Harry Bains Minister of Labour
Harry Bains NDP MLA
Harry Bains NDP MLA

Victoria: The B.C. Liberal government permitted the professional association governing B.C. veterinarians to discriminate against South Asian professionals for over a decade by providing it with an emergency indemnity, say the New Democrats.

“A 10-year-long battle against institutional racism was dragged out because the Liberal government was underwriting the veterinarians association, which allowed it to persist with a legal defense,” said New Democrat Leader John Horgan. “The tribunal found against the college, and for the South Asian veterinarians, but because the government helped the college with a taxpayer-funded indemnity, those foreign-trained veterinarians faced extended discrimination.

“Now, with the case before the tribunal concluded, the college is considering an appeal, meaning the taxpayers of B.C. could be on the hook for even more costs – all the while, the discriminatory practices could continue.”

“It’s truly disappointing that the government would choose to side with the perpetrators of discrimination, instead of trying to help the victims.”

In 2004, complaints began to be lodged with the tribunal, arguing that language standards imposed on foreign-trained veterinarians were unreasonably high and that the South Asian veterinarians faced more stringent disciplinary action because of their race. The case dragged on through 356 days of hearings over 10 years before a decision was finally rendered earlier this year.

“This was systemic racism on the part of the college and by indemnifying them, the Liberal government had a hand in it,” said Horgan. “The South Asian veterinarians deserve better from their government than to have it act in consort with a professional body that was denying them their basic rights.”

The government first provided a just-in-time indemnity to the professional association eight years ago, when it was facing a loss of insurance coverage because of the proceedings launched against it over racist practices and discrimination. The government’s own documents admit that the indemnity was renewed at least four more times, and acknowledge that backstopping the body was a controversial move.

Horgan and Surrey-Newton MLA Harry Bains raised the issue again in the legislature Thursday morning.

“We called on the government to put pressure on the College of Veterinarians of B.C. to implement the decision of the tribunal without further delay and acknowledge the wrongs they have committed, so that the victims of racial discrimination can get back to earn a living in profession they love with respect they deserve” said Bains. “Unfortunately, we did not get any commitment from the attorney general or from the agriculture minister.”