March 21, 2019 (Toronto) – On this day in 1960 a group of demonstrators came together in a day of peaceful protest against the apartheid laws of South Africa. As they gathered in front of the police station in the township of Sharpeville, police opened fire on the crowd. 249 people were injured as a result of police actions. 69 demonstrators were killed. Six years later, the United Nations General Assembly declared March 21 to be an annual UN Day of Observance and a reminder of the need to oppose all forms of racism and discrimination.
“Even in a country as well-regarded as Canada, we cannot afford the luxury of complacency,” said Teresa Woo-Paw, chairperson of the Board, Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF). “The increase in the number of hate crimes recorded by Statistics Canada and the rise of intolerant speech in both the public square and the online environment challenges us to build bridges to our fellow Canadians rather than walls to separate us. We live today in a highly interconnected world. The recent mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand, motivated by racial hatred and seemingly “inspired” by Alexandre Bissonnette’s murderous attack at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City in January 2017, must remind us of the ease with which hatred and violence can spread. ”
“Nations can only thrive if there is a shared belief in the stories and values that bind us together,” said Dr, Lilian Ma, CRRF Executive Director. “The stories that we share must continue to be stories of opening doors to those who are in danger, of respecting the rights and dignity of fellow Canadians and of honouring through honest efforts at reconciliation the historic relationship between the indigenous people of this land and those who came later.”
In an effort to improve understanding around issues of racism and race relations in Canada, the CRRF will also be using March 21st to mark its first steps into the realm of online learning. The CRRF has created online modules related to hate crimes in Canada, interfaith understanding, and the neuro-scientific understanding of what causes racism, and will be opening up access to these courses to the public for their information and feedback. This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada. For more information, and to register, please visit https://www.crrf-fcrr.ca/en/canada-beyond-150. We are also pleased to join with UNESCO and other partners in a social media campaign to raise awareness about racism and discrimination and the role we all can play in eliminating it.
We are also proud to announce that the 2019 Canada Lecture will feature the story of Tareq Hadhad, an entrepreneur, peacekeeping advocate, and founder of Peace by Chocolate. Tareq came to Canada as a Syrian refugee, and on March 21st at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he will share his story. This event takes place under the sponsorship of CRRF Canada Lecture, as part of the 21st Metropolis Canada Conference, hosted by the Association of Canadian Studies. Tareq’s talk will also be broadcasted across the country using Facebook Live. To learn more, please join us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FCRRCRRF/
About the Canadian Race Relations Foundation
The purpose of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation is to facilitate throughout Canada the development, sharing and application of knowledge and expertise in order to contribute to the elimination of racism and all forms of racial discrimination in Canadian society. The work of the Foundation is premised on the desire to create and nurture an inclusive society based on equity, social harmony, mutual respect and human dignity. Its underlying principle in addressing racism and racial discrimination emphasizes positive race relations and the promotion of shared Canadian values of human rights and democratic institutions.