Alberta Human Rights Information Service March 21, 2018

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 William D. McFetridge, Q.C., Acting 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.
Six years later, in 1966, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed March 21st the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in response to this horrific event. 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 have been made in countries around the world, 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.

2018 theme
The United Nations’ 2018 theme for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is “Promoting tolerance, inclusion, unity and respect for diversity in the context of combating racial discrimination.”

2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaiming that the rights to equality and non-discrimination are cornerstones of human rights law and that every person is entitled to human rights without discrimination. To commemorate this significant milestone, the UN Human Rights Office encourages people around the world to Stand up for Someone's Rights Today through a campaign that supports people to actively defend the human rights of others in their daily lives.

From the United Nations website: “Every person is entitled to human rights without discrimination. … Yet racism, xenophobia and intolerance are problems prevalent in all societies, and discriminatory practices are widespread, particularly targeting migrants and refugees as well as people of African descent.

States are urged to take comprehensive measures to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and to promote tolerance, inclusion, unity and respect for diversity.”

The UN has a global action plan to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Additional initiatives include Let's Fight Racism! and the International Decade for People of African Descent. Participate in these initiatives online using #jointogether #standup4humanrights #fightracism and #AfricanDescent. 

Racism and Discrimination in Alberta

The Alberta Human Rights Act protects Albertans from discrimination in certain areas based on specified grounds. Of all the grounds cited in complaints opened at the Commission in 2016-17, eight per cent were based on the ground of race/colour, and seven per cent were based on ancestry/place of origin. Thus, of all grounds cited, up to 15 per cent can be linked to racism.

Recently, Statistics Canada revealed in “Police-reported hate crime in Canada, 2015” that Alberta saw a 39 per cent increase in police-reported hate crimes from 2014 to 2015. This increase was primarily driven by a higher number of hate-motivated crimes against the Muslim population (+12 incidents), Arab or West Asian populations (+10), Black populations (+9), and the Jewish population (+8).

Indigenous Peoples and new immigrants to Alberta also continue to experience racism and racial discrimination. The Alberta Hate Crimes Committee released Community Conversations: 2016, noting that Alberta's Indigenous Peoples are deeply impacted by hate, racism and discrimination, but they tend not to report hate crime or incidents due to a lack of trust in law enforcement and lack of community support, as well as other factors.

In 2017, the Commission hosted a series of conversations with organizations across the province to hear about the human rights issues their communities are facing. These conversations were summarized in the report Your Voice: Advancing Human Rights in Alberta, which is being used by communities and the Commission to move forward on addressing these important issues. 


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