The Toronto & York Region Labour Council stands with people of all backgrounds who face discrimination based on their race or religion. We are deeply concerned with the rise in overt racist violence experienced by people of colour worldwide, most recently resulting in 51 people losing their lives in the mosque shootings at Christchurch, New Zealand.
It is easy to decry explicitly racist and violent acts. However, we have a responsibility, at all levels of society, to ask the deeper questions that fundamentally challenge the environmental conditions within which vile hatred and deep division can breed.
Not all racism is overt. Systemic racism is a reality of our world – discrimination is an insidious remnant of our history. It is not enough to say that racism is bad, and that we are as individuals are not racist. We have a duty of care to do the deep organizational and institutional soul-searching to root out systemic practices.
The Labour Council has been committed to racial justice for many years. In 1947, the Toronto Joint Labour Committee on Human Rights was formed to challenge all forms of racial discrimination – in workplaces, apartments, restaurants, and public spaces. In the decades that have followed, we have undertaken a number of initiatives to support labour efforts to take on this work intentionally and meaningfully. Some recent examples include the 2017 Labour Day Parade theme, Step Up and Speak Out, which challenged labour to affirm its own role in challenging racial discrimination, and in 2015 issuing a statement of solidarity that “We are all Canadian.”
Today’s release of “Islamophobia at Work: Challenges and Opportunities” by the Canadian Labour Congress provides yet another example of labour’s ongoing commitment to addressing discrimination.
The Labour Council is proud to co-host the annual IDERD event at Toronto City Hall alongside the Urban Alliance on Race Relations. Discussions on race deserve to be held with ceremony, within centres of power, and in public spaces.
On this International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Labour Council challenges the leadership of all Canadian institutions to commit to the introspective work needed to stop racial discrimination wherever it permeates.