Alberta Human Rights Information Service March 14, 2014

March 21st marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

March 21st marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. On this day in 1960, 69 people were killed at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, when police opened fire on unarmed protestors who were opposing the apartheid "pass laws," a repressive tool used to control the movements of black South Africans. In 1966, in response to this horrific event, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed March 21st the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

This significant day honours the 69 killed and many injured. Although the apartheid system in South Africa has since been dismantled and racist laws and practices in countries around the world have been all but eliminated, various forms of racism and discrimination continue to exist. Recognizing the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reminds us of the continued need to eliminate all forms of racism and racial discrimination.

In December 2013, the world lost one of the greatest advocates of peace, equality and human rights, Mr. Nelson Mandela. He dedicated his life to the pursuit of fundamental human rights and racial equality for all. In the words of Mr. Mandela:

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

In an effort to monitor global efforts to eliminate racism and racial discrimination, the UN established the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is implemented through the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This committee calls on Member States to report on their progress towards improving racial equality and non-discrimination. The Nineteenth and Twentieth Reports of Canada on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination were submitted to the UN on January 27, 2011.

Preventing racism and racial discrimination in Alberta

On International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we are encouraged to reflect on the achievements that have been made in creating welcoming and inclusive communities and workplaces, and reflect on our role in building a province where racial discrimination and intolerance are not accepted.

We all have a responsibility to speak out again racism and discrimination and live the values set out in the Alberta Human Rights Act. This provincial legislation promotes equality, recognizes diversity and protects people from discrimination in employment, accommodation and services. The Alberta Human Rights Commission, an independent Commission of the Government of Alberta, was established to carry out functions under the Alberta Human Rights Act, which protects Albertans from discrimination in certain areas based on specified grounds. The Commission is engaged in a variety of initiatives that support communities in fostering equality and reducing discrimination.

You can read more about the Commission's education and engagement programs and services.

Events marking March 21

March 21st is a day in which all Albertans can celebrate the accomplishments made in preventing and countering racism and discrimination. You are encouraged to participate in the numerous events taking place in communities throughout the province to mark this important day.

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