Statement – It’s time to step up to end racism

March 19, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Sunday, March 21, Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, issues the following statement:

The events of the past year have shone a powerful light on the need for all Canadians to reflect on how white privilege, deeply embedded systemic racism, and unchecked racial biases continue to exist in Canada, and contribute to injustice and inequality.

Proclaiming the day in 1966, the United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination. As we mark this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, it is with a renewed sense of urgency and resolve. We must redouble our efforts to confront racism head-on. We must dismantle the systemic racism that is deeply rooted within our society. We must redouble our efforts to challenge racism and racial discrimination everywhere.

Racism in Canada continues to deny far too many Indigenous, Black and other racialized people a life free from discrimination. And over the course of the pandemic, and tragically in recent days, we have seen anti-Asian racism escalate to hate and violence.

Racist comments and racist acts, no matter how subtle, can no longer be ignored or tolerated in Canada. We must make an effort to be actively anti-racist – to call out inequality and to challenge prejudice and bigotry even when it does not affect us. Even the most subtle forms of racism contribute to the conditions that permit overt racism and violence to occur.

But as we know, racism is more than just an event. It is a system and a structure that is deeply embedded in the fabric of our country. Governments, Canadians, and every organization, including the Commission, must acknowledge the existence of systemic racism and discrimination and continuously work to dismantle it.

Now is the time for all Canadians, but especially non-racialized Canadians, to listen, learn and reflect on how white privilege and systemic racism contribute to injustice and inequality in this country. We need to look inwards and have the courage to challenge our biases, fears, assumptions and privilege. We need the courage to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations and to take action.

As we look to recover from this pandemic, we must aspire to build back better – to make a new and better normal. We can dismantle systemic racism in our laws, policies, practices and our institutions. We can challenge white privilege, and confront unchecked racial biases that continue to exist in Canada.

Human rights matter, now more than ever. Racism and racial discrimination violate the human rights that every person has: to live with equality, dignity, and respect.

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