BC Human Rights Tribunal Rules Veterinary Medical Association Engaged in Systemic Discrimination Against Indo-Canadian Veterinarians

It’s been a long haul, but CLAS is very relieved and gratified to see that its years of hard work and persistence on behalf of a group of Indo-Canadian veterinarians operating discount clinics in the Lower Mainland has finally paid off. In a landmark decision, the BC Human Rights Tribunal has recently ruled, after a very protracted and contentious hearing, that the BC Veterinary Medical Association (BCVMA) engaged in systemic discrimination against our clients.

In her ruling, Member Parrack collectively awarded over $300,000 in monetary damages and also made a number of substantive systemic orders, which included the mandating of an independent review of certain cited disciplinary complaint files, the posting of an anti-discrimination policy on the BCVMA website, and the provision of a one-day racial discrimination training program for staff, contractors, volunteers and various committee members.

Some of the major findings Member Parrack made in her decision included:

  • the BCVMA tolerated and facilitated the discussion of wide-ranging and race-based allegations about Indo-Canadian vets
  • persons of influence in the BCVMA were recorded making comments that reflected negative race-based views of Indo-Canadians, which the BCMVA failed to properly investigate or sanction
  • race-based stereotypes played a role in the BCVMA's dealings with the vets, leading to the poisoning of the relationship between the two groups, an outcome the BCVMA wrongly blamed entirely on the vets, accusing them of just 'playing the race card'
  • the BCVMA erected an unreasonable barrier to practice for Indo-Canadian vets by instituting a discriminatory English Language Standard higher than that used by comparable professional associations
  • the BCVMA targeted Indo-Canadian facilities with the newly instituted practice of unscheduled inspections that were based on unsubstantiated rumours and anecdotal complaints about their practices
  • the BCVMA's processing of disciplinary complaints gave rise to patterns of race-based adverse treatment in a number of harmful ways, as detailed in her decision
  • the timing of the implementation of a new disciplinary disclosure policy also had the effect of further targeting Indo-Canadian vets who, at the time of their complaint, comprised all but one of the vets identified on the BCVMA website as being subject to disciplinary action

The Indo-Canadian vets were represented at hearing by legal counsel, Aleem Bharmal, CLAS Executive Director and Staff Lawyer of our BC Human Rights Clinic, as well as by Clea Parfitt, a downtown sole practitioner focusing on human rights law. CLAS hopes that this decision will help to rectify this very unfortunate situation and spur further dialogue and potential reconciliation between the parties.