Kamloops embraces day to end racial discrimination

Duncan McGregor:  Omega Contributor  Ω

Kamloops City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to proclaim March 21, 2011, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

A delegation appeared before council today requesting that March 21, 2011, be proclaimed International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Kamloops. The delegation consisted of Paul Lagace, executive director of Kamloops Immigrant Services, and Kamloops Immigrant Services’ vice president, Missagh Manshadi. The two were joined by Chelan Lubin and Liana Santos, both of whom are participants in Thompson Rivers University’s Human Services program.

Manshadi and Lagace spoke to council of the history of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The special day commemorates the day in 1960 when, in Sharpeville, South Africa, when government forces opened fire on a peaceful demonstration calling for the end of apartheid. Sixty-nine people died that day, and many others were injured.

Six years later, to commemorate the event, and to shed light on global issues of discrimination and racism, the United Nations proclaimed that day would thenceforth be the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Lagace explained that institutional racism is still prevalent in Canada, and is an issue that requires more attention.

“One of the key issues, when we talk about legislation, [is that] if you look at the Canadian Human Rights Act, the only group that is exempt in Canada is First Nations people under section 67. It is totally inappropriate.”

“In Kamloops we try to follow multiculturalism, but racial discrimination is an issue. You hear a lot about multiculturalism failing in other areas,” said Lagace.

“If multiculturalism is failing, what is the alternative? Segregation? In doing the proclamation, what we’re doing is trying to raise awareness that racial discrimination is not gone.”

“The most important thing to recognize right now is the oneness of mankind. We are one. The second issue is that world peace is inevitable,” said Manshadi, “We’re going through hurdles, but that will happen.”

After the unanimous vote of proclamation by Kamloops city council, and a warm, congratulatory handshake from Mayor Peter Milobar, the delegation announced that they will be holding a multicultural dance this Friday, March 18, at Thompson Rivers University’s Old Gym. They will also be holding a march, from the Kamloops Public Library to Kamloops Immigrant Services on Monday, March 21 at 2:00 p.m. to raise awareness of the day’s significance.

“It’s going to be a celebration of colour,” said Lagace.  All are welcome to attend.