, resulted in the abandonment of apartheid and the country’s first free, multiracial elections in 1994.
Respect. Equality. Diversity. These are three fundamental Canadian values that support the March 21 campaign. The point of each annual campaign is to make Canadians aware that racism exists in Canada, and to inspire each of us to take action against racial discrimination.
What Is Racism ? Racism is based on the belief that one’s own ethnic group, race, or religion is superior. Skin colour and cultural background can make individuals targets of racism. Racial discrimination can enter into all aspects of our lives. Jokes, name-calling, hate slogans, being turned down for a job for superficial reasons – these actions isolate and hurt people. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the Multiculturalism Act were created in the spirit of respect, equality and diversity. These initiatives have gone a long way in building a fairer and more just society. But there is much more to do. We each have a stake in building a country free of racism. You can do it by respecting differences, and by trying each day to promote equality and respect. Since 1989, the government of Canada has supported the UN declaration with its annual March 21 campaigns. March 21 is an opportunity for Canada to renew its commitment to ending racism and discrimination in our communities, our country and internationally. You can make a big difference. But change doesn’t happen by itself – it only comes through individual action. So what can you do on March 21 and throughout the year? There are many ways that you can make a difference…at work, in your school, in your community, in your town or city. The key lies in being open to new ideas. Examine your own beliefs on racism. Try to see events and opinions from the perspective of others. The ‘Yes We Can Collective’ in Massett is organizing a community gathering March 21, 1-4pm at the Driftwood Lounge. Come out and see the efforts to eliminate racism in Massett, other communities around B.C. and groups in Canada. ” I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and equal opportunity. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve, but if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Nelson Mandela