Message from Michael Gottheil, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission

(March 18, 2021)

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2021

As we mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we reflect on the last year, including the impact the global pandemic has had on our province, our communities, our families, and on all of us as individuals.

The pandemic both exposed and amplified the inequities that continue to exist and its disproportionate impact on Black people, Indigenous people, and people of colour. Racialized persons are more likely to experience inequitable living and working conditions, including lower incomes, precarious employment, part-time work, and employment in front-line essential positions like agriculture and food production, care providers, and healthcare services. Racialized women are more likely to work low-paying, front-line jobs, for example as care providers in long-term facilities, often requiring them to work multiple jobs and longer hours.

Over the past year, we have also seen an increase in hate and racism. There were a number of racially-motivated attacks in Alberta and across Canada, particularly directed at people of Asian descent, Indigenous Peoples, Muslim women, and Black people. This week, there were three shootings in Atlanta that took the lives of six women of Asian descent.

Anti-Black racism was front and centre. The Black Lives Matter movement was illuminated in response to high-profile incidents of police violence against Black people. The world was awakened to the ongoing racism and power imbalances that exist in our systems, organizational structures, policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviours.

It has been an extremely difficult year, but in the wake of these struggles, we have taken positive steps forward.

Communities rallied. People came out in droves to protest police violence against the Black community and call for systemic change, including calls for significant changes in policing and the justice system.

The Alberta Human Rights Commission engaged its stakeholders and provided a written submission to the Alberta Government's Police Act Review with recommendations for potential amendments to the Act.

Organizations developed new anti-racism initiatives. For example, Action! Chinese Communities Together Foundation developed the initiative with an online racism incident reporting centre. The data is used to help identify trends and inform policy, service, and future anti-racism initiatives.

Human rights commissions called for a national strategy for the collection of disaggregated health data focused on race and Indigeneity to identify inequalities and advance human rights.

Municipalities across the province have engaged the community through municipal and provincial anti-racism advisory committees, as well as through the Coalitions Creating Equity, which developed a Response Model to Hate Incidents in Alberta.

Businesses and organizations across the province are looking internally at their own institutions to ensure they are diverse, inclusive, and free from racism and discrimination. This includes actions to decolonize their institutions and the systems in which they exist.

As we recognize International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we are reminded that we are all responsible for taking an active role in anti-racism.

The United Nations' 2021 campaign theme is "Youth Standing Up Against Racism." It engages the public through #FightRacism, which aims to foster a global culture of tolerance, equality, and anti-discrimination. It calls on each and every one of us to stand up against racial prejudice and injustice.

We all have the responsibility to educate ourselves, to speak out against racism, and to upend systemic racism. We are stronger together than we are individually. Our collective efforts to eliminate racial discrimination in our communities, institutions, and systems will help build a society that is equitable for all.

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.