John Horgan Leader of the B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan Leader of the B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan
Leader of the B.C. New Democrats

Victoria: Racism, and the systemic discrimination that flows from it, is a brutal, and debilitating disease in any society. Regrettably, our shared history in this province contains many examples of British Columbians being harassed, marginalized, and prevented from living up to their potential because of their ethnic and racial background.
We’ve worked hard to try to fix the mistakes of the past, but sadly, there is still a lot of work still to do.

For more than 10 years now, South Asian veterinarians have been fighting for equality. These veterinarians took their complaints to the B.C Human Right Tribunal about the College of Veterinarians of BC, formerly the B.C. Veterinary Medical Association, attempting to exclude South Asian professionals by demanding an unreasonably high level of English language expertise, and by heavily targeting South Asian veterinarians for disciplinary actions.

In October, after a decade of hearings and over a million dollars in legal costs for the Indo Canadian veterinarians, the tribunal ruled that the college “engaged in systemic discrimination”, that “there were specific instances of discrimination against individual complainants, ” and that  the Association’s ‘processing of disciplinary complaints gave rise to patterns of race- based adverse treatment’

The tribunal awarded monetary damages to 13 veterinarians and ordered the college to stop its discrimination.

Sadly, the story doesn’t end with the landmark ruling made by the Human Rights Tribunal this October. .

Last week, at a board meeting, the college decided it was going to appeal the tribunal’s ruling, by seeking a judicial review. This decision follows one of the South Asian veterinarians involved in this case informing The Vancouver Sun that the college continued to cause trouble for him even just before the human rights tribunal ruling came down. He told the Sun that a friend agreed to pose as a disgruntled employee, and managed to record a college investigator vow to “nail” the veterinarian, and openly discussed trying to involve the Canada Revenue Agency, the Labour Standards Branch, and even Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

These are extraordinary allegations.

My colleague Harry Bains and I have both called on Premier Christy Clark’s agriculture minister to step in. The minister has both influence and a relationship with the college, given his purview over the act that provides for its authority  and existence. The College also includes ministerial appointments

It’s time for this government to stop looking the other way, or promising to do something, and actually act. For some time now, I’ve heard South Asian British Columbians tell me they’re deeply frustrated with this Premier and her team. She’s happy to drop in for a photo-op or a cultural celebration, but unwilling to stay and do any real work on important issues like gang violence or ending racial discrimination.

The British Columbia I want to live in is a land of equality and human rights. The government I want to lead will be a champion of multiculturalism and a fierce defender of anyone struggling against prejudice.