Action needed now to eliminate racism

EDMONTON - On the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, the president of Alberta's largest labour organization is calling on leaders from government, business and labour to join forces in the battle against intolerance.

"Racism and discrimination continue to be serious problems in Alberta and across the country," says AFL president Audrey Cormack. "Progress has been made - that's clear. But much more needs to be done in order to combat racism in the workplace and in the broader community."

The United Nations has chosen March 21 as the International Day for the Elimination of Racism in memory of the infamous "Sharpeville Massacre." On this day in 1960, South African police fired into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators in Sharpeville Township, killing sixty-nine people. Since then, March 21 has been set aside as a day to remember the suffering caused by racism and to celebrate successes in the battle for racial tolerance.

Cormack says that much has been accomplished since 1960. For example, the brutal system of Apartheid that caused the Sharpeville massacre has been overthrown. And many countries, including Canada, have introduced laws aimed at discouraging discrimination. But Cormack says the battle against racism is far from over.

"The brutal reality is that immigrants, first nations people and people of colour still face racism discrimination and intolerance on a daily basis. Systemic racism continues to exist in our schools, our courts, our communities, our workplaces and even in our unions. In fact a recent poll published in the Globe and Mail suggests that intolerance against immigrants is actually on the rise. This sends a clear message that more needs to be done in order to promote tolerance."

Cormack says that unions have a long, proud history of working to overturn racist and discriminatory policies in government and in the workplace. As part of the the AFL's on-going commitment to ending racism and discrimination, she says she and other Alberta labour leaders will continue to: 1) speak out against racism in Canada and throughout the world, and 2) support anti-racism programs and legislation aimed at breaking down systemic barriers in all institutions.

"We in the labour movement will continue to do all we can to make Canadian labour organizations more tolerant, more inclusive and more welcoming for people of colour. For example, we will be working with the Canadian Labour Congress to implement the recommendations of the CLC's recent Anti-Racism Task Force, which outlines an action plan for promoting tolerance in unions and the workplace," says Cormack.

"But we can't eradicate racism alone. That's why we are challenging other groups and individuals to play a part. We challenge individuals to actively join the fight against racism. We challenge businesses to adopt anti-discrimination policies and sponsor educational programs to combat racism in the workplace. And we challenge governments to make the fight against racism in Canada and around the world a much higher priority. By working together, I am convinced we can promote tolerance and stamp out the black cancer of racism that has been eating away at our community and our workplaces."

For more information call:

Audrey M. Cormack, President  @  (780) 499-6530 (cell) /483-3021 (wk) 428-9367 (hm)

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