Fraser Valley/Victoria -Among cries of racism and discrimination, the controversy roars on. The backgrounder to the story (from the Vancouver Sun) can be found here.

B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick has issued the following statement regarding the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia’s decision to seek a judicial review of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal’s decision upholding a complaint of discrimination by Indo-Canadian veterinarians.

“I am disappointed with the College of Veterinarian’s decision to challenge the findings of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

“I have written to the college to emphasize that there is no place for racism or prejudice anywhere in our communities. I expect all organizations in B.C. to respect, include and embrace our province’s rich cultural diversity.

“My letter to the college details specific actions and timeline to ensure they are operating in the public interest and in the best interest of its members.

“It is important that veterinarians in the province, especially those who were the victims of racism, have the confidence and certainty that they will be treated fairly and with dignity.

“The Human Rights Code applies to the college and all organizations in the province, and I expect the college to fully respect and support the Human Rights Code.”

The minister’s letter to the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia is attached as a backgrounder:

Agriculture Minister’s letter to College of Veterinarians of British Columbia

Nick Shaw DVM
President
College of Veterinarians of BC

Dear Mr. Shaw:

Re: Expectations for the College of Veterinarians of BC

I am writing in response to your November 5, 2015 and November 7, 2015 emails to Derek Sturko, Deputy Minister of Agriculture.

As the Minister responsible for the Veterinarians Act and the College, and on behalf of the government of British Columbia, I want to be clear there is no place for racism or prejudice anywhere in BC.

I recognize the College of Veterinarians of BC have taken a number of steps to address this matter, including the initiation of a review of processes led by a former supreme Court of Canada Justice, but more needs to be done.

My expectations as Minister are as follows:

  • The College and all organizations in the province, are expected to adhere and comply with the Human Rights Code;
  • The College, its members and its agents must not engage in discriminatory conduct prohibited by the human rights code (of particular concern is discrimination based on race, colour, ancestry or  place of origin);
  • The College, its members and its agents must not engage in bullying or any other inappropriate conduct compromising the integrity of the College or its members or applicants;
  • The College must ensure anti-discrimination language and cultural sensitivity language explicit and embedded into College policy;
  • The College must conduct a review of the processes used by other colleges to avoid any perception of bad faith should be done as part the review/audit of all CVBC processes being led by a former Supreme Court of Canada Justice; and,
  • The College should use every tool available to it to regain the confidence of its members, the public, and government that going forward no decision will be made that violates those rights.

I also understand from the letter that the College is seeking a judicial review of the recent Human Rights Tribunal (HRT) decision, will accept the decision of the reviewing judge regardless of outcome, and will not initiate further levels of appeal.

Consistent with these commitments by the College and despite the College’s decision to pursue judicial review the HRT decision, I expect the College to be acting, and to be seen to be acting, fully in compliance with the Province’s expectations and the Human Rights Code.

I also understand the College has taken the following steps:

  • Passed a non-discrimination policy at its November 5 meeting (please provide a copy of that policy to Mr. Sturko as soon as possible);
  • Previously eliminated the English language requirement;
  • Passed a motion that College immediately initiate a review/audit of all CVBC processes with emphasis on discipline and registration under the direction of a panel led by a former Supreme Court of Canada Justice; and
  • Will immediately initiate a training program for staff, Council and committee members on cultural awareness, human rights and cultural sensitivity.

Please provide an update to Mr. Sturko, within 60 calendar days of receipt of this letter, which fully demonstrates the College’s progress towards, and compliance with, all of these expectations and commitments by the College, even if the College proceeds with its planned judicial review.

If it would be of value to the College, the Province is willing to identify and fund a mediator to support the College’s efforts to bring timely and complete closure to any outstanding issues related to the HRT case and help the College ensure it is in compliance with the Province’s expectations and the Human Rights Code.

I have asked the ministry to continue to closely monitor all activities of the College and, in particular, activities related to the recent HRT decision.

If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Sturko at (250) 356-1800.

Sincerely,

Honourable Norm Letnick
Minister of Agriculture

cc:     Derek Sturko

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