Blog: Celebrating March 21: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
By Hanna Nash, ESPC Volunteer
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is celebrated annually to recognize the prejudices and injustices that arise from racial discrimination. This day commemorates the 69 people who were killed during a peaceful protest in Sharpeville, South Africa, on March 21, 1960, when police opened fire on demonstrators speaking out against apartheid. 
In 1979, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) created a program of activities to be undertaken in the second half of the Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination. Guided by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention is now nearing universal ratification.
This year’s theme, Voices for Action Against Racism, is inspired by the High Commissioner’s report on racial injustice. The aim of this theme is to highlight the importance of supporting and protecting those individuals and organizations who use their voices and roles to speak up and address racial discrimination. In order to foster new policies and encourage new attitudes to grow, safe spaces must be guaranteed for people and organizations to share their stories and experiences and to gather in peaceful assembly. 
What Can We Do?
In Canada, this day is an opportunity to reflect on racial discriminations that exists in our own society. This day asks each of us to consider the progress that has been made and what more can be done to open up conversations and combat systemic prejudice that visible minorities feel daily. In the past two years, movements such as Every Child Matters, Black Lives Matter, and Stop Asian Hate have brought awareness and created discussions for all Canadians to learn and participate in ending racial injustices. These movements have been very powerful in reflecting back on our society the pervasive racist and xenophobic attitudes that continue to persist, and changes that are needed to respond to them.
Canada has slowly made progress in using this day to address racial discrimination since ratifying the Convention on October 14, 1970.  Provincial and federal governments acknowledge this date annually and, in previous years, have used it when announcing new strategies to fight racism. Creating new opportunities for visible minorities and assisting in methods to change attitudes surrounding racial discrimination is now at the forefront of society’s mind. 
The UN encourages all people from all nations and backgrounds to join the fight against racism by expanding and contributing to the conversation globally. Visit https://share.ohchr.org/ to upload your photo using a Stand Up to Human Rights campaign filter and share it on your social media using the hashtags #FightRacism and #StandUp4HumanRights.
While the world has made progress since 1960 and can celebrate the achievements South Africa has made since ending apartheid, there is still much progress to be made in eliminating racism. This day was created for all people to renew their efforts to reach an end to the many continued forms of racism, hatred, and discrimination to ensure that all people of all nations experience their right to live peacefully and in safety, and have unlimited access to the same opportunities as others.
Hanna Nash is a volunteer with ESPC. She enjoys ballet performances and other live theatre, as well as outdoor sports, and travelling to new countries. Hanna is interested in sharing information and knowledge to Edmonton’s diverse communities.
 United Nations. (n.d.). International day for the elimination of racial discrimination, 21 March. https://www.un.org/en/observances/end-racism-day
 Government of Canada. (n.d.). March 21 – International day for the elimination of racial discrimination. https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/federal-anti-racism-secretariat/international-day-elimination-racial-discrimination.html
 Department of Canadian Heritage. (2009). International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/pch/documents/services/canada-united-nations-system/reports-united-nations-treaties/conv_intnl_elim_discrim-intnl_conv_elim_discrim-eng.pdf
 Prime Minister of Canada. (2021). Statement by the Prime Minister on the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination. Government of Canada.