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International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination


The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed worldwide every March 21.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed worldwide every March 21 to commemorate a horrible incident that happened in South Africa about six decades ago. On March 21, 1960, police officers in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire on a group of people peacefully protesting racially discriminatory/apartheid laws. Sixty-nine people were killed, and 180 were injured in cold blood.

Thankfully, the apartheid system in South Africa has since been abolished, and many countries have adopted anti-racist laws and practices. In Canada and the province of Nova Scotia, racial discrimination and violence are prohibited in our national and provincial laws as well as under several international conventions. Yet, every day, in many regions of the world, too many individuals, communities, and societies still suffer from racial injustice, stigma, prejudice, abuse, slurs, and violence.


2023 theme: Combatting racism and racial discrimination

The 2023 theme of the International Day focuses on the urgency of combatting racism and racial discrimination, 75 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Seventy-five years ago, for the first time, the international community agreed on a set of common values and acknowledged that rights are inherent to every single human being and not granted by the State. These rights are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a blueprint for international human rights norms.


Mark the day with three commitments

On this day, we invite you to make three commitments. First, we invite you to reflect on the fact that many Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) still face racism and discrimination every day. Secondly, we invite you to affirm that all human beings are equal in dignity and rights and have the potential to contribute meaningfully to the progress and well-being of their societies. Finally, we invite you to pledge and stand up against systemic racism, racial prejudice, discrimination, and intolerant attitudes.  

Racism is not only legally prohibited and condemnable; it is morally and socially reprehensible and unjust.