United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent

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The United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent is a global call to action to address issues impacting people of African descent in the areas of recognition, justice, and development. In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly declared January 2015 to December 2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent (the Decade). The Decade recognizes that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected.

How we are taking action

On January 30, 2018, the Prime Minister endorsed the Decade in Canada. We committed to learn more about issues of Black communities in Canada, which included improving research and data collection. As such, the Government of Canada announced several commitments to address the needs of Black communities across Canada. This included working with community organizations to advance positive change.

On February 7, 2024, the Prime Minister announced an extension, until 2028, of the federal government’s efforts.

Funding Programs

  • Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative – $200 million to support projects that help Black-led, Black-focused, and Black-serving charities and non-profits build their organizational capacity
  • Black-led Philanthropic Endowment Fund – $200 million fund that provides a sustainable funding to Black charities and non-profits to fight anti-Black racism and improve social and economic outcomes
  • Black Entrepreneurship Program – $265 million over 4 years, to help Black Canadian business owners and entrepreneurs grow their businesses and succeed now and into the future
  • Mental Health of Black Canadians Fund – $10 million to support Black Canadians to develop more culturally focused knowledge, capacity and programs to improve mental health in their communities
  • Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Program (MARP) – in recognition of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, the Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Program (MARP) has included a new priority in its Events component, to celebrate events that recognize the history, culture, accomplishments, contributions and future of Black Canadians and their communities

Recognition and Celebration of Black Communities

  • Emancipation Day - In March 2021, the House of Commons voted to designate August 1 as Emancipation Day. It marks the actual day in 1834 that the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 came into effect across the British Empire. Therefore, each August 1, we invite Canadians to reflect, educate, and engage in the ongoing fight against racism and discrimination
  • The Government has recognized over 40 people, places, and events of national historic significance. This purpose was to reflect the importance of Black communities to Canada’s shared heritage. These include:
    • in July 2020:
      • the Enslavement of African People in Canada (1629 to 1834)
      • Black Loyalist Richard Pierpoint (1744 to 1838)
      • West Indian Domestic Scheme (1955 to 1967)
      • Heavyweight Boxer Larry Gains (1900 to 1983)
    • in April 2021, the Government of Canada Invested in African Canadian History Education
    • in May 2022, Olivier Le Jeune was named as a person of national historic significance under the National Program of Historical Commemoration. The Government has also recognized other key Black figures such as Mary Ann Shadd, Chloe Cooley, and John Ware
    • in June 2023, the Black Migrations to Sierra Leone was recognized for its national historic significance (1792 and 1800)
  • Black History Month - Canada honours people of African descent and their role in Canadian history and society through its annual Black History Month campaign

Consultations

  • Canada’s Black Justice Strategy is the federal government’s response to address anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination that has led to Black people being overrepresented in the criminal justice system, including as victims of crime. The Strategy aims to help Black people access equal treatment and protection before the law in Canada. The resulting Strategy and Framework were published in July 2024.
  • The External Reference Group is an advisory group of leaders from Black communities in various sectors, that provide advice to the Minister responsible for diversity and inclusion to support:
    • meaningful implementation of the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative
    • the Government’s commitments to the Decade
  • The Advisory Committee to Address Anti-Black Racism in Research and Research Training advises the work of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to support Black Canadian scholars
  • The Mental Health of Black Canadians Working Group informed the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) delivery of the Mental Health of Black Canadians Fund

International engagement

In August 2021, the United Nations General Assembly approved the operation of the United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent as a:

  • consulting mechanism for people of African descent and other relevant stakeholders
  • platform for improving the safety and quality of life and livelihoods of people of African descent

The Permanent Forum hosts annual sessions that bring together human rights activists, experts, civil society representatives, and government officials. The objectives of these sessions are to raise awareness, share best practices and propose solutions about historical injustices and ongoing discrimination faced by people of African descent, such as:

  • racial discrimination
  • xenophobia
  • justice
  • economic opportunities
  • healthcare
  • education
  • political participation

The first session of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent took place from December 5 to 8, 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland. It brought together human rights activists of African descent plus representatives and stakeholders from Member States and various international organizations. The final report for the first session is available on the website of the United Nations Human Rights office of the Commissioner.

The second session of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent took place from May 30 to June 2, 2023, in New York, USA. During this session, government representatives, civil society organizations, and individuals discussed and developed strategies to combat racial discrimination, inequality and promote social justice.

The third session of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent took place from April 16 to 19, 2024, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Canada’s role

Canada has played an active role in international efforts to combat racism and create equality for all people of African descent. We:

  • supported the UN General Resolution that created the Permanent Forum back in 2021
  • co-sponsored the International Day of People of African Descent, adopted in 2020
  • participated in the first and second session of the United Nations Permanent Forum for People of African Descent in 2022 and 2023

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