NDP MP Don Davies introduces motion to recognize and prohibit caste-based discrimination

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VANCOUVER, BC: NDP MP Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway) introduced a motion in Parliament to recognize and prohibit caste-based discrimination in Canada this week. The motion calls for changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act to add caste as a prohibited ground of discrimination, acknowledging the severe social and economic exclusion faced by Canadians in communities across the country.

“Caste-based discrimination is a part of the lived experience of many Canadians and ought to be explicitly recognized and prohibited under the Canadian Human Rights Act,” said Davies. “Due to the tireless efforts of advocates, some institutions have recognized caste-based discrimination as a human rights violation as an inferred ground of discrimination. It is time we made this explicit and send a clear message that this is not tolerated in our society.”

At a press conference unveiling the motion on Friday, Davies was joined by Manoj Bhangu, who won the first case of caste discrimination at the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.

Davies was also joined by Jyotika Jasuja, cultural events coordinator for the Chetna Association of Canada, and Jai Birdi, executive director of the Chetna Association of Canada.

“Millions of people worldwide still face appalling and dehumanising discrimination based on caste and similar systems of inherited status,” said Bhangu. “Caste discrimination remains prevalent in Canada and we must take immediate action to address it.”

“Explicitly banning caste-based discrimination under Canadian human rights law would mark a significant step forward,” added Jasuja. “It represents an important acknowledgement that the problem exists here in Canada and would allow people to seek legal recourse if they face discrimination.”

“We must work together to build a casteless society where individuals can live in harmony with each other regardless of differences,” said Birdi. “We implore MPs to reach across party lines to add caste as a stand-alone category to the Canadian Human Rights Act.”

“Caste-based hatred and discrimination have no place in Canada,” concluded Davies. “I call on all Parliamentarians to support this important human rights initiative.”

 

The motion will further strengthen the work being done in North America to create awareness about caste based discrimination. The City of Seattle made history on February 21st, 2023 by becoming the first US city for passing a law that bans caste-based discrimination in businesses and other public settings. The initiative was led by Seattle Councillor, Kshama Sawant.

 

Chetna Association of Canada, a community-based organization has been raising awareness about casts-based issues in Canada since its establishment in 1999. The Association has been actively engaging Lower Mainland cities and the provincial government to support awareness campaigns. “Burnaby, Surrey, and the Province of BC have proclaimed April 14 – Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Day of Equality since 2020.”

 

The University of British Columbia is also working on a big project under Dr Anne Murphy and Dr. Suraj Yengde that investigates Dalit (those deemed “untouchables” in the caste system of South Asia) individual and community histories within Canada’s past and present.

 

A history was recently made when Dr Ambedkar Equality Day was celebrated in Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on May 6 and 7 at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The were Celebration was hosted by MP Don Davies (Vancouver-Kingsway) and MP Randeep Sarai (Surrey Center).