International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Mar 20, 2023

The United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is an essential time to reflect on the need to act against racism in all its forms. This annual observance, which takes place on March 21st, provides an opportunity for us to come together and renew our commitment to fighting against racial discrimination.

The United Nations first established this day in 1966 to commemorate the victims of the Sharpeville massacre, which occurred on March 21st, 1960, in South Africa. On that day, police opened fire on a peaceful demonstration against apartheid, killing 69 people and injuring many more. Since then, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has been recognized as a time to remember this tragedy and to reaffirm the universal human right to live free of discrimination.

From the ongoing efforts of Indigenous peoples to address the generational harms of colonialism in pursuit of truth and reconciliation, to the fight against anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, anti-Asian hate, and discrimination, racialized communities continue to take the lead as we make progress towards building a more inclusive and just society. As Canadians, we have a long way to go to truly eliminate racism and discrimination in all their forms.

It is important to remember that racism is still a pervasive and persistent problem in our society. Whether it manifests as hate speech and violence, systemic barriers to education and employment, or microaggressions in our everyday interactions, racism affects the lives of many throughout Nova Scotia, Canada, and the world.

At the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, we believe that it is only by coming together to address these challenges that we can dismantle racism and build a society that is truly inclusive and equitable for all. That means recognizing the unique experiences and perspectives of different racialized communities, and working together to develop policies and programs that address the root causes of discrimination.

We believe that education and awareness-raising are crucial in the fight against racism and encourage Nova Scotians to invest the time required to learn about the history of racism and discrimination in our province, and across Canada, and reflect on how we can all do better to promote respect, dignity, and a commitment to anti-racism.

While everyone has a role to play in ending racism, I call particularly on white Nova Scotians to reflect on your own thoughts, words, and actions, speak out against discrimination when you see it, take steps to educate yourselves and others about the impacts of racism, and support organizations and initiatives that promote racial justice. Together we can make a difference.

The Commission is committed to working together to build a more inclusive, equitable, and respectful society. I encourage everyone to join us in this effort, and to renew your commitment to the fight against racism in all its forms.

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