Recognition, Justice and Development

It is not by chance that the three headlined principles of “Recognition, Justice and Development” are being cited over and over, in the context of the fundamental goals that deserve the concentrated focus of people of African descent.

Less than two weeks ago, the government of Canada formally recognized the United Nations’ designation of the period 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent.

In the news release containing that announcement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made a commitment that his government will support the pursuit of justice and equity for Canadians of African descent.

It is now up to Canadians of African descent to continue and intensify their efforts for economic and social development through institutional channels at the municipal, provincial, national and international levels.

In doing so, they are now in a position to hold the Prime Minister to the following specifics contained in his official statement:

“The Decade also provides a framework for recognition, justice, and development to fight racism, discrimination, and the ongoing inequalities that Canadians of African descent face.

“In recognizing the International Decade, the Government of Canada commits to a better future for Black Canadians. This means learning more about the issues that affect Black Canadians, including improving research and data collection, so we can better understand the particular challenges they face.”

For those action areas, the provincial government of Premier Kathleen Wynne has already allocated the sum of $47 million and Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism Michael Coteau has been actively promoting this aspect of his portfolio.

In that overall context therefore, the Black communities have additional platforms, institutional platforms, on which to plan and program initiatives and projects that will structure their ongoing journey to “Recognition, Justice and Development”.

But it remains their own responsibility to strategize and take the lead. One first step is to ensure that they are continuously collecting and analyzing the relevant race-based data. Their selection and structuring of initiatives and projects must perforce be based on objective data and criteria. The objectives and the implementation process must be directly related to at least one of the three headlined principles.

Already, by way of example, they need look no further than the UN’s approach to the first two (Recognition and Justice) for an approach that is worthy of emulation.

Acting on behalf of the whole international community, the UN recognizes that “people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected”. On that basis, it has established a fellowship program which it describes and justifies in these terms:

“In the framework of the Programme of Activities for the Implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent, the Fellowship Programme for People of African Descent provides the participants with a learning opportunity to deepen their understanding of the United Nations human rights system, instruments and mechanisms, with a focus on issues of particular relevance to people of African descent. The Fellowship Programme will allow the participants to better contribute to the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of people of African descent in their respective countries.”

For their part, can Canada’s Black communities go further and create a set of training programs targeted at the third headlined principle, namely Development?

Can some of those programs be aimed at developing and sustaining entrepreneurial initiatives in which Black youth are introduced to repairing and recycling used items for re-sale or donation as appropriate?

Can the trainers be exclusively retirees with the relevant skills and experience?

Can Canada’s Black communities use that process to build a fruitful and “constructive” inter-generational bridge that gives meaning and direction to the aspirations of several generations of persons of African descent?

Why not?