The University of Waterloo is home to a large international community, with 13 per cent of undergraduates, 35 per cent of graduates, and 322 faculty and staff from outside Canada. This is reflected in the Waterloo Region as well, with 25 per cent of residents being immigrants. In a community so filled with multiculturalism and international residents, International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which takes place March 21, can be particularly important for Waterloo and the UW community.</p>
March 21 also marks the beginning of the UN Week of Solidarity with the Peoples Struggling Against Racism and Racial Discrimination. In KW, March 21 is marked by the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination happening at Kitchener City Hall. This is an all-day event and features a panel of international speakers from within the KW community. There is also a peace concert and art show as part of the itinerary.
The UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was started by the UN General Assembly in 1966 in response to March 21, 1960, when police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa to protest the apartheid “pass laws.” These “pass laws” were a form of internal passport system meant to segregate and severely limit the movements of the coloured population in South Africa.
Beginning in 2001, Cross Cultures magazine and its owner, editor and publisher Gehan Sabry took control of organizing the event in KW.
According to Gehan, the purpose of the event “is to promote mutual respect [within the KW community] in all aspects,” such as opinion, fashion and conversation choices, and is not limited “in just ethnicity or religion.”
Participation in the event in past years has been phenomenal according to Gehan, with “support from the entire community.” Part of the event’s success is due to its openness to a variety of speakers, artists and musicians. The speakers do not have to represent an ethnic minority and neither do the artists and musicians. Instead, Gehan invites anyone interested to volunteer and apply. She also encourages people to share their “creative talent” via submission of art of any topic and in any medium of the artist’s choosing to the event.
An International Celebrations Week ending on March 21 is celebrated at UW and is organized by Feds. The week has events such as “Around the World in 100 pictures,” a cultural showcase, and the Feds International Film Festival. International Celebrations Week culminates in Night Market, an evening of East Asian cuisine happening in the SLC Great Hall.
The March 21 UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination event begins at 8:30 a.m. at Kitchener City Hall.