YWCA Toronto Statement on The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

March 2023

In 1966, the United Nations established the International Day for the Elimination of Racism and Racial Discrimination to commemorate the massacre in Sharpeville, South Africa that took place on March 21, 1960. It was on that day that police killed 69 peaceful, anti-apartheid, demonstrators.

YWCA Toronto recognizes the significance of this day as one of reflection and as an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to combatting racial discrimination, inequity and injustice.

Across Turtle Island, named Canada by colonizers, deep seeded roots of colonialism and racism continue to permeate through our society and our social structures, disproportionately impacting women, girls and gender diverse people.

This year, as we celebrate 150 years of YWCA Toronto we also reflect on our own colonial foundations and the white feminism that guided our work in the late 1880s. As we strive to create a more just world, we know that we cannot move forward without also addressing the harm we have subverted or inadvertently perpetuated over the years. While supporting the safety of women and advocating for women’s equality has always been at the core of our work, it has not always reflected the intersectional identities and experiences of the communities we serve.

A lot has changed since 1873 and as such, so has our Association.

YWCA Toronto is committed to gender equality and racial justice; we condemn the persistent and systemic racism that unduly impacts the safety and well-being of Indigenous, Black and racialized communities, including our participants, staff and leadership. The implications of racism can be seen on a daily basis, in particular the way racialized communities face discriminating barriers to accessing mental health support, career and educational opportunities and adequate health services while facing a disproportionate level of poverty, incarceration and violence.

Feminist organizations such as our own play an important role in addressing violence and hate. We recognize that meaningfully addressing racism and changing systemic and institutional barriers requires sustained efforts. YWCA Toronto is committed to working with staff, community partners, donors and government stakeholders to advocate for racial justice. And, we are committed to learning and unlearning as we strive to build and uphold an anti-racist, anti-colonial, intersectional feminist movement that we can all be proud of and that includes everyone.

We are actively conducting an equity audit of our Association and continue to develop new and best practices that align with our principles of equity and commitment to racial justice. We have implemented mandatory microaggressions training and continue to host anti-oppression training for all staff. We would also like to take this time to recognize and appreciate the ongoing work of our Anti-Black Racism Committee and Access and Equity Committee who play an essential role in developing a more equitable landscape.

Click here to download a beautiful poster designed by our Advocacy and Communications department which bodes a simple, yet powerful message – We All Belong Here.

Collectively, we have a lot of work to do to achieve racial justice. This work extends beyond today. Anti-racism is an action and we must act each and every day. Today, we remind our communities to recognize their biases, address racism as it arises and continuously seek ways to dismantle it.