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Municipalities Rally Against Racism

March 21st is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It is the day which was proclaimed by the United Nations forty years ago to commemorate the people killed and wounded at a peaceful anti-apartheid demonstration outside Sharpeville, South Africa in 1960. In Saskatchewan, March 21st provides an opportunity to express our ongoing commitment to a society free from all forms of racism.

Sadly, racial discrimination remains a serious and challenging problem in Saskatchewan. It permeates all aspects of public and community life, and weakens the social and economic strength of our province. Many people are still denied benefits, opportunities and respect because of their ancestry.

At the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, it is our mandate to prevent and combat racism and discrimination. One of the ways in which we are doing this is through our support for the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism.

The coalition was launched by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organization). The Canadian initiative is based on the International Coalition of Cities Against Racism, launched by UNESCO in 2004. The International Coalition has established an anti-racist network of cities in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, Asia-Pacific and Europe. A European coalition of 15 cities has already been established.

The goal of the Canadian coalition is to establish a network of Canadian municipalities interested in sharing experiences and expertise in order to combat racism in their communities. The Preliminary Proposal for the coalition asks municipalities to commit to an anti-racism plan of action, covering areas such as education, housing, employment and cultural activities. The role of the municipality as a policy-maker is viewed as a key component to influencing the anti-racism strategies of grassroots, provincial and federal agencies.

In 2005, the City of Saskatoon became one of the first municipalities to join the Canadian coalition. It is our hope that other Saskatchewan municipalities will follow its lead, and anyone interested in learning more about the coalition is encouraged to contact the Human Rights Commission.

But erasing racism requires the courage and commitment of individuals, as well as broad partnerships. Only through the determination of people from all walks of life can we eliminate racism. On March 21st, let us join with others in affirming our commitment to a society that is free from discrimination.

Donna Scott, Q.C.
Chief Commissioner
Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission