"We still have a long way to go. Each year we have made progress, but we also need to recognize that the work of overcoming racism is never finished.” — James Clancy, NUPGE National President.
Ottawa (20 March 2014) — Every year around the globe, March 21 is recognized as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Since 1966, March 21 has been observed annually in the combat against racism worldwide. It commemorates the 1960 massacre of 69 people who were killed while demonstrating against apartheid in South Africa.
Canada has made great strides in combating racism. In every jurisdiction, and for many years, we have had human rights legislation that protects victims of racial discrimination and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees equality for all.
Canadian labour movement has played a leadership role in fighting racism
James Clancy, National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), points out that a major part of Canada's success can be attributed to the huge efforts of the Canadian labour movement to fight racism in our workplaces and our communities. But as Clancy notes, “We still have a long way to go. Each year we have made progress, but we also need to recognize that the work of overcoming racism is never finished.”
For those who might think we live in a post-racist society in Canada, they should consider the facts that GraceeEdward Galabuzi, Amy Casipullai, and Avvy Go presented in their Toronto Star editoral:
- Black males in Canada are more likely to be carded by police, no matter where they live; police stop residents more frequently in neighbourhoods that are largely populated by people of colour. Not only are racialized people considered a greater crime threat, they also face greater surveillance.
- Employment and income disparities persist for racialized people in Canada, regardless of education. They are more likely to be unemployed and underemployed even though they are more willing and available to work.
- Racialized Canadians earn an average of $30,385 per year compared to $37,332 for other Canadians, or 81 cents to the dollar. First-generation racialized male Canadians earn 68.7 per cent of what their white counterparts make, and second-generation racialized males make 75.6 cents for every dollar earned by white males.
- Racialized immigrant women earn only 48.7 per cent of the employment income that non-racialized immigrant men earn, while racialized women as a whole earn 56.5 per cent ($25,204) of what white men earn ($45,327).
- The effect of these inequalities in the labour market is that racialized Canadians are three times more likely to live in poverty than other Canadians (19.8 per cent compared to 6.4 per cent).
- One in five aboriginal peopel lives in poverty and an untold number live without basic necessities such as clean water and electricity.
Still a long way to go to achieve a racism-free society
Obviously, we still have a long way to go to achieve a racism-free society. But working together we can achieve this goal. We need to pressure all governments in Canada to step up and take the necessary measures to combat racial inequities. Each of our governments needs to consider introducing measures that will address the perpetual underemployment and unemployment problems facing racialized communities and invest in programs that will benefit them.
Federal government needs to take a leadership role
There needs to be a national poverty reduction strategy developed and implemented, which relies on public programs and investments targeted to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and excluded populations, from basic services to education, employment and economic opportunities.
Collectively, we can do better to ensure that racialized Canadians have equal access to economic opportunity, social justice and full participation in all aspects of society.
Let’s recommit to our goal of making racial equality and justice a reality and not just a slogan for one day of the year.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE