Today the Canadian Association of University Teachers commemorates the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination — a day whose origin was on March 21, 1960. That day, people gathered peacefully outside a police station in Sharpeville, South Africa, without their passbooks, to oppose the apartheid regime’s ‘pass laws’ that separated families, limited movement and deemed racialized individuals to be lesser human beings. Firing into the crowd, police killed 69 people and wounded many more. In commemoration of that day, the United Nations declared March 21st International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1966 and called on the international community to eliminate racism in all its forms.
On this day, we affirm that we stand strongly opposed to racism and in favour of the advancement of human rights, equality and social justice. We acknowledge and commit ourselves to opposing racism that continues to be a part of our workplaces, our unions, our communities and our societies — through practices such as discriminatory hiring, racial profiling, the non-recognition of skills, and the exploitation of migrant and precarious workers. In Canada, people of color are three times more likely to be poor than other Canadians. In Canadian universities and colleges, under-representation of racialized staff remains a major problem to be remedied.
On this day we also wish to reaffirm our support for the Aboriginal and Treaty rights of the First Peoples of Canada. Aboriginal communities often experience persistent inequality – in income, in access to good health care, proper housing, and access to education.
We affirm our commitment to work to change current federal government policies that perpetuate racial profiling, the increased criminalization of racialized and aboriginal peoples, and other programs that discriminate and promote inequality such as, recent changes that deny civil liberties and health care to refugee claimants and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program that allows migrant workers to be paid less than domestic workers and often denied basic human rights, including citizenship, while subjected to harassment, abuse and unsafe working conditions.
We all must renew our determination to oppose racism in our workplaces, in our academic staff associations, and in our society. We must all accept our responsibility to pursue a racism-free world.