International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination — March 21

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination - March 21

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It has been more than fifty years since the most unspeakable racist incidents occurred in South Africa, shocking the whole world and prompting the United Nations to declare March 21, as a commemorative date to observe the International Day for the elimination of racial discrimination.  This incident screamed the word "racism" as a gigantic billboard to challenge humanity with the consequences of intolerance. 

For some, the observance of March 21 momentarily transforms them into a state of utmost reverence.  We showcase and marvel at the richness of cultural ethnicity demonstrated through revelry of songs, dances and festivals across Canada. We serve and consume sumptuous "ethnic" food in restaurants, satisfied and content that Canadians appreciate exotic taste.  For most of us, we entertain the notion that every colour and race in Canada enjoys equality and dignity in all aspects by virtue of the high numbers reflected in our demographics.

Unfortunately, all too often, after March 21st is observed, the fleeting moment dissipates.  The status quo of ethnic communities remains unchanged.  Overtly or covertly, bigotry takes shape right before our eyes yet we still become impassive.  We ask ourselves if the observance itself has achieved meaningful ways to combat racism.  And then, we realize how deep-seated prejudice still inhabits the day to day lives of many of our sisters and brothers.

As proud members of the UFCW Canada family, who have been advocating for migrant and immigrant workers, many of who are racialized, we work towards decreasing the racial inequities at workplaces in broader society.  As trade unionists, we cannot afford to sit on our laurels and allow the brazen tactics of the federal Tory regime against migrant and immigrant workers to continue. 

Discrimination against migrant workers thrives in Canada with workers from sending countries like the Philippines, Mexico, Jamaica and Guatemala being the victims. Subjugation of basic human rights in the form of poverty, unemployment and violence are condoned, nurturing a system that predisposes the workers to maltreatment. Once transported to receiving countries like Canada, migrant workers endure second class treatment in workplaces and suffer in silence for fear of deportation and repatriation.  Thus, racism becomes a vicious cycle in the spectre of globalization.

The observance of the International Day to Eliminate Racism should never serve as a mechanism to promote complacency.  This day must provide a powerful avenue for all of us to reaffirm our commitment to fight racism, such as uphold the basic rights of migrant and all workers.  As activists who center our activities and mindsets on social justice, we must make it a conscious battle each day to confront oppression and racial discrimination in all forms.

In solidarity,

Wayne Hanley
National President