University of Toronto Adds Caste as Protected Category

University of Toronto is the largest university in Canada with a total enrolment of more than 1 lakh students. Outside Canada, many other universities have added caste to the protected category, providing an impetus to fight against caste.
University of Toronto
University of TorontoImage credit- College Transitions

The University of Toronto has become the latest addition to the list of institutions where caste has been added as a protected category, alongside other types of discriminations.

In an agreement reached between CUPE3092, an association of contract workers and researchers at the University of Toronto, the Employer and the Union agree that there shall be no discrimination, interference, restriction, coercion, or harassment exercised or practiced in any matter concerning the application of the provisions of this Agreement by reason of age, race, creed, color, national origin, language of origin, caste, ancestry- reads the document released by the university as part of the ongoing collective bargaining.

This is a major victory for the diaspora of marginalized sections living abroad and joins the list of several other institutions in Canada and elsewhere. Before this, the Toronto School Board became the first school board in Canada to pass a motion recognizing caste oppression. Toronto is Canada’s most developed and industrialized city located in the Ontario province of Canada. Ontario became the first province in Canada, or rather the whole of North America, when its Human Rights Commission recognized Caste in its Policy framework in October 2023. Last year, British Columbia, a province in Canada, declared April as Dalit History Month.

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The Mooknayak spoke to several students studying in the University of Toronto. Jatin, a Ph.D. student in the Department of History at the University of Toronto, said, "As a member of the Forum for Anti-Caste Activism at the University of Toronto (FACT) and a Ph.D. student in the history department, University of Toronto—I am exhilarated at the big moment of success. Today, UofT's education workers' union CUPE 3902 took the historic initiative to propose recognition of caste as a protected category against workplace discrimination, harassment, and oppression, as part of the ongoing bargaining initiatives. Our FACT member, Shibilaxman, has been at the bargaining table with the university to moot this initiative. We are enthralled by the fact that the UofT (University of Toronto) administration has accepted our demand, which makes CUPE 3902 the largest and first education workers' union to recognize caste in their equity policy. I see this moment of success as a result of long-drawn efforts of the Dalit-Advasi-Bahujan community in and outside of UofT, particularly FACT, South Asia Dalit Adivasi Network (SADAN), Vijay Puli, and Prof. Chinnaiah Jangam, and other students and faculty supporters in the University of Toronto.

"As a Dalit student at the University of Toronto, I am so grateful and feel much more secure with the university's decision to include caste as a protected category. This is a great step towards an equitable and socially welcoming environment," said Trina Kumar, a psychology student from the University of Toronto.

"On the eve of India’s Republic Day, true to the spirit of the Indian constitution, Dalit and Adivasis in their struggle against caste oppression made history in Canada by including caste as a form of discrimination in the world-renowned University of Toronto. Dalit graduate students, through their commitment to anticaste egalitarian values, showed the path to the rest of Canadian universities. We thank the student community, faculty, and administration of the University of Toronto for this historic initiative," commented Prof. Chinnaiah Jangam, Associate Professor, Department of History, Carleton University.

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"I am so happy to see this momentum of caste equity growing up in Canada. This is the power of Dalit, Adivasi, Caste Oppressed, and allies. I hope that this policy provides some protection to the caste-oppressed students and employees in the university. Thanks to CUPE 3209, University of Toronto management, students, and employees who did this and showed the path to other universities in Canada," said Vijay Puli, Founder & Executive Director, South Asian Dalit Adivasi Network, Canada (SADAN).

The significance of the victory can be gauged from the fact that the University of Toronto is the largest university in Canada with a total enrolment of more than 1 lakh students. Outside Canada, many other universities have added caste to the protected category, providing an impetus to fight against caste.

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