It was established by the UN General Assembly in 1966 to remember the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre. On that day, 69 protesters were murdered for speaking up against apartheid laws in South Africa.
In Canada, we grapple with our own history of colonialism and racial discrimination. For Indigenous peoples, the government administered pass system was tied to colonial practices and controlled the movement of Indigenous persons on and off reserves.
Canada’s economic, political, and social landscape is also marred with the continuous over-policing and disproportionate incarceration of Black and Indigenous persons. With Black and racialized workers being overrepresented on the frontlines of COVID-19, the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated existing societal and racial inequities in Canada.
In the workplace, union representation can be a useful tool in the task to eliminate discrimination at work. Collective bargaining contracts, which include anti-discrimination clauses, equip workers with the tools to challenge racist and xenophobic workplace practices.
In addition, worker negotiated access to sick pay, employment assistance programs, and monetary gains also work to mitigate the ongoing inequities in access to care and services in society. With labour activists lobbying for improved government supports, unions are in a unique position to represent workers on the shop floors and beyond.
This March 21, actions must center workers’ voices in dismantling the effects of systemic racism and challenging racial discrimination in the workplace and community at large.
The UN General Assembly has proclaimed 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent.
Standing up against racism involves everyday actions and can include denouncing hate in all its forms and supporting actions that work to counter racial discrimination. As the voice of labour, we are committed to doing our part.