March 21st is designated by the United Nations (UN) as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It is a day observed all around the world to focus attention on the problems of racism and the need to promote racial harmony.
The UN made this designation in 1966 to mark a tragic event that took place on March 21, 1960 in Sharpeville, South Africa when 69 peaceful demonstrators were killed during a protest against apartheid.
Canada was one of the first countries to support the UN declaration and, in 1989, the Department of Canadian Heritage launched its annual March 21st Campaign. The intention of this campaign is to heighten awareness across Canada about the harmful effects of racism and to foster respect for equality and diversity.
According to the United Nations Association in Canada, racism refers to:
- a set of beliefs that asserts the superiority of one racial group over another (at the individual as well as the institutional level).
- individuals or groups of people applying power that abuses or disadvantages others on the basis of skin colour or racial or ethnic heritage. This can be both subtle and obvious, by doing things like unfair reporting in the media, jokes, name-calling, discrimination at work, and even hate crimes.
Local 79 firmly believes that we should neither condone nor tolerate behaviour that undermines the dignity or self-esteem of any individual or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. Racism is destructive to our members and to our solidarity, which is based on the principle that union members are equal and deserve mutual respect at all levels. Any behaviour that creates conflict prevents us from working together to strengthen our union.
Local 79 believes in respect, equality and diversity for all people, which is why we have an Equity Vice-President on our Executive to deal with equity and human rights issues. Local 79 has proudly advocated on equity issues such as the practice of police carding in Toronto and the Poverty Reduction Strategy, and seeks to raise awareness of the contributions of our members through our Black History Month celebrations.
On March 21, 2016 we remember that racism and discrimination must be eliminated wherever and whenever they occur.
You can reach CUPE Local 79’s Equity Vice-President at email@example.com.