Employees of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) benefitted from a two-day training exercise to better understand societal issues which are present in communities, one of which was stereotyping.Commissioners and employees of the ERC during the training exerciseIn collaboration with the Department of Social Cohesion, Commissioners and other staff members gathered at the Racquet Centre, where they were addressed by facilitators to equip themselves with skills to address these plaguing circumstances.Chairman of the ERC, Reverend John Smith related that this was a much-needed activity ever since the establishment of the Commission.“It is something that was long overdue. When we were sworn in as Commissioners, we came with a 24-point mandate from the Constitution. I think we needed some orientation as to what is expected of us and we have been working. But now with this training, it has opened our eyes to some things that we needed to know and we hopefully should have known before,” Smith asserted.As customary, persons are usually dispatched to work environments to discuss peace and lessen the probability of conflicts. However, stereotyping has never been on the agenda as a topic to be addressed. Going forward, they will be implementing talks on such issues in future visits. The Department will also be involved to provide additional support.The Chairman stated, “We go to workplaces and would have been able to serve them better if we had this information to warn them and to help them deal with stereotypes because we have a lot of assumptions about people. We are going forward together with the Department of Social Cohesion as we enter with stakeholders. I am really happy because there are difference and what we see is all the difference, not the things that we have in common”.The participants were tasked with creating ways to unify persons, regardless of their differences. Many of them chose events such as Harmony Village to engage youths in cultural activities to achieve these results.The ERC was conceptualised after protests following the 1997 General Election. As part of the Herdmanston Accord brokered by Caricom and signed on January 17, 1998, the ERC was established as a constitutional body by Constitutional Amendment Act of 2000, which was assented to by the then President on August 11, 2000.It has four broad functions: “Investigative, conflict resolution, education and public awareness, and research and development strategies”. Among its functions, as outlined in Article 212 (D) of the Constitution, are to provide for equality of opportunity between persons of different ethnic groups and to promote harmony and good relations between such persons and to promote arbitration, conciliation, mediation and like forms of dispute resolution in order to secure ethnic harmony and peace.Additionally, it can investigate complaints of racial discrimination and make recommendations on the measures to be taken if such complaints are valid, and where there is justification, therefore, refer matters to the Human Rights Commission or other relevant authorities for further action to be taken.Meanwhile, the ERC is also mandated to promote equal access to persons of all ethnic groups to all public or other services and facilities provided by the Government or other bodies.