The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal says the repeated use of a caste-based slur against a man at a company Christmas party amounts to discrimination.
The complainant, who Black Press Media is referring to by his initials M.B., moved to Canada from Punjab, India in 2000. He explained to the tribunal that his ancestry makes him part of a certain caste of people who have historically been treated as “being outside the hierarchy of human order,” and who continue to face mistreatment.
M.B. testified that as a child in India he was told he couldn’t use a playground and was chased and beaten by kids because of his caste. Another time, a friend’s parents told M.B. they would throw out the glass he drank out of after he left.
So, when two fellow taxi drivers at a 2018 staff Christmas party called M.B. by a casteist slur, M.B. says it had a strong impact on him.
“[M.B.] provided evidence that he was not able to sleep for a couple of weeks after the staff party. He also found it very difficult to go to work and interact with his colleagues who had observed the events at the staff party because he felt insulted and humiliated in front of them and being around them reminded him of what had happened.”
According to the tribunal, the two colleagues – I.D. and A.D. – called M.B. by the slur during the second of two fights that broke out between the three throughout the night. I.D. and A.D. were upset about being invited to the party on late notice – something M.B. had some power over as a member of the taxi company’s board of directors.
M.B. argued in his complaint that the two fights amounted to further discrimination, but tribunal member Sonya Pighin decided they were not initiated because of M.B.’s caste. Still, she said she took the use of physical violence into account when she determined the overall impact of the slur’s use on M.B.’s psychological well being.
A medical note shows M.B. was treated for bruises and abrasions to his head, right eye and the left side of his back.
“[M.B. said] he experienced shock and embarrassment after each of the physical altercations, and feelings of insult, humiliation, embarrassment, worry, and death for at least a few weeks afterwards,” Pighin wrote in her decision.
M.B. sought $35,000 in damages, but Pighin decided on $6,000, as well as $3,755.81 in compensation for reports and transcripts M.B. purchased to back his case.
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