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Printed 2014/07/22 09:47PM

21st March - Today is International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

By Hugo Shebbeare, 2011/03/21

 
How to Counter Intolerance, Adapted from UNESCO’s Recommendations

1. The Battle Against Intolerance Requires Law
Every Political Entity needs to reinforce Human Rights, and punish crimes motivated by hate against minorities
, whether they be committed by individuals working for the state, private organisations or by individuals in their own public activities. The rule of law must be respected, and certainly by government itself, if an effective stance against intolerance is taken.


2. Countering Intolerance Means Education

Laws are necessary, but insufficient when it means countering intolerance by means of individual attitudes.  Often intolerance is due to fear and ignorance, or the unknown, of other cultures, nations, religions. Intolerance is also intimately related to exaggerated sentiments of one’s own self-worth, personal pride, sense of belonging to a nation or religion.  These notions are taught from a young age or reinforced by systems and mass media. This is why an accent must be made through more education and better support from institutions with respect to human rights, so that one is constantly made aware of the nuances of intolerance. We need to make serious efforts to educate the younger generation to help them with their understanding of Human Rights, and to ensure respect for the diversity and differences between people. The goal is to encourage curiosity at school and at home with receptiveness and openness to the world’s cultural diversity, as well as in their own community, as a stepping stone for the rest of their lives. Furthermore, on a regular basis, a review of what constitutes intolerance should be pursued at all stages in life – even in the workplace.

  

3. The Battle Against Intolerance Requires the Free Flow of Information/Unrestricted Access

Intolerance is extremely dangerous when it is exploited to serve political ambitions across a territory of an individual or group of individuals. Those who incite hatred often start by using widely-held opinions/generalisations to develop false arguments, to play with statistics with the goal of mass public manipulation and to push prejudice. The most effective way to limit the influence of those who propagate such mis-information is to put in place measures that favour and encourage freedom of the press and pluralism, so that readers can make the distinction themselves between facts and opinions.
Although in my experience, taking
those people on directly and publicly can be effective also.

 

4. The Fight Against Intolerance Requires that Individuals are Conscious of the Reality that it Exists Everywhere. 

To be able to fight intolerance, we have to be conscious how it exists in the way people interact with each other, and the vicious circle of mistrust that can show itself by verbal or physical violence within all levels of society – even by Political Leadership. Each one of us should start by asking ourselves: ‘Am I tolerant? Do I use stereotypes when speaking of a group of people? Do I state that since they are different from me, that they are bad? Do I blame others for my problems?

 

5. The Battle Against Discrimination Requires Localised Solutions

Fighting global problems start at the local and individual level, just in the same way charity starts at home. Confronted with an escalation of intolerance around us, we should not wait for institutions, nor goverment organisations to take action – since they do so too little and too late. We are all an integral part of the solution, and we should not feel powerless because we possess individually an enormous capacity of resistance to discrimination, as long as we realise how easy it is for a society to convince itself it is immune to racism, especially if it has been subject to, or a recipient of, such bad behaviour itself in prior generations, discrimination because it has a difference with a majority of persons within a specific country or territory.  Any discrimination breeds contempt, even if it is in the form of reverse discrimination against a minority within a minority, since rights are not divisible.
At times also, it may appear to be discriminatory or stereotyping to
identify those within a specific group who use fear of loss of something, to falsely justify a greater degree of lawlessness and absence of the respect for Human Rights, despite the universality of such rights.

 

The goal, in the end, is to promote the elimination of any forms of discrimination.

Example: In Quebec, a group of Immigrant Doctors made a film, with the support of the National Film Board of Canada, called Doctors without Residence (Médecins sans résidence).
Philippe Allard, Liberal Party Candidate for Laurier Ste-Marie commented: Quelle situation frustrante tant pour ces médecins que pour les patients québécois ! Fo Niemi explique très bien la discrimination systémique. Le coût de cette discrimination systémique sur le système de santé québécois est énorme
What a frustrating situation as much for the Doctors as for the Patients!  Fo Niemi clearly explains how systematic discrimination costs the entire Health System of Quebec enormously.


The
Medical College Board of Quebec denied discrimination, but was found in 2010 by the Quebec Human Rights Commission to be completely excluding immigrants and minorities from participating in the medical profession in the province, despite an enormous lack of doctors per resident.


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