March 21, 2023
Local Defence Team,
Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD) – an annual commemorative event aimed at addressing racial inequalities, prejudices and injustices; amplifying awareness around the history and lived experiences of racialized communities; and encouraging meaningful conversations and actions around diversity, equality and inclusion.
Observed globally on March 21, IDERD commemorates the day 69 people lost their lives at the hands of police forces in Sharpeville, South Africa, during a peaceful demonstration against apartheid “pass laws” in 1960. This date represents an opportunity to reflect on the progress that has been made when it comes to racial justice while also acknowledging the continued racism and racial discrimination Indigenous Peoples, racialized peoples and religious minorities face every day. It is also a day to bolster our efforts to ensure a safe, equitable environment for all.
Promoting equity-focused commemorative events such as IDERD raises awareness of the diverse cultures, experiences and perspectives within the Defence Team and I am honoured to be part of this conversation, not only as Champion of the MARLANT Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group (DVMAG) but as a Defence Team member. As DVMAG Champion, I am aware of my inherent privilege as someone who is not part of a racialized community and understand that I cannot speak to issues of racial discrimination from lived experience. With this in mind, I am continually guided by (and learning from) our DVMAG co-chairs – Rene Gannon and S1 Saif Morsy – and local DVMAG members who support leadership by sharing the histories, concerns and realities of Defence Team members who experience racism and racial discrimination.
As my predecessors have stated, to combat racial discrimination in all its forms, it is vital for us as a Defence community to listen, learn and act, both collectively and individually. On March 21 and indeed throughout the year, it is important to listen to those who share their experiences with racism while withholding judgment and expectation and understanding the dynamics of bias and privilege at play. Speak up if you witness racial discrimination in the workplace or in your community and support those who may need your assistance when confronting discriminatory behaviour. Take time to educate yourself by consuming content created from a wide range of perspectives and experiences. For example, you can learn more about the Chief Professional Conduct and Culture and the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat; access development courses, podcasts and training programs via the Canada School of Public Service; and attend DVMAG-led events and workshops.
Today, March 21, is a great day to get involved by attending a special IDERD event here at CFB Halifax. The event, a panel discussion and networking activity organized by the MARLANT DVMAG in partnership with the Department of National Defence (DND) Eastern Canada Stakeholder Engagement Office, will touch on anti-racism, equity, diversity, and inclusion approaches currently being promoted and developed within DND and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF); reflect on lessons learned and being implemented in response to the Minister of National Defence Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination; and discuss how DND/CAF can advance system change and build stronger community connections to be an employer of choice for diversity candidates. The event takes place from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. Atlantic at the Juno Tower Ballroom with in-person and virtual attendance available; all Defence Team members welcome. More information on the event can be found here. Many thanks to the MARLANT DVMAG and all others involved in putting together this meaningful and important event.
Here at CFB Halifax and across the wider Formation, our Defence Advisory Groups (DAGs) are led by dedicated volunteers who organize outreach initiatives, share educational tools, assist in policy development, promote participation in self-identification and recommend meaningful solutions to systemic issues. When it comes to matters of racism and racial discrimination, I encourage both military and civilian Defence Team members to learn about and even get involved with the MARLANT DVMAG (Halifax.DVMAG@forces.gc.ca) and the Atlantic Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (ADAAG) (Halifax.DAAG@forces.gc.ca). All Defence Team members are invited to participate in one of our five DAGs. You do not need to identify with a particular DAG in order to be an active member – all Defence Team members are welcome to join with permission from their supervisor/Chain of Command. The more DAG participation we have on Base, the better, as we all benefit from supporting a safe, inclusive and trusting working environment. For more information or to get involved, click here.
Fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace is a collective, continuous effort that promotes cohesion between our members and upholds the operational effectiveness and long-term success of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence. As such, it is my continued commitment to learn from and collaborate with DVMAG members, other key stakeholders and our local Defence community to bring about positive change at the heart of our institution. Whether you’re military or civilian, a new employee or seasoned veteran, your involvement in fostering a positive workplace culture is vital as well. Together, we can work to recognize and address discriminatory behaviors in the workplace while making efforts to embrace and celebrate diversity in all of its forms. Every action counts.
Captain (Navy) Andy MacKenzie
CFB Halifax Base Commander
MARLANT Defence Visible Minorities Advisory Group Champion