The fight against racism begins at home

March 21: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination


A message from the Canadian Ethnocultural Council

OTTAWA — The United Nations has recognized March 21 as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This day has come to be known as the day for each of us to question how racism affects our lives.

Canada has marked March 21 each year for the past decade by organizing a variety of special programs and initiatives at the national, regional and local level. Many organizations conduct diversity training in the workplace to deal with this issue and academic debates on racism are plenty.

But some feel that this type of training must begin much sooner — when children are formulating their views of the world around them.

Parents may not always be equipped to guide their children on issues of race and ethnicity, since they themselves are learning how to live in a cultural landscape that is transforming faster then ever before. This is true specially here, in Canada, where we pride ourselves on our multicultural mosaic.

Many children first experience racial biases when they come in contact with other children outside the family — the playground, the school-yard, the street.

How a parent deals with this will make a difference to how the child will grow up in a society that values and respects everyone. Racism hurts all children in different ways. It gives them incorrect and unfair advantages and disadvantages over others.

Parents have to re-think which old values and beliefs they want to pass on to their children and which they want to change. One useful tool to guide a parent through this is “A Handbook on Anti-Racism Parenting” published by the Canadian Ethnocultural Council.

It offers some advice to parents and caregivers about race and ethnic diversity in our communities. It asks parents to question how they learnt about their own cultural background. There are useful tips for guiding children through their explorations of self and others around them.

For example, remember that children generally take their cue from a parent or caregiver. If these adults use stereotypes or labels to describe other people, the child will likely do the same.

The implicit message is that no child is too young to benefit from anti-racism parenting. A parent is a child’s first and most important role model. The strategies explored in the Handbook are geared to different developmental phases in childhood. By opening communication channels, parents can instill respect for diversity in their children and can help dismantle the cultural stereotypes that lead to prejudice and discrimination.

In today’s society, lessons taught by anti-racism parenting will better equip children to navigate in a world that is filled with diversity.

People of all races and colour are equal in every way. Parents and their children can learn with others in the community to make changes together. Children benefit from diversity — as does society and the country as a whole.

While there is excellent work being done in schools to teach children about multiculturalism, the Canadian Ethnocultural Council believes that diversity training and information exchange needs to begin a lot earlier — at home, and with parents as facilitators.

“A Handbook on Anti-Racism Parenting” is a first, very important step for launching diversity training in the home. For more information, or to order copies of thehandbook, please contact the Canadian Ethnocultural Council at (613) 230-3867, email them at [email protected] or visit them on the Internet at

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