TORONTO — Does Ontario’s second largest municipal police force consider Portuguese-Canadian or even Greek-Canadian officers within its ranks to be “racialized minorities”?
That might become clearer after a hearing that began Monday before the Human Rights Tribunal, involving alleged discrimination by Peel Regional Police.
Baljiwan (BJ) Sandhu, a Punjabi-Canadian detective sergeant in Peel, alleges he was denied an opportunity for promotion to inspector in 2013 because of his race.
The force denies that Sandhu was discriminated against and claims two of the eight eventual promotions to inspector were, in fact, given to “racialized minorities” — leading to questions about just how broadly that category is defined.
“Apparently the applicant wants to get into the definition of racialized,” said lawyer Glenn Christie, who is representing the Peel force.
“It doesn’t matter what my client’s definition of ‘racialized’ would be,” Sandhu’s lawyer, Kelley Bryan, argued. “It matters what the respondents’ definition of ‘racialized’ is.”
The case has drawn much attention in Peel Region, particularly within its large South Asian community. On Monday, people stood outside the small hearing room with signs supporting Sandhu, while spectators inside had to stand for lack of seats.
Bryan told tribunal vice chair Kathleen Martin that the Peel police service needs to explain who is included in its definition of “racialized minorities” — one of many questions and document requests Martin is considering after the police lawyer outlined the force’s reasons for not answering certain questions or producing numerous documents requested by the applicant prior to the hearing.
Christie said he wasn’t sure what his client would consider to be a “racialized minority.”
Some of the documents requested would allow for a comparison of Sandhu’s application and work history with applicants who were successful in winning a promotion, which Christie said “is not relevant to the application.”
Christie argued that because Sandhu wasn’t even considered for promotion by two of his supervisors, his application didn’t make it to the competition stage. He said Sandhu’s application does not address whether or not he faced discrimination in the process as a whole, but only the decision of two supervisors who decided to exclude him early on.
“Given the issues that are actually raised in the application, the request (for the successful candidates’ files) is not relevant,” Christie told the tribunal.
Bryan highlighted the need for police to reflect the diversity of the region they serve. She said she would bring forward evidence highlighting the “racialized minority” composition of Peel police.
Brampton and Mississauga are two of Canada’s most diverse cities, with about 60 per cent of residents classified as “visible minorities” by Statistics Canada. In 2006, the force told the Star that, at the time, none of its 43 senior uniformed officers was a member of a visible minority. Sandhu was seeking a promotion into the senior uniform ranks.
Sandhu is a highly decorated officer who in 2012 was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his excellence in policing. He had almost 900 hours of experience as an acting inspector prior to applying for the full position. His application to the tribunal highlights numerous examples of alleged discrimination Sandhu faced since joining the force in 1989.
Martin pointed out that Peel police refused to mediate the case, after the tribunal attempted to bring both parties together to avoid a hearing.
The hearing was adjourned until Martin decides on Sandhu’s request to order Peel police to provide the documents he’s seeking to help argue his case.