March 20, 2020
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on March 21, serving as a moment to reflect on inherent structures of power and to redouble efforts to eradicate all forms of racial discrimination.
This day commemorates 69 people who were killed by police at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid “pass laws” in Sharpeville, South Africa. These laws instituted by a British colonizer and modelled after similar laws instituted against Indigenous people in Canada, served to limit the movement of Black people, people of colour, and Indigenous people in Africa. While such overt racial discrimination may feel like ancient history, recent world events remind us that we still have a long way to go to challenge racial discrimination.
The UN recently connected the coronavirus outbreak to other contagious killers: racism and xenophobia. The COVID-19 crisis demonstrates the vulnerability of social systems, and for some governments, how quickly resource re-allocation can benefit the lives of everyone. While we respond to coronavirus, other contagious killers remain to be addressed: immigration limitation, state mandated police violence, visa requirements and distribution, and the treatment of temporary workers across the globe.
While social distancing keeps us physically apart during the pandemic, we are all united in the fight against racism. An equally powerful response is needed that leaves no one behind, importantly people of colour, Indigenous people, migrant workers, undocumented people, low-wage earners, and refugees.
Unifor, and all unions, have an important role in addressing racism in our workplaces and beyond. Through collaborative discussion, bold action, and strong policy demands we are making real movements that create systemic change. A powerful example of such action exists between Unifor’s Human Rights Department and unions in the United States through the North American Solidarity Project. Together, we are creating a toolkit for workers, Union representatives, and members to practice frameworks that challenge racism and stereotypes in all facets of our work.
Racism is a tool created and manipulated by the very same capitalist system that exploits all workers. The basic principles of our union emphasize the need to eliminate racism at all areas of our lives—at home, in society, in our workplace, and in our union.
This International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we call on your continued support – post this image to your social media and let’s raise our voices once again in support of Black people, people of colour, and Indigenous people in Canada and across the globe.