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Alberta Human Rights Information Service March 14, 2012

March 21 is International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on March 21. On this day in 1960, police in Sharpeville, South Africa opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid "pass laws." The notorious passbooks were a repressive tool to control the movements of black South Africans. 

Proclaiming the day in 1966, the United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to heighten awareness of the impact of racism and redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

Since then, the apartheid system in South Africa has been dismantled. Racist laws and racist state practices have been abolished in many countries, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination is now nearing universal ratification.

Despite this significant progress, racism and racial discrimination continue to be a reality throughout the world, including Canada and Alberta, impacting individuals and communities and preventing their inclusion in many areas of society. The grounds of race, colour, ancestry, place of origin and religious beliefs accounted for 21% of all grounds cited in human rights complaints opened by the Commission in 2010-2011. Individual complaints may cite more than one ground.

Education and engagement in preventing racism and racial discrimination

Governments, organizations, communities and individuals each have a role to play to combat racism and discrimination and speak out against racism. This is important now more than ever as Canada's and Alberta's populations become increasingly diverse, as reported by Statistics Canada in Projections of the Diversity of the Canadian Population, 2006 to 2031.

In addition to the resolution and settlement of human rights complaints related to race and other grounds, the Alberta Human Rights Commission is working hard to prevent and combat racism and discrimination in communities through proactive education, engagement and partnership initiatives and strategies.  Read about partnership initiatives the Commission is engaged in to build organizational and community capacity to prevent and combat racism and other forms of discrimination. Some of the partnership initiatives include:

As well, the Commission is supporting organizations with their projects to foster equality and reduce racism and discrimination through the Human Rights, Education and Multiculturalism Fund (HREMF). Read more about the HREMF and projects it has funded.

Visit the Alberta Human Rights Commission website to learn more about the work of the Commission.

Events marking March 21

March 21 is an opportunity for Albertans to mark this international significant day and reflect on the harmful effects of racism on individuals and wider society. Albertans are encouraged to think about what we can each do to prevent and combat racism.

In Alberta, a number of community events have been organized throughout the month of March. Workshops, presentations, competitions and other activities will help Albertans reflect on their role in tackling racism in their communities. Albertans are encouraged to participate in the many events and activities taking place. Read more about March 21.


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