In January 2014, South Asian detective sergeant Baljiwan Sandhu filed a complaint alleging discrimination by Peel Regional Police with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The hearings began this week.
Baljiwan Sandhu alleges he was denied the opportunity for promotion to inspector in 2013 simply because he happened to be brown.
The police force say that there is no basis to his charge because two of the eight eventual promotions to inspector were given to “racialized minorities”. Now the problem is that which ethnic groups get to be labeled racialized minorities. Could for example a Canadian of Greek origin claim to be a “racialized minority” or what about someone from Kazakhstan?
Sandhu was not even considered for promotion by two of his supervisors as his application didn’t even make it to the next stage. Sandhu questions the decision of his two supervisors not to push his application forward.
Sandhu joined the Peel force as a recruit in 1989. He was the first Punjabi officer assigned to District 2 in the city of Brampton.
In his complaint, under a heading of “My Continuous Struggle,” Sandhu lists a number of examples of alleged discrimination that he says began at the outset of his policing career.
During a basic training presentation on the operations of the service’s communications bureau, a speaker remarked that, in the future, outgoing police officers would be replaced by “women and Pakis.”
Sandhu states that the rest of the recruit class looked at him, leaving him “hurt and embarrassed.”
Early in his career, other officers mimicked his accent.
“It reached the point where I felt like I was an ethnic punching bag, yet I soldiered on,” he says in his complaint.
He once walked into a packed gym at police headquarters and someone shouted: “Hey, no one called a cab!”
Sandhu says the room “erupted with laughter,” which he found distressing but “forced” himself to “laugh” to “endure” the “blatant racial slur.”
When paired with an officer of Scottish background, he states that officers referred to them as the “Braveheart-Gandhi” team.
In the summer of 2001, while with intelligence services and paired with a junior South Asian officer who wore a turban, the pair was dubbed the “temple twins” and “temple patrol unit.”
His lawyer Kelley Bryan is highlighting the need for police to reflect the multicultural makeup of the region they serve. She is vowing to bring forward evidence highlighting the “racialized minority” composition of Peel police.
While it is important that well-qualified individuals get into the police force and win promotions based on merit, it is also important to take into account the ethnic composition of the force, finding that balance is proving to be very tricky.
Sandhu who doesn’t want to be promoted merely because of the color of the skin believes he could’ve been promoted just on the basis of his experience and achievements- 900 hours as acting inspector prior to applying for the full position. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal awardee in 2012 for excellence in policing are two examples.
The hearing has been adjourned until tribunal vice chair Kathleen Martin decides on Sandhu’s request to order Peel police to provide the documents he’s seeking to help argue his case.
Meanwhile there is quite a lot of interest being generated by these hearings. Many South Asians were seen at the hearing holding up signs of support for Baljiwan Sandhu.
One hopes that this case leads to managements of companies to introspect and give visible minorities the opportunity to take their rightful place at the table.
In Peel Region though, in the years to come, Caucasians will be the new minority.