Toronto’s school board has become the first in Canada to acknowledge the existence of caste discrimination in the city’s schools and has asked a provincial human rights body for assistance in developing a framework to address the issue, news agency Reuters reported on Friday.
As per the report, the Toronto District School Board approved a motion to that effect on Wednesday, which was introduced by board trustee Yalini Rajakulasingam. Sixteen trustees supported the motion, while five opposed it, the report said.
The move addresses an issue that is important to the South Asian diaspora in the area, particularly the Indian and Hindu communities. The development comes weeks after Seattle became the first city in the United States to outlaw caste discrimination following a city council vote.
The caste system in India is one of the world’s oldest forms of rigid social stratification.
“This motion is not about division; it is about healing and empowering communities and providing students with safer schools,” Rajakulasingam was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Rajakulasingam advocated for collaboration between the human rights commission of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, and the school board of Toronto.
The caste system, which dates back thousands of years, grants many privileges to upper castes while oppressing lower castes. The Dalit community is at the bottom of the Hindu caste system and is referred to as “untouchables.”
Caste discrimination was outlawed in India more than 70 years ago, yet bias remains, according to numerous recent studies, including one that discovered persons from lower castes were underrepresented in higher-paying positions.
Although India has prohibited untouchability, Dalits continue to experience widespread maltreatment throughout the country, where their attempts at upward social mobility have been ruthlessly suppressed at times.
The hierarchy of the caste system is a source of contention in India and worldwide, with the subject interwoven with religion. Some argue that discrimination is no longer common. In recent years, Indian government measures reserving spots for lower-caste students at leading Indian colleges have helped many Indians get tech jobs in the West.
(With Inputs From Reuters)