Burnaby, a city in British Columbia, Canada, has become the first city in the country to include caste as a protected category in its equity policy, according to a report by the Hindustan Times. “City Council approved an update the City’s Equity Policy to include ‘caste’ as a protected category,” stated the post on the city’s website.
The motion was passed unanimously, according to Council member Sav Dhaliwal. Dhaliwal stated that the move was an acknowledgement of a problem that exists and a step towards finding solutions. “It’s an acknowledgement of a problem that exists and that’s the start of the search for solutions,” he said to Hindustan Times.
The motion was initially passed by the executive committee of the Council on April 5, after the Vancouver-based Chetna Association of Canada brought the issue to their attention. In proposing the update to the city’s equity policy, Dhaliwal and fellow councillor Richard T Lee wrote to the Mayor and all Council members that the executive committee had “expressed concern that casteism, a social hierarchy passed down through families that has been outlawed in India since 1948, is still being practiced in Canada and where some South Asian populations exist.”
Jai Birdi, the general secretary of the Chetna Association of Canada, welcomed the decision, saying, “Adding caste as a protected category sends a strong message that the city values diversity and does not tolerate any kind of harassment or oppression, including the one based on caste. This also provides a framework for staff training and enhancing awareness as well as equity.” Harmesh Chander, Chetna’s vice-president, described the move as a “first step” and expressed hope that other cities across Canada will follow Burnaby’s lead.