Bullying Rampant in Toronto Schools: Caste Oppressed People Share Their Stories

Many Dalit children in Toronto schools have to endure stereotypes about caste-oppressed people as criminals, face traumatic experiences, and hear caste slurs.
Bullying Rampant in Toronto Schools: Caste Oppressed People Share Their Stories

Toronto District School Board (TDSB) on March 8th, took a historic step by passing a resolution for caste equity, acknowledging for the first time in Canadian legislative history that caste discrimination exists. This resolution was introduced by Yalini Rajakulasingam, a trustee who herself has suffered the oppression of caste discrimination.

Ms. Rajakulasingam, whose parents migrated to Canada from Sri Lanka as refugees in 1986, recognizes herself as a member of an oppressed caste. The anecdotes she heard from her parents while growing up in Scarborough deeply resonated with her own life experiences. Interestingly, even at the TDSB’s human rights office, there is no way to file a complaint under caste. According to Yalini , it was being filed as either race or religion, however, most agree that caste is its own specific power structure. It doesn’t function like race. The landmark decision by TDSB is a ray of hope for the countless students and their parents who have suffered similar experiences. Dalit communities believe that sensitizing children is the best way to end the cycle of discrimination.

Casteist slurs regularly used in schools.

As a college student and a young member of Sadan - the South Asian Dalit Adivasi Network of Canada, Trina Kumar knows only too well how it feels to be a victim of caste bullying. Trina recounts her school days, when she was subjected to discriminatory comments about her darker complexion, ridicule for not following upper-caste rituals, and taunts for being a Dalit Christian. Trina was often confused and hurt by the caste discrimination that permeated her school environment.

Trina's story paints a bleak picture of the reality faced by Dalit children in Greater Toronto schools, where caste slurs are hurled around the playground and stereotypes about caste-oppressed people as criminals persist. Trina recalls the traumatizing incident of a dominant caste boy auctioning her off for sex, solely based on her dark skin and caste. " He said I would not be sold even for a penny if I was auctioned for sex, it traumatized me for many days" the young student shared her agony.

Dominant caste parents beating children for befriending dalits.

Trina’s experiences are unfortunately not unique. Many Dalit children in Toronto schools have had to hear caste slurs, endure stereotypes about caste-oppressed people as criminals, and face traumatising experiences. The prevalence of racism, colourism, and casteism in Greater Toronto schools is deep-rooted and alarming.

Trina’s own experience of discrimination also extended beyond school to her personal relationships. When a new friend discovered that Trina was Dalit, she was suddenly deemed unworthy of being introduced to her friend’s parents due to their opposition to intercaste relationships. Trina was bewildered by her friend’s sudden change in behaviour, but she later realised that it is not uncommon for dominant caste parents to beat their children if they engage in intercaste and interfaith relationships.

According to Vijay Puli, a distinguished Dalit activist and the founder of SADAN, the move of the Toronto school board has brought to light a long-standing issue within the South Asian community in Canada. As a Dalit immigrant, Puli sees this move as a small but significant step towards addressing the systemic violence and indignities faced by Dalits in India. Many Dalit immigrants to Canada have faced similar challenges, and the recent decision by the Toronto school board to acknowledge caste discrimination is an essential step towards addressing this issue.

" Educating South Asian children about the harmful effects of casteism and recognizing the harm it has caused can help us move towards healing and building a more inclusive society for everyone " Puli emphasizes.

Dr. Vaishali Dupare, a dental hygienist and member of SADAN, believes that the recent decision to recognize caste discrimination in Toronto schools will have a powerful impact on the future. Like other Dalit parents, Vaishali has been concerned about the emotional and mental well-being of her two children as they approach adulthood. She strongly believes that any form of injustice or discrimination should be addressed immediately.

" This victory is particularly significant as it will serve as a source of inspiration for 1.2 billion people worldwide to speak out and stand up against discrimination. Moreover, it will provide a sense of security to those who share their stories and ensure that those who commit injustices and disrupt the peace are held accountable for their actions" Vaishali told The Mooknayak. She also expresses her gratitude to all the members of TDSB who voted in favor of the motion, as it ensures that children will no longer have to live in fear and can be proud of their identities.

The passage of the resolution by TDSB is therefore a welcome development that recognises the existence and impact of caste discrimination. Dalit communities and members of SADAN have been advocating for such measures to be taken to make Toronto schools safer for Dalit children. The resolution will enable TDSB to work with Dalit families and the Ontario Province Human Rights Commission to address caste discrimination in Toronto schools.

TDSB's motion garners international media coverage.

The Toronto school board's decision to recognize and address caste discrimination in Canadian schools has received significant international media coverage. Some of the newspapers and portals that have covered this issue include:

BBC News - The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported on the Toronto school board's decision, noting that it was the first school board in Canada to recognize caste discrimination. The article highlighted the significance of the decision and included quotes from board trustee Yalini Rajakulasingam.

Al Jazeera - The Qatar-based news outlet covered the Toronto school board's motion in an article that focused on the prevalence of caste discrimination in South Asia and its impact on South Asian communities in Canada. The article noted that caste discrimination is often overlooked in discussions of racism and called the school board's decision a "major step forward."

The New York Times - The American newspaper reported on the Toronto school board's decision in an article that highlighted the controversy surrounding the issue. The article said that some trustees had raised concerns about the effectiveness of the motion and the potential for it to be divisive, while others praised it as an important step toward addressing discrimination.

The Guardian - The British newspaper covered the Toronto school board's motion in an article that emphasized the historical and cultural context of caste discrimination in South Asia. The article also highlighted the need for education and awareness-raising around the issue in Canadian schools.

You can also join our WhatsApp group to get premium and selected news of The Mooknayak on WhatsApp. Click here to join the WhatsApp group.

The Mooknayak English - Voice Of The Voiceless