Ontario Federation of Labour

Ontario Federation of Labour

March 20, 2009 11:02 ET

OFL Statement: Struggles Against Racism Are Not Over

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, March 21st

Attention: Assignment Editor, Media Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor TORONTO (STATEMENT)--(Marketwire - March 20, 2009) - (TORONTO) - The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on March 21st. In 1960 on that day in Sharpeville, South Africa police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid "pass laws". Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

"We commemorate the courage and the sacrifice of countless numbers of people who fought to end the notorious racial injustice of the "pass laws" and apartheid. They will never be forgotten," said Ontario Federation of Labour, executive vice-president, Terry Downey.

The labour movement recognizes that the fight to eliminate racism requires steadfast vigilance, advocacy and perseverance. Actions that were demonstrated by trade union and community activists like Bromley Armstrong and Viola Desmond. They both challenged racist practices in Canada, beginning in the 1940s.

"Sadly racist actions are still in existence. In the last month alone the Canadian Federation of Students and its members received a racially motivated death threat just after the launch of a Task Force studying racism; recent Canadian studies and research have identified racial bias in employment, education, housing and criminal justice decision-making; South Asian visitors to Canada must fill out an intrusive questionnaire about themselves and family members about links to 'terrorist' groups; and our Aboriginal Peoples are living in squalid conditions with their opportunity to succeed and thrive in our society held back by discrimination, limited choices and dismal opportunities," Downey said.

"We are calling on the Canadian government to reverse its decision to boycott the Durban Review conference in April 2009. The Review is an important international human rights and racial justice conference that will review global actions to combat racism and xenophobia. Aboriginal rights and migrants' rights are included in the Review," said Downey. "Canada's international reputation has been tarnished in the last few years by our eroding human rights record and seeming indifference to upholding international human rights treaties and agreement. Canada should be participating."

Racialized communities experience a disproportionate level of poverty, unemployment, dead-end jobs and abuse by employers. "Their rights are not fully protected on the job and they have been underrepresented in professional positions," Downey said. "The skills that new Canadians bring to Canada are often not even recognized when it comes to decent employment and a living wage."

Racism and oppression in all its forms continue to create barriers to women's equality and leave women more vulnerable to all forms of violence.

"Today is the time to remember the valiant efforts of those who stood together in Sharpesville, South Africa to protest the policies of racial injustice," Downey said. "As labour and community activists let's make sure their struggle was not in vain."

/For further information: Terry Downey
OFL Executive Vice-President
416.578.3230 (cellular)/ IN: LABOUR, MEDIA, POLITICS, OTHER

Contact Information

  • Dana Boettger, OFL Communications
    Primary Phone: 416-441-2731 ext. 665
    Secondary Phone: 416-443-7665
    Toll-Free: 800-668-9138