Members of the community and police officers in 11 Division commemorated the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in prayer and song and dance.
It was 56 years ago on the March 21, in the township of Sharpeville, South Africa, when a crowd of over 10,000 protesters gathered to protest the Apartheid Pass Laws.
The fast-growing protest group prompted the call for police reinforcements who were supported by Saracen Armoured personnel carriers. Tragically, shooting started when the crowd began advancing toward the fence around the police station, and as a result, 69 men, women and children were killed.
The events in Sharpeville caused the world to reflect and react and vow to end racial discrimination.
In 1966, the United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination and proclaimed March 21 to be recognized and celebrated as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Since 1994, the apartheid system in South Africa has been dismantled. Racist laws and practices have been abolished in many countries, and international frameworks were established in developing conventions addressing ongoing racial discrimination.
To commemorate this international day, this past Monday March 21, officers from 11 Division, assisted by the Divisional Policing Support Unit (DPSU) and Toronto Police Service Auxiliaries joined hands with Pastor Junn Lagud and the congregation and choir of the Hallelujah Fellowship Baptist Church to sing, dance and speak on the efforts made locally and globally in ending racism.
Guest speakers included Chief Mark Saunders, Superintendent Heinz Kuck, Staff Sergeant Israel Bernardo and DPSU Constable Ryan Park. These guests spoke on the strength and beauty of different languages, creeds and cultures, the history of Apartheid and its necessary end, the events at Sharpeville, and what local Toronto communities and police can do together to combat racism.
The evening also included songs by the church youth group and choir, as well as traditional Philipino and Judaic dances. Guests included Suzana Paez, representing the Philippine Consul General, local residents, faith community members, and 11 Division CPLC.