March 21, 2017

Statement on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on March 21st. Far from a day of celebration, it is an opportunity for us to reflect and re-commit to fighting for racial justice in our communities. On this day in the year 1960, police killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid “pass laws” in Sharpeville, South Africa. The United Nations proclaimed the day in 1966 and called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.


This year, we have seen a rise in emboldened acts of racial discrimination, particularly towards immigrants and refugees. From Donald Trump’s executive orders banning Muslims and approving the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to Trudeau’s approval and continued support of the destructive Kinder Morgan Access pipeline, the killing of Black people at the hands of police here in Canada (Abdirahman Abdi, Andrew Loku, Jermaine Carby), and all the other manifestations of racism that occur around the world, we can assuredly say that we have a long way to go before we have eliminated racial discrimination. 

The Canadian Federation of Students recognizes the long fight ahead and the integral role that college and university students play in the fight against racism. It is well known that students coming from racialized backgrounds face more barriers in their efforts to access education and to secure stable employment during a time of precarious work. These realities, coupled with Canada’s history of targeting Indigenous and racialized communities, make it incredibly important to collectively support this day and recommit ourselves to upholding the principles of human rights for all.


The Canadian Federation of Students has a proud history of being at the forefront of confronting these issues on Canadian campuses and through community organizing. The Federation has long been campaigning against colonialism and racism, and has been working on anti-Islamophobia campaigns since 2003. It also brings together Racialized and Indigenous students from around the country to share their common experiences through the Racialized and Indigenous Student Experience (RISE) summits, which are a part of a consistent effort to help students better organize to recognize and address systemic racism on their respective campuses.


It’s important to consider the ways in which we can get involved and take action. Students have been known to champion anti-racism efforts by pressuring their administrations to divest from companies complicit in policies that uphold racism; reporting incidents of racial discrimination to organizations that create studies to shed light on the realities of racialized folks; and creating spaces to educate broader communities. These are just some of many ways for students to challenge racial discrimination while also working towards dismantling systemic racism in academic institutions. With students joining in to carry this fight forward, we are hopeful that the next generation will see a society that is another step closer to racial equity.