Tribunal awards $6,000 to immigrant who moved to Canada because of caste discrimination and suffered humiliation here

Supporters rally for a legislation passed by Seattle City Council in the U.S.. on February 21 to outlaw caste discrimination. (Photo: Twitter)

THE B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in a March 15 decision ruled that Manoj Bhangu was discriminated against by co-workers Inderjit Dhillon and Avninder Dhillon “based on his ancestry, place of origin, religion, and race when they both used the slur [“chamar”] towards him during a physical altercation” at the Christmas party of their taxicab company.

Tribunal Ajudicator Sonya Pighin noted: “Mr. Bhangu provided evidence that he is Hindu, he practices the religion known as Hinduism, and he is a member of the Ravidass Sabha in Vancouver, which is a religious organisation.”

Pighin also noted: “Mr. Bhangu provided evidence regarding the social, political, and legal status aspects of others labelling him as a member of the Slur [“chamar”] caste group. Mr. Bhangu provided evidence that as a child his friend’s parents kicked him out of a playground and told him that Slur people could not use that playground. Other children chased and beat him up for being a Slur caste member. His friend’s parents gave him a glass to drink out of and said in front of him that they would throw the glass out later because he was from the Slur caste, and he had drunk out of it. Last, people kicked him out of temple areas for being from the Slur caste.”

She also wrote: “Regarding the connection between Mr. Bhangu’s religion and the Slur caste, Mr. Bhangu provided uncontested evidence that only people who are Dalit can be members of the Ravidass Sabha community. The Slur caste is a subgroup of the Dalit caste. Mr. Bhangu also provided uncontested evidence that people in India would know he is from the Slur caste based on the temple that he goes to for washing.”

Pighin said: “Mr. Bhangu provided uncontested evidence of how the use of the Slur towards him by Inderjit and Avninder adversely impacted his psychological health, reminding him of his negative experiences growing up in Punjab. Inderjit and Avninder are of the Jatt caste, making them non-Slur caste peoples. I am prepared to accept that the adverse psychological impacts Mr. Bhangu experienced in relation to Inderjit and Avninder’s use of the Slur in the second altercation is connected to Mr. Bhangu’s position as a member of the Slur caste and both Inderjit and Avninder being non-Slur caste peoples.”

Regarding Bhangu’s social context, Pighin noted: “Mr. Bhangu’s social context includes that he is an immigrant to Canada who came from a place where he experienced caste discrimination. A part of why Mr. Bhangu moved to Canada includes that he and his family can live without caste discrimination.”

Pighin wrote: “Mr. Bhangu provided uncontested evidence that he experienced shock and embarrassment immediately after the discrimination occurred. Immediately after the discrimination, Mr. Bhangu went to Tim Hortons with some other shareholders, and they spent a few hours together. They spent at least some of that time debriefing about what had happened. Mr. Bhangu then went home and spent additional time discussing what had happened with his wife and children. Mr. Bhangu described it being very difficult for him to explain what happened to his children.

“Mr. Bhangu also provided uncontested evidence about the feelings he experienced in relation to the discrimination after it occurred. Mr. Bhangu was not able to sleep for a couple of weeks afterwards. He found it very difficult to go to work and interact with his colleagues who had observed the discrimination. He felt insulted and humiliated in front of them and being around them reminded him of the discrimination. Mr. Bhangu did not provide evidence regarding how long his feelings of insult or humiliation in front of his colleagues lasted, or how long afterward being around them continued to remind him of the discrimination. According to Mr. Bhangu, at some point he told his kids that he does not want to live in this world anymore due to the humiliation and he worried about what “would happen to his kids if he did something.” He did not provide evidence of when this occurred, so I am unable to make any findings about how long after the discrimination he experienced those unwanted thoughts. Last, Mr. Bhangu described observing his kids not wanting to go to Taxi Company events anymore and said this was a disturbing experience. Ms. Mahl also provided evidence that herself and Mr. Bhangu did not continue to attend social events put on by the Taxi Company, which is something they did before the discrimination took place.”

Pighin also pointed out: “In summary, the discrimination was short in duration but involved violence which exacerbates the severity of it. Mr. Bhangu was not in a position of powerlessness in relation to the respondents. However, his history of caste-based discrimination in India intensified the severity of the impact he experienced regarding the discrimination. Mr. Bhangu provided evidence that his dignity, feelings, and self-respect were impacted negatively but that evidence was vague, and he did not provide enough evidence to show those impacts lasted more than a couple of weeks.”

Pighin ordered Inderjit Dhillon and Avninder Dhillon to pay Bhangu $6,000 as an appropriate remedy for injury to his dignity, feelings, and self-respect, plus $3,755.81 that Bhangu paid for a report and a transcript.