March 21, 2020 (Toronto) – In 1966, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution declaring March 21 to be recognized as an annual day of observance – The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The date was chosen to commemorate the shooting of 249 demonstrators – and the killing of 69 – in Sharpeville, South Africa. The demonstrators had gathered to protest the Apartheid laws that were in force at that time.
“We need only to look around the world – and in our own country – to see the relevance of an annual day on which we recommit ourselves to the struggle against racism and discrimination,” said Teresa Woo-Paw, chairperson of the Board, Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF). “In China, the mistreatment of the Uighur Muslim community should be an affront to our sensibilities. In Europe, a rising tide of Nationalism has opened the door to a return to a vile antisemitism that has not been seen in decades. We do not have the luxury of assuming that the challenges of racism, demagoguery and populism are for others to deal with. In a world made small by technology, what is distant today becomes imminent tomorrow. We ignore such eruptions at our peril.”
“In Canada, the response from some corners of the public square to the spread of the COVID-19 Virus has been disheartening,” said Dr. Lilian Ma, CRRF Executive Director. While Canadians should be attentive to matters of public health, the conflating of a particular health challenge with a particular community is hurtful, dangerous and not productive.”
“In addition,” continued Ms Woo-Paw, “We remain focused on the challenge of reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations. The Wet'suwet'en protests over the route to by taken by the Coastal GasLink Pipeline highlights the length and difficult of the road to be travelled before a respectful and mutually beneficial partnership can be achieved.”
“And we must always be aware of what occurs in Canada, often out of the spotlight of the media, concluded Dr. Ma. “According to Statistics Canada, the number of hate crimes reported to police in 2018 declined by 13% from the previous year. This decrease, to 1798 incidents is welcome news, but should be tempered by the realization that it far exceeds any number reported since 2009 (the first year for which comparable data was available). There is still much work to be done.”
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 published online learning modules related to the following topics: Implicit Bias, Interfaith and Multi-Faith, Systemic Racism in Canada, A Primer on Intercultural Dialogue, and Canadian Indigenous Treaties 101. These courses are open to the public for their information. This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada. For more information, and to register, please visit our webpage here. We are also pleased to join with Urban Alliance on Race Relations 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 the release of our survey, Capturing the Pulse of the Nation. The CRRF, in partnership with the Association of Canadian Studies, have since 2017 published a number of reports that aim at “Capturing the Pulse of the Nation” on issues of racism and discrimination. Our current report focusses on the state of race relations in Canada, in particular, the problems of racism and discrimination, and the state of inter-group relations as perceived by members of the Asian community. This focus is timely as it coincides with the global spread and impact of COVID-19 virus and instances of stigmatization of this community. The survey was conducted by the firm Leger Marketing, with a sample of 1479 Canadians nationally via web panel during the week of March 9th, 2020. It has a probabilistic margin of error of 2.5 percent 19 times out of 20. Please click here for the full report.
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.