Alberta Human Rights Information Service March 14, 2013

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

On March 21, 1960, 69 people were killed at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa. On this day, 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 more than 300 injured, and reminds us of the importance of eliminating all forms of racism and racial discrimination. 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.

In an effort to monitor global attempts to eliminate racism and racial discrimination, the UN established the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which has now been ratified by almost all countries worldwide. This convention is implemented through the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which calls on Member States to report on their progress in this area. The monitoring process requires Member States to submit reports to the UN every two years. These reports highlight State efforts to improve racial equality and non-discrimination. The committee reviews each report and responds with concluding observations, which outline their concerns and recommendations. Member States are then given the opportunity to respond. 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 this day, we are reminded of the millions of people worldwide who experience racism and racial discrimination. Albertans are encouraged to take the opportunity to reflect on the achievements made in creating welcoming and inclusive communities and workplaces, and recommit ourselves to the work still needed to be done. We all have an important role to play in speaking out against racism and building a society where racial discrimination and intolerance are not accepted.

This year marks the Commission's 40th anniversary. This milestone is an opportunity for Albertans to reflect upon the many advances that have been made in human rights in our province and renew our efforts to build respectful, inclusive communities that are free from racism and racial discrimination. We are encouraged to continue working to remove barriers that people face because of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, culture or disability, and to promote the rights of immigrants and Aboriginal people.

In Alberta, we have strong human rights legislation that promotes equality, recognizes diversity and protects people from discrimination in employment, accommodation and services. Through proactive education and engagement initiatives and strategies, the Alberta Human Rights Commission supports communities to prevent and combat racism and other forms of discrimination. The Commission is engaged in a number of partnership initiatives throughout the province that support communities in strengthening organizational and community capacity to actively counter racism and discrimination. Funding through the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund enables communities to take action.

You can read more about the Commission's programs and services offered to educate and engage with Albertans and Alberta organizations in human rights and diversity.

Events marking March 21

March 21st is a day on which all Albertans can celebrate the accomplishments made in preventing and combating racism and participate in activities that remind us of the remaining work to be done. A variety of events have been organized in communities around the province to mark this important day. We encourage you to participate in these events.

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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.