In recognition of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Mr. Silver:   I also rise to pay tribute to the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. March 21 was designated by the UN as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, commemorating the Sharpeville massacre that took place during the heroic struggles of the people of South Africa against the institutionalized system of apartheid. The role of politicians and political parties in this atrocity was very clear as they gave legitimacy to their actions by enshrining racism and discrimination into their social policy. Within our own country and our own history, Canada has demonstrated significant racism and discrimination against aboriginal peoples and racialized communities. Just recall how many apologies our country has made to these victimized groups in recent years, Mr. Speaker.

The chosen theme of the 48th annual International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is, “The Role of Leaders in Combatting Racism and Racial Discrimination”, which emphasizes the critical role our political and community leaders have in this ongoing battle.

Our charter of rights and freedoms guarantees equality for everyone and, in 1971, Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy.

The role of government in this regard is three-fold: to respect the rights of all citizens, to protect those rights against violation and to fulfill those rights by taking steps to allow people to benefit from them.

Racism and discrimination deprives groups defined by race, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation or other characteristics of these fundamental human rights. Therefore, governments are obligated to condemn racism and discrimination to promote solidarity tolerance and respect for diversity.

 As leaders, first and foremost, we need to lead by example. In 2013 we lost one of the greatest leaders who truly embodied what it means to lead by example — Mr. Nelson Mandela. During his life, and even in death, he served as an inspiration to the international community of the power and influence that leaders can successfully wield in the fight against racism and discrimination.

If we look closer to home, the City of Whitehorse was the first city in the north to sign into the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination and has taken steps to honor this commitment by establishing a CCMARD advisory committee to provide recommendations to councils on ways to tackle racism and discrimination in Whitehorse.

Furthermore, Yukon municipalities have taken their initiative this year to declare a joint proclamation in tribute of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

As I stand before you today I encourage my peers — territorial leaders of every political stripe — to acknowledge that democracy, transparency, accountability and participatory governance responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people and the preservation of human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law are vital for the effective prevention and elimination of racism and discrimination.

I ask that we join together in the spirit of renewed political will to commit to removing systematic barriers that perpetuate prejudices and inequalities in the social and economic fabric of our communities and advancing universal equality, justice and dignity in order to ensure that all of our citizens have equal access and opportunity to fully participate in every aspect of our society.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.