Toronto – March 20, 2017 – In 1966, the United Nations declared March 21 as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in memory of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre when South African police killed 69 anti-apartheid protesters.
While many countries would point to progress in overcoming racism, there is still much more to do — even more so now in the face of cynical political agendas that call for building walls, or screening potential immigrants for so-called ‘Canadian values.'
At the same time, as a community we can be proud that we welcomed more than 40,000 Syrian refugees over the past 18 months. However, the welcome has to go further to ensure that the obstacles ahead from systemic racial discrimination are eliminated for newcomers, and for all racialized Canadians.
Racialized sisters and brothers are more and more part of the Canadian panorama. Their personal sacrifices have played an important role in the economic, political and social growth of this country. Racialized Canadians have woven their cultures and values to the foundation of our shared country’s mosaic. As Canada’s most progressive private-sector union, we have also seen how our racialized sisters and brothers have maximized their talents and skills to help grow the organization and make a significant difference for working families. And since 2015, at the national and local union levels, all UFCW Canada leadership and staff members have participated in the most comprehensive, multi-year, diversity and inclusion awareness training program of any union in Canada.
Racialized sisters and brothers must have a fair opportunity to exercise their abilities, and to advance as leaders. We must strive together to safeguard their human rights in our workplaces. Working together, we must put an end to the systemic barriers and structural inequities that continue to impede a just and equitable life for racialized sisters and brothers. We must also challenge ourselves to recognize our own biases and misconceptions, and call out racism when see it.
We cannot be complacent. This March 21, let us renew our commitment to work every day to end racism and racial discrimination.
Paul R. Meinema