Pews were filled at the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church yesterday as community members, police officers, and elected officials came out to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Halifax Regional Police Chief Frank Beazley was on hand to reaffirm the force’s commitment to improve race relations within the municipality.

“March 21 marks the anniversary of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre in South Africa, where peaceful demonstrators against Apartheid were wounded and killed,” said Beazley. “Halifax Regional Police publically ... declares our intention to work towards the elimination of racism in co-operation with all persons in the community we serve.”

Const. Anthony Sparks addressed the congregation after Beazley. He said HRP has made and will continue to make race relations a priority in policing.

“I am currently employed with an organization that focuses on diversity and race relations, that has made deliberate attempts to bring back the idea of community policing,” said Sparks. “This helps encourage officers to change their attitudes, their perspectives, their behaviours towards citizens and the way they do police work.”

But Sparks noted that racial discrimination is not an issue specific to HRM or the HRP.

“The elimination of racial discrimination is not a local issue, but a global concern as well,” he said. “Whether we live in Halifax, Nova Scotia or Sharpeville, South Africa, racial discrimination affects us emotionally, psychologically, as well as spiritually.”

Mayor Peter Kelly, who was on hand for the service, said while HRM still faces many race-related challenges, he feels the municipality has made positive strides.

“Racism has no place in our community,” said Kelly. “No community is perfect, we strive to do better each and every day ... we continue to make sure that all voices are heard, and we’re working together for the betterment of the community.”