Kopar Khairane

Canada: The Indo-Canadian community is divided by Ontario’s new caste discrimination legislation

<p>The Indo-Canadian community has reacted differently to a new policy statement on caste discrimination released by the human rights commission of Canada’s most populous province. While some organizations have welcomed the declaration, others have accused it of inciting prejudice against minorities in the nation.<img decoding=”async” class=”alignnone wp-image-262132″ src=”https://www.theindiaprint.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/theindiaprint.com-canada-the-indo-canadian-community-is-divided-by-ontarios-new-caste-discrimination-750×563.jpg” alt=”theindiaprint.com canada the indo canadian community is divided by ontarios new caste discrimination” width=”1393″ height=”1046″ srcset=”https://www.theindiaprint.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/theindiaprint.com-canada-the-indo-canadian-community-is-divided-by-ontarios-new-caste-discrimination-750×563.jpg 750w, https://www.theindiaprint.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/theindiaprint.com-canada-the-indo-canadian-community-is-divided-by-ontarios-new-caste-discrimination-1024×768.jpg 1024w, https://www.theindiaprint.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/theindiaprint.com-canada-the-indo-canadian-community-is-divided-by-ontarios-new-caste-discrimination-768×576.jpg 768w, https://www.theindiaprint.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/theindiaprint.com-canada-the-indo-canadian-community-is-divided-by-ontarios-new-caste-discrimination-150×113.jpg 150w, https://www.theindiaprint.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/theindiaprint.com-canada-the-indo-canadian-community-is-divided-by-ontarios-new-caste-discrimination.jpg 1280w” sizes=”(max-width: 1393px) 100vw, 1393px” title=”Canada: The Indo-Canadian community is divided by Ontario's new caste discrimination legislation 3″></p>
<p>Last week, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) published a statement outlining its stance on caste-based discrimination. “To raise awareness of people’s rights and legal obligations to prevent and address caste-based discrimination under Ontario’s Human Rights Code,” the OHRC said in a release.</p>
<p>“Existing grounds in Ontario’s Code provide for the necessary protections to deal with any potential form of discrimination related to a person’s caste or descent,” the statement stated.</p>
<p>The statement went on, “The OHRC takes the position that, under Ontario’s Code, caste-based discrimination is an intersectional system of discrimination that can be covered under any combination of ancestry, creed, color, race, ethnic origin, place of origin, family status, or possibly other grounds.”</p>
<p>The OHRC’s declaration that “discrimination based on a stereotype or perception that an individual or group practices a religion or comes from a community associated with the caste system” was warmly received by community organizers who are pushing for the recognition of Hinduphobia in Canada.</p>
<p>“We are pleased to note that the policy clearly states that xenophobia is against the code indicating that discrimination against Hindus because of prejudice against Hindu religion or their countries of origin is against the code,” the Canadian Organization for Hindu Heritage Education (COHHE) said in a statement. The policy says that it is also against the code to ethnically profile a religious community, as cited below.</p>
<p>The use of caste indicators like “family deities” plainly indicates Hinduism, even though the policy does not mention Hinduism by name. This feeds into ethnic profiling of Hindus and encourages bigotry.</p>
<p>“Caste is a very complex construct with no agreement to its definition,” expressed worry COHHE. Who and how will decide the 14 million Ontarions’ caste system? It conveyed dissatisfaction about not being allowed to appear before the OHRC as well.</p>
<p>The Chetna Association of Canada, however, praised the policy stance in an email. “Acknowledging the caste-based discrimination is a global concern, is a step towards enhancing accountability and creating changes,” the OHRC’s executive director Jai Birdi said in an email.</p>
<p>He said, “We are happy to see that this position statement calls on the organizations to review and improve their framework for inclusion and diversity policies and make sure procedures are in place to address discrimination based on caste.”</p>
<p>In the meanwhile, the president of the Coalition of Hindus of North America (COHNA), Rishabh Sarswat, said in a release: “We have constantly maintained that current laws encompass caste-based discrimination, if it occurs at all. This should convince school boards and city councils, which are often influenced by sentimental arguments without supporting evidence, to desist from trying to establish new grounds for discrimination since the OHRC makes it very clear that such actions are outside of their purview.</p>
<p>The criteria, according to a statement from COHNA Canada, “are another way to profile Hindu Canadians, based on arbitrary and often birth-based attributes like last names, family backgrounds, skin tones, and vegetarian diets.” The organization also expressed concern over the policy’s potential negative effects on the community. Considering the recent spate of assaults on the community’s temples and festivals, this insensitivity is especially upsetting.</p>
<p>“A social stratification or hierarchy that determines a person or group’s social class or standing, rooted in their ancestry and underlying notions of ‘purity’ and ‘pollution,’” according to the OHRC, is what the caste system is. It is a customary practice rooted in the social, political, cultural, and economic frameworks of certain religious or cultural groups as well as the societies in which they are carried out.</p>
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