March 28, 2023

On March 8, 2023, the Toronto District College Board (TDSB) made historical past by passing the primary ever decision in Canadian legislative historical past accepting the truth of caste discrimination and vowing to fight it. The decision was launched by board trustee Yalini Rajakulasingam and represents a profound acknowledgment by Canada’s largest faculty board of the struggling of caste-oppressed dad and mom.

As a Dalit in Canada, I’m relieved that the ache of my folks will lastly be acknowledged in Toronto. The TDSB will now ask the Ontario Province Human Rights Fee to “present a framework” to deal with caste discrimination in public schooling.

This historic transfer now positions Dalit Canadians to interrupt an extended silence that has enveloped the problem of caste. Ontario might grow to be the primary province in Canada to acknowledge caste discrimination. To me, and each caste-oppressed Canadian like me, this actually issues. That this comes simply weeks after the Seattle Metropolis Council in america embraced comparable laws offers me much more hope that the times when caste discrimination may very well be ignored in North America are coming to an finish.

Caste negatively impacts greater than 1.9 billion folks worldwide, together with 2.5 million South Asian Canadians, crippling our high quality of life. It determines who and the place we worship, the place we reside, our selections and development in schooling and profession, even private relationships—in essence our total lives.

Dalits, who sit on the backside of this hierarchy, are branded “untouchable” and sentenced to a violent system of caste apartheid with separate neighborhoods, locations of worship and faculties. And whereas caste might need roots in South Asia, it’s also alive in Canada and is haunting our communities and faculties in Toronto and past.

I got here to Toronto over 15 years in the past, figuring out that my causes for coming right here weren’t the identical as these of many different South Asians. I did not come for financial causes, however to flee the punishing violence of the caste system.

Again in India, I suffered violence and indignities too painful to call. I used to be born in a Dalit-segregated ghetto in my village. I had dominant-caste schoolmates and academics who would deal with me with untouchability and mock the truth that I didn’t know English. My household lived in deep poverty. In India, Dalits like us endure an limitless parade of caste atrocities — may very well be raped or murdered only for crossing what dominant castes lay down as acceptable boundaries for us. It was horrifying.

After a lot battle, I introduced my household to Toronto. We lived in a basement and commenced to construct our lives right here. By way of my journey to grow to be one of many few Dalit social staff in Canada, I noticed a lot casteism: from folks discussing the segregation of their locations of worship to the informal cruelty of caste slurs and jokes in South Asian household circles. At South Asian events, for instance, folks would generally crack casteist jokes equating Dalit folks with criminals, saying we have been soiled, uncultured, flawed and wicked, that we have been the rapists and thieves again residence.

They might even lengthen that casteist mindset to different South Asian immigrants, criticizing Caribbean Indians as having no tradition as a result of they have been from the “decrease” castes. These jokes will not be the exception however the norm.

What shocked me was how open the bigotry was in our neighborhood. As a social employee in the neighborhood, I’ve witnessed how caste is a part of the coercive management in home violence between inter-caste {couples}. It’s a part of the abuse of caste-oppressed home staff by dominant caste households. And it is central to the exploitation of undocumented staff who’re trafficked to work in eating places, building and different industries. That is why I based the South Asian Dalit Adivasi Community of Canada in order that our neighborhood would have a voice and a pathway for civil rights together with different protected communities.

In fact, caste discrimination in Canada is as previous because the Dalit neighborhood’s existence within the nation. Maihya Ram Mehmi, the great-grandfather of Dalit civil rights activist Anita Lal, skilled caste discrimination within the type of untouchability within the lumber mills of british columbia when he got here to the nation in 1906.

A number of current surveys, together with by Dalit civil rights group Equality Labs and the Nationwide Educational Coalition for Caste Fairness have proven that Dalit staff and college students in america face rampant verbal and bodily assault and discrimination. Our work exhibits that it’s no completely different in Canada, and up to date experiences of wage theft and intentional deprivation of caste-oppressed staff at a temple in Toronto underscore that.

But nothing is extra painful to a Dalit mum or dad than witnessing how caste discrimination feeds into bullying in faculties and impacts kids’s psychological well being.

Our daughter not too long ago shared with me {that a} classmate informed her she couldn’t be pals as a result of she is from a decrease caste. She has informed us concerning the casteist bullying she encounters on the playground. I’m haunted by the violence we thought we had escaped, and am horrified to see my daughter dealing with the identical right here in Toronto faculties. As I wipe her tears again and again from these traumatic casteist encounters I’m wondering how deeply our kids want assist to heal from caste and work in direction of reconciliation.

As a result of my household is just not alone. Meera Estrada, a Dalit Hindu journalist in Toronto, whose kids attend faculty within the TDSB, informed us how she stayed silent rising up, ashamed of her caste id, partially as a result of, “I simply knew that we weren’t a part of the narrative, and if we have been, it was in a mocking manner or meant to be ridiculed.”

“Had I been taught about caste once I was youthful, I’d have understood what was occurring to us, particularly as I skilled extra exclusion as a Dalit lady in my later years,” she stated. “All South Asian kids will need to have entry to correct evidenced-based historical past that appears on the techniques which have triggered historic hurt in order that we are able to heal and be taught from it collectively.”

In fact, the youngsters are to not blame right here for a way they deal with one another. Frankly, the neighborhood can be to not blame right here. We’ve by no means had trustworthy dialogue centered on therapeutic from caste. That’s the reason we’d like caste fairness sensitivity that teaches our painful previous but in addition exhibits the hope of reconciliation.

That is why Dalit Canadians and their South Asian allies all over the world are celebrating this historic victory in Toronto. Casteism exists in Canada. It’s impacting caste-oppressed Canadians in unlawful ways in which impression our civil rights and create unsafe faculties and workplaces. And we all know what the treatment is: altering coverage and constructing consciousness of caste fairness.

We all know there are the bigoted few who opposed this decision. However there have all the time been opponents to civil rights. And Canadian civil rights and worldwide human rights obligations shouldn’t be decided by the bigoted. We should insist on our equality and the implementation of the rule of civil rights for all.

We thank the Toronto faculty board for standing on the fitting aspect of historical past and main Canada on this movement rooted in therapeutic and reconciliation. The tragedy of casteism may be remedied, however we have to be clear-eyed about the issue and be united in our dedication to therapeutic and reconciliation.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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