International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

March 11, 2020

On March 21, 1960, police killed 69 people who were among many demonstrating peacefully against apartheid laws in Sharpeville, South Africa. Six years later, the United Nations General Assembly named this day International Day Against Discrimination and called on the international community to strengthen its efforts to eliminate racial discrimination.

On this anniversary, it is important to celebrate how far societies across the globe have come in terms of ending discrimination, but also, to recognize all the work that remains to be done. This past November, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Quebec's Human Rights Commission), published a report that was compiled after several months of a public consultation on systemic racism in Montreal. The 125-page brief that resulted from this consultation highlighted four main issues: discrimination in the workplace, racial profiling, xenophobic acts of hate and the right to decent housing.

The commission also identified a number of recommendations. Primarily, they recommended that City of Montreal, the Montreal police, and the Société de transport de Montreal take action so that their workforces reflect the ethnocultural diversity of Montreal. The commission also proposed that all three above-mentioned institutions facilitate the recognition of immigrant diplomas and professional experience from their home countries, undergo anti-racism training, and conduct awareness campaigns about xenophobic acts of hate.

Sixty years after the fateful events of Sharpeville, South Africa, discrimination persists, in Montreal as in many other places throughout the globe. The fight to end unjust treatment of racialiazed people is not over, but platforms such as Montreal's public consultation do provide space citizens and organizations to express their views and experiences, and that is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.