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CULE Statement for March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly proclamation of March 21 as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The date commemorates the Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa in 1960. Although this was a turning point in modern race relations, the world continues to see the rise of racism in every corner of the earth. We must ask ourselves these questions: why does racism continue to persist in our communities, workplaces, schools and neighbourhoods? How do we become part of the solution to eliminate racism from our world, so that future generations can grow up in a hate-free society?

The Civil Rights Movement of past generations have fought hard for equality in society, such as Brother Cal Best and Viola Desmond to the legacies of Dr. Martin Luther King among others. With the current American elections underway, the hate rhetoric against Muslims, Mexicans and refugees is frightening to hear. Here at home, Harper’s Conservatives were defeated in part due to their hate rhetoric against Muslims and refugees. While the new Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has welcomed Syrian refugees and promised to call an inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women, there is much, much more to be done.

Incidents of racial discrimination continue to rise. The recent protests in Toronto against police brutality as part of the Black Lives Matter movement were met with violence from local authorities, however it is young people’s courage and determination offer us inspiration and hope.

Our global society is well established in the 21st century and how we communicate our ideas, thoughts, and feelings are rapidly conveyed through social media tools. How do we control this information age where the internet and social media are the tools used to incite hatred and misinform citizens at lightning speed? We continue to see people killed based on race and class, we continue to see discrimination in the education system and workplaces based on race and class. As on-going terrorists’ attacks take place on a global stage, Islamophobia has hit an all-time high with attacks on ordinary Muslims citizens and others have become all too common place.

As part of the larger Canadian labour movement and progressive social justice movement, CULE looks at our own workplaces as manifestations of larger Canadian society. Our own workplaces are not immune to continued racial discrimination whether intentional or not. Rather than ignore or deny the existence of racism, we encourage our members to continue to speak out, challenge and take action against racism in their workplaces and larger society as workers of colour and as allies. CULE is proud of the anti-racism and anti-oppression work we have done but know that there is much more to do. We encourage our members to continue to network with allies and support each other as workers of colour and work towards healthy and safe working environments that are hate-free, inclusive, diverse and barrier-free.

In the famous words of Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” CULE is committed to fighting all forms of racism and injustice within the workplace and the larger community and call on all CULE members to continue the fight to eliminate racism towards genuine equality, justice and peace.

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