National Consultation on Racism, Racial discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

February 22 - February 24

Photo of Sanjeet Singh and Minister Hedy Fry, Secretary of State (Multiculturalism) (Status of Women)

I (as the open rep for NEADS) attended this conference at the Delta Hotel, Ottawa, Ontario. This meeting had been preceded by six regional consultations held across Canada that were designed to "engage civil society in the development of Canada's agenda and positions for the World conference." The national consultation allowed NGOs, represented by many constituencies of equity seeking groups, to lobby for issues relating to racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. After this consultation the government and representatives of advocacy groups are going to lobby on behalf of the NGOs at the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), which will be held in Durban, South Africa this coming August. The national consultation was attended by more than 300 delegates consisting of various NGOs and a number of government officials. These delegates came from all over Canada and it truly was a multicultural event.

Some of the major issues that were being discussed were racial discrimination that exists in the work place, immigration issues, discrimination against the first nations people, discrimination based on gender and against the minorities like people with disabilities. There were five main themes at this conference and the theme that we fell under was Victims of Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

This was one of the five themes that were discussed and it presented NEADS an excellent opportunity to lobby for students with disability.

An interesting fact to note, and a point raised time and again by delegates at the consultation, is that discrimination multiplies depending on gender, race, colour and disability. The more categories a person falls under the higher the chance of that person getting discriminated against.

This could be the vehicle that may help us effectively advocate for the issues that effect us ranging from discrimination in the work place and accessibility to post-secondary education. The government needs to address these issues on a national level. As far as the international level is concerned, there are still many third world countries that have a lot to do in order to address issues relating to disability. WCAR presents an excellent opportunity for us as consumer advocates, with the support of the government of Canada to raise these issues.

Discrimination against people with disabilities was mentioned specifically by prominent people like Honorable Dr Hedy Fry (Secretary of State (multiculturalism) (status of Women), and Kevin Francis (President and CEO of JetForm Corporation) in their speeches.

This consultation was also a great place to network with various NGOs. A lot of these NGOs and government officials got to know about NEADS and what we do. Finally I think it's about time that that the government started addressing issues relating discrimination, besides we have entered the 21st century. People should not be discriminated based on race, colour, gender or disability, but should be treated fairly as human beings and equal citizens of this country.