EDMONTON - March 21st, the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, provides a good opportunity for government, employers and labour to conduct a serious assessment of how their actions have affected aboriginal people, people of colour and immigrants, according to the Alberta Federation of Labour. "As much as we'd like to believe we are a tolerant and enlightened province, we all know there are problems with racism in Alberta," says Audrey Cormack, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"Disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal people, people of colour and immigrants are living in poverty, occupying jobs characterized by low wages and no benefits. Many of these workers are trapped in job ghettos," says Cormack.
"The Klein government has continued to ignore the challenges faced by these people in their communities and in their workplaces. When the Alberta Human Rights Commission reports that last year 14% of their complaints cited race and/or colour as the basis of discrimination, and 10% cited ancestry and origin, it tells me that there is much more that can be done," says Cormack.
The International Day for the Elimination of Racism marks the anniversary of the "Sharpeville Massacre." On March 21, 1960, South African police fired into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators in Sharpeville Township, killing sixty-nine people. The United Nations, in an unprecedented move, condemned the South African government for these actions. March 21st is a rallying point for people involved in the struggle against racism.
"The labour movement takes the elimination of racism seriously. Anything that divides workers, weakens us all," says Cormack.
The Federation has a Worker of Colour and Aboriginal Worker Working Group, as well as a seat on its Executive Council reserved for a person of colour. At its biennial convention in May, the Federation will release a research and policy paper examining the economic effects of discrimination in the Canadian labour market.
"We are doing what we can to fight racism, but we can't create tolerant workplaces and communities on our own. Government and businesses have to start taking a role in combating racism and discrimination, and bringing down the barriers faced by these often, marginalized workers," says Cormack.
For information, contact:
Audrey Cormack, President @ 780-483-3021(wk)/499-6530 (cell)/428-9367 (hm)