On March 21, 1960, police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and shot dead 69 people peacefully demonstrating against pass laws imposed by the government’s racist legal system known as apartheid.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination commemorates this massacre and invites everyone – individuals, communities, organizations and governments – to fight all forms of racial discrimination.

A person is experiencing discrimination if they are treated differently or unfairly because of factors such as ethnic origin, the colour of their skin, or their language. Racial discrimination takes many forms, including racial profiling, jokes or favouritism.

Systemic racism is woven into the structures and institutions of our society, and is less visible. But its impacts on Indigenous, Black and racialized people are all too real. These include precarious employment, inadequate housing and health care, overrepresentation in the criminal justice system, and violations of migrant workers’ fundamental rights.

CUPE is committed to fight all forms of racial discrimination that persist in our communities, our workplaces and our union. Our union stepped up our work on this commitment with CUPE’s Anti-Racism Strategy.  The strategy’s 10 goals provide a comprehensive six-year road map for challenging and dismantling systemic racism.

To mark March 21, CUPE recognizes the contributions of our Black, Indigenous and racialized members, who have strengthened our movement with new ideas and perspectives and have helped break down barriers by promoting inclusion and equity.


  • If you are facing or witnessing racism, discrimination or harassment, contact your steward to file a grievance or a complaint.
  • Help put CUPE’s Anti-Racism Strategy into action in your local. Be inspired by its 10 goals to make changes in your workplace. 
  • Take part in Union Education workshops to learn more about anti-racism and how you can intervene when you witness discrimination.


  • Order free copies of CUPE’s poster, buttons and stickers for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
  • Download the CUPE colouring page in honour of March 21.