The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD), recognized annually on March 21st, was first established by the United Nations in 1966 to commemorate the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa. Although the apartheid system in South Africa has been dismantled and many international efforts to fight racist laws and practices have been made since then, racial discrimination and violence continues to occur daily across Canada and around the world.
The University joins the global community in condemning the tragic shootings in Atlanta that took the lives of eight persons, six of which were Asian-American women. These shootings come after a significant increase in anti-Asian racism and xenophobia, harassment, and racial violence targeting people of Asian descent. We share the frustration and sadness felt by members of the Asian community and stand together to work towards lasting change both on our campuses and in the world around us.
Dismantling systemic racism begins with addressing the realities and impacts of colonialism. Since we last marked IDERD, the University has continued the necessary and ongoing work to address all forms of racial discrimination in our community. Meeting our responsibilities outlined in the University’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Steering Committee’s Calls to Action is central to these efforts. In consultation with Indigenous communities, and in response to the Call, in 2020 the University expanded the Indigenous Cultural Competency training available to students, faculty, librarians, and staff and appointed the inaugural First Peoples Leadership Advisor to the Dean of the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design.
With key partners across our three campuses, the Division of HR & Equity is also actively addressing individual, institutional, and structural forms of racism at U of T. The University has created community spaces for Black, Indigenous, and racialized individuals, including designing the Restore @ U of T program through the Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office, establishing the Indigenous Educational Research Centre at OISE, and hosting the three-day Indigenous Health Conference at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine. The Anti-Black Racism Task Force, the Anti-Islamophobia Working Group, and the Anti-Semitism Working Group are also working to address systemic discrimination within our practices and processes.
IDERD is an opportunity for communities to work together to increase our efforts in the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination and racism. As members of a diverse University of Toronto community, we approach IDERD with different levels of knowledge and experiences of racial discrimination, systemic racism, and Anti-Racism work. The 5th annual IDERD Conference – The Work Continues: Deepening Anti-Racism Action through Systemic and Intersectional Change is one of many ways our community can engage, learn, take action against about racism. I encourage everyone to use the resources provided to our community to learn about and reflect on how each of us can play a role in the elimination of all forms of racism and racial discrimination.
Although we have taken steps toward the elimination of racism, we can do more and will continue to work with our community to create inclusive spaces.