Alberta Human Rights Information Service

March 21, 2017

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

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

You can read a Message from the Mr. Robert Philp, Queen’s Counsel, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission.

This day in history

On March 21, 1960, 69 people were killed and over 300 injured 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 those killed and injured at the Sharpeville Massacre. Although the apartheid system in South Africa has since been dismantled and advances in human rights laws and practices in countries around the world have been made, various forms of racism and discrimination continue to exist. 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. Canada’s most recent reports to the United Nations outlining measures taken to give effect to the Convention, the Twenty-first to twenty-third periodic reports of Canada on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, were submitted to the UN on May 13, 2016. 

2017 theme

The United Nations’ 2017 theme for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is “Racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration.”

From the United Nations website: “Every person is entitled to human rights without discrimination. The rights to equality and non-discrimination are cornerstones of human rights law. Yet in many parts of the world, discriminatory practices are still widespread, including racial, ethnic, religious and nationality-based profiling, and incitement to hatred. … Refugees and migrants are particular targets of racial profiling and incitement to hatred.”

The UN Human Rights Office is asking people around the world to Stand up for Someone's Rights Today. This campaign, launched on Human Rights Day 2016, encourages and supports actions in our daily lives to defend the human rights of others. Additional related UN initiatives include Together, Let's Fight Racism! and the International Decade for People of African Descent.

Participate in these initiatives online using #jointogether #standup4humanrights #fightracism #AfricanDescent 

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Our vision is a vibrant and inclusive Alberta where the rich diversity of people is celebrated and respected, and where everyone has the opportunity to fully participate in society, free from discrimination.