Toronto – March 15, 2019 – March 21 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, a day to commemorate the victims of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre in South Africa, and acknowledge the struggles faced by racialized and Indigenous communities around the world.
On this date 59 years ago, police opened fire on peaceful demonstrators who were protesting South Africa’s “pass laws,” which were used to control the movement of racialized and Indigenous citizens and enforce segregation throughout the country.
Born out of struggle, racism, racial discrimination, and intolerance, #IDERD calls on citizens of the world to remember this horrific event and work to eliminate xenophobia and hate in our society. In honour of the day, the United Nations General Assembly has devoted three decades of actions to combat racism and racial discrimination. These actions are intended to convey the message that all humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights. IDERD is also a time to remember the bravery and persistence of activists like Nelson Mandela, who devoted his entire life to the attainment of human dignity and equity in South Africa.
On March 21, let us pause and recognize that racism continues to exist in our communities. Let us also acknowledge that people living on the margins of society – including migrant and racialized workers – continue to face hate on a consistent basis. And let us recommit to fostering workplaces and communities that empower all workers to thrive equally, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, or ethnicity.
This year, UFCW Canada is proud to introduce the Women and Racialized Workers Leadership Institute, a training program aimed at promoting access to leadership positions through equity initiatives. With this program, we seek to recognize that access to leadership training is vital in eliminating the barriers that perpetuate exclusion in the workplace.
As Canada’s leading union, UFCW believes we must continue to fight discrimination and intolerance in all its ugly forms. Accordingly, diversity should be celebrated rather than criticized, and employer policies should reflect the heterogeneity of our cultural mosaic. While the elimination of racism will not happen overnight, we can start to chip away at it by holding ourselves accountable for our actions. That means treating others the way they would like to be treated, and working hard every day to foster genuine equity and inclusion.
Paul R. Meinema