Statement from the Director & CEO: Voices for Action Against Racism

Mar 16, 2022

Discrimination based on race is prohibited under the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act. Despite this, and other advancements toward greater emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion, racism remains a source of injustice, pain, and trauma for Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour.

March 21st is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This annual commemoration occurs on the date the police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid Pass Laws Act in 1960.  This day challenges us to reflect and consider what we are doing to support Black, Indigenous and other communities of colour, and to speak up and take action to combat this persistent and damaging form of hatred.

The United Nations’ theme for this year is “Voices for action against racism,” encouraging us to strengthen meaningful and safe public participation and representation in all areas of decision-making to prevent and combat racial discrimination; and recognizing the importance of individuals and organizations that stand up against racial discrimination and the challenges they face.

Racism can be blatant, subtle, intended, unconscious, passing, or persistent. Its impact can be direct and immediate or severe and lasting. The toll of racial discrimination on an individual can break spirits, destroy trust and effect mental and physical wellbeing.

There are many ways that we can better understand the harm wrought by racism and help to prevent it. We can learn about white privilege and white fragility, check our unconscious biases, watch for micro-aggressions toward our friends, family, classmates, or colleagues of colour and intervene. We can seek out stories focusing on Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour. We can learn about their rich heritage and the history that set the context for their experiences of covert, subtle or systemic forms of prejudice and oppression.

While racism takes many forms our action to prevent and combat it must be broad and varied. We must teach our children that each of us is equal, that a person must always be treated with dignity no matter the colour of their skin, and that the diverse cultures and heritage of Black, Indigenous and other communities of colour enrich our province every day of the year.

Recently, we have seen countless examples of generosity, hope and support shine through some very dark and challenging times. This positivity, action and persistence has demonstrated the power of our communities to step up, adapt, persevere, and protect human rights. I challenge you to harness that spirit toward our collective fight against racism. We must firmly protect the rights of all Nova Scotians and as we do so, we must never forget that the dignity of another person requires action from each of us.


The preceding is a statement from Joseph Fraser, Director & CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission