In 1966, the United Nations General Assembly designated March 21 (Thursday) as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This year the observance of this special day reminds us of the horror of the recent terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. At least 50 people were killed simply because they were Muslims. We are reminded of a similar shooting in Quebec in 2017.
According to information released by the Migrant Rights Network: “In Canada, police reported hate crimes went up 47 per cent in 2017. At least 300 known white supremacist organizations are currently active across the country. Over 70 per cent of the migrants in Canada are denied full access to basic labour or social rights because of unfair temporary permits. Women of colour continue to earn far less than white men. Black and Indigenous communities are unfairly targeted by police and imprisonment. Racialized people are shut out of basic services. Meanwhile, anti-immigrant populist messaging by federal political parties increased dramatically during the recent by-elections.”
To be involved in the elimination of discrimination is to build a more inclusive and just society that celebrates the richness of diversity. This makes me think about the kind of society, country, and province that we want to build. On one side, we encourage immigration for the development of our country, but on the other, we reject the customs, beliefs, or race of the people who come to our land. We cannot think of economic development without social and human development. This is everyone’s work.
Social inclusion means including in the community all members of society regardless of origin, occupation, socioeconomic status, or belief.
Many of us are permanent residents or citizens already, and many more are here under student or work permits. We are immigrants bound by the experience of leaving our homeland and our families to come to a country with different customs and language, and a large number of different cultures, countries of origin, and religions. That is the richness we find in Canada.
Our challenge as newcomers is to preserve our beautiful, rich, and deep roots, pass our language on to our kids and the new generations, and bring the best of our culture to contribute to this new society. While the challenge for those who have been in Canada for generations is to receive the gift of cultural diversity as an opportunity to enrich Canadian culture, we as newcomers have a similar responsibility.
REAL inclusion and diversity require not only a society that includes and respects diversity without losing their roots. It also requires newcomers who will allow ourselves to be included in society, and actively participate in the community, but who also open spaces of inclusion for other groups.
Some of the questions we need to ask ourselves are: Is the place where we live inclusive and open to diversity? Does our group participate and take interest in the activities that happen in the community in which we live? Does our group open spaces for the inclusion of other cultures? Are we willing to learn from other cultures that share our common space? Are my family and I open to inclusion and diversity?
We as newcomers can’t expect the community to be inclusive and diverse if we are not. After all, we are part of the community.
That is why the call to remember the International Day for the elimination of racial discrimination includes all of us, Canadian and migrants, that comprise our society. What kind of a country do we want? I want to live and help build a country with a diverse and inclusive society that coexist in peace and respects different cultures without losing our strength, roots or identity.
Paola Flores is a member of Cooper Institute and a program coordinator on behalf of the Cooper Institute Collective.