Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

3rd Session, 37th Parliament,
Volume 141, Issue 22

Tuesday, March 23, 2004
The Honourable Dan Hays, Speaker

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, it was on March 21, 1960, that a peaceful protest in Sharpeville, South Africa, against apartheid became a slaughter that saw 69 people murdered in the streets by police. In commemoration of that day, the United Nations, in 1966, adopted resolution 2142 on the elimination of all forms of discrimination and recognized March 21 as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Canada has long been proactive in fighting racial discrimination and promoting racial harmony both domestically and internationally. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act, 1988, is an excellent example of this kind of leadership. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act commits the Government of Canada to policies aimed at promoting multiculturalism and diversity as fundamental characteristics of Canadian heritage. It also promotes the elimination of barriers to the full participation of individuals and communities of all origins.

These kinds of commitments as well as the designation of a member of cabinet as the Minister of State for Multiculturalism have placed Canada at the forefront of reducing racial discrimination in society.

However, honourable senators, March 21 should remind us that, despite how far we have come, we have not yet succeeded in eliminating racial discrimination within our society. We must continue to move forward and not backward.

In a world now changed by the threat of international terrorism, we have seen a drastic move towards security that sometimes conflicts with our multicultural values. The effects of our Anti-terrorism Act conflict with our treasured values of multiculturalism and diversity, and the new steps threaten to further jeopardize our country’s harmony by alienating and discriminating against communities within our society.

Honourable senators, March 21 should be a reminder that, when we consider these issues, we have a responsibility to remember that the elimination of discrimination means making all Canadians feel that they are equal and that they belong in our great country.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!