The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is held annually on the 21st of March. It commemorates the day in 1960, when the police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire on a peaceful protest against apartheid pass laws, killing 69 civilians.
Since 1979, the UN General Assembly has set out a week of solidarity with people facing racism, beginning on March 21.
This year, the theme is “VOICES FOR ACTION AGAINST RACISM”. The goal is to promote meaningful public participation to end racial discrimination, and to recognize those who stand against racism.
At United Way Centraide Canada (UWCC), we have been listening to our community members and staff voices on how racism and discrimination affects them personally and in their work. Coupled with the increasing acts of violence and racism we have witnessed in the news over the past few years, these voices have led us to look inward for how we can effect change.
In 2020, we started the work of building a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and Indigenous Collaboration strategy. Members of our staff and the 71 local United Way Centraides across the country weighed in during community safe space sessions for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, members of the LGBTQ2S+ community, and those with disabilities. This year, those conversations informed our Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which you can read in full here. This commitment reaffirms our Statement on Racism and Commitment to Indigenous Reconciliation, which we posted in April 2021.
Our conversations with staff and our community also helped us build our DEI strategy, which lays the foundation for how UWCC and our network can eliminate discrimination in our offices, and in our communities, so everyone in every community has the opportunity to reach their full potential. We will be sharing this strategy very soon.
As part of our work to reimagine what Canada could look like without racial prejudice and discrimination, we asked some of our staff across the country what ending racism would mean to them, and to the communities we serve. Here are some of their responses:
Eliminating racism would free us to pursue and explore new ways to address social issues. It would give us all perspectives and all truths rather than just a few. We would be that much more perceptive, creative, and know much more than we do now. We would leave our default thinking and actions in the dust. For me personally, one thing that it would mean is that I wouldn’t have to continuously educate people in the community on the issues that Indigenous people face and the reasons for it. It’s time to move beyond the “culture awareness training” mindset of the past several decades and into action and new approaches. And in some very real instances, I should not need to convince someone that racism is a real barrier and a true reality for many of us. No one should have to “make a case” on why we need to be inclusive and treat each other respectfully and with kindness. – Joanne, Strategy Lead, United Way Calgary
Eliminating racism would mean that I could confidently bring my full, authentic self to my role and have the opportunity to focus solely on the work at hand.
For the communities we serve, eliminating racism would mean that fewer unnecessary barriers to access and opportunity would exist and that more residents could realize their full potential and be completely who they are. – Anjana, Corporate Team Lead, United Way Centraide Windsor-Essex County
More than an end to race based hatred, violence, harm, and inequalities, the elimination of racism would mean that the communities UWC’s serve would be places where everyone could thrive, everyone supported each other’s wellbeing, and everyone felt a deep sense of safety and belonging. – Michelle, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator, United Way Halifax
Eliminating racism [would allow] some people to gain confidence, feel a deeper sense of belonging, and thus be able to play a more active role in the community. – Lamia, Execitive Assistant, Community Impact, Centraide Québec, Chaudière-Appalaches and Bas-Saint-Laurent