March 19, 2010
FREDERICTON (CNB) - The following is a statement by Gordon L. Porter, chair of the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission:
March 21 is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This day was declared by the United Nations in 1966 as a call to the international community to focus attention on the problems of racism and the need to promote racial harmony. Today, March 21 is recognized and celebrated in many different ways in Canada and around the world.
Racism and anti-Semitism were the reasons the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission was originally established in 1967. Like the United States, New Brunswick has a history of racism and civil rights activism.
We may find it hard to believe today, but at one time the YMCA in Saint John was whites-only, and a golf course openly refused to allow Jews to join. Even great stars like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong had to use the back door of the Admiral Beatty Hotel when they came to Saint John. That changed only in the early fifties when a Black woman named Lena O'Ree, New Brunswick's own Rosa Parks, successfully challenged the colour bar and insisted on reporting to work through the hotel's front door.
During its first years, complaints of discrimination based on race, origin, ancestry and religion were the Commission's entire caseload, but over the years they were overtaken by complaints based on other grounds, such as sex and disability. Today, they represent about eight percent of complaints received.
Racial and ethnic minorities and Aboriginal People constitute a growing proportion of our population, and New Brunswick's future is tied, in part, to our ability to welcome and fully include them in all aspects of our society.
On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, I would like to acknowledge the tremendous work of the people and organizations that help immigrants to settle here and that improve the services and opportunities available to Aboriginal people.
I invite New Brunswickers, on March 21 and throughout the year, to celebrate the contributions of people of all races and ethnic and religious backgrounds, and to commit to oppose racism in all its forms in New Brunswick.
MEDIA CONTACT: Francis Young, human rights officer, New Brunswick Human Rights Commission, 1-888-471-2233.