'The work is never done': Former B.C. judge says racism still an issue in Canada | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'The work is never done': Former B.C. judge says racism still an issue in Canada

Lawyer Bill Sundhu in a Zoom call, giving a presentation on racism to the Kamloops Rotary Club June 8.
Image Credit: ZOOM / Screen capture
June 08, 2020 - 2:22 PM

Kamloops human rights lawyer Bill Sundhu says he has experienced racism firsthand. 

In a virtual presentation to the Kamloops Rotary Club today, the former provincial court judge recounted an experience he had in law school at a comedy show.

The comedian pointed to Sundhu and asked him where he was from in front of an audience of two to three hundred people.

"I said British Columbia. He said, no, where are you really from?" said Sundhu. "I said I'm Canadian, my people are from India. And then he made a cow joke."

Sundhu said that not a single person laughed at the joke, and after the show, the comedian was told by organizers that he would never be hired by them again.

"That's about standing up for each other," he said.

This is the answer Sundhu gave when a Rotarian asked him what they could do when they see discrimination. 

"It starts with each and every one of us, it means how we conduct ourselves, how we deal with our neighbours, our friends," he said. "We need to be there for each other."

He said in cases when someone stood up for him, it meant a lot.

"That shows we're in this together," he said.

In his presentation, Sundhu emphasized that racism is still present in Canada, and that some Canadians have the tendency to be complacent.

READ MORE: N.B. chiefs seek justice system review after police shooting of Indigenous woman

"All ethnic communities have blind spots and some degree of prejudice or discrimination," he said.

This applies within the justice system too.

"Nothing is neutral," he said. "How we see the world reflects our background."

While he said there has been improvements in the justice system in recent years, there is still a long way to go.

READ MORE: Nearly half of youth incarcerated are Indigenous: Statistics Canada

"We have come a long way from the legal in practice discrimination of the past, and yet we have our own blind spots in inequality in our midst here in Canada," he said.

While Canada is held up as a standard globally for multiculturalism and equality, Sundhu said that this impression may lead some Canadians to be complacent.

"This cover that we in Canada take, that we're better than the U.S. and so it's a problem that's south of the border, not us," he said. "That absolves us too often from the responsibility of looking at our own shortcomings."

READ MORE: Black Canadians say racism here is just as harmful as in the United States

Sundhu warned against remaining silent in the face of injustice, as silence only benefits the perpetrator, never the victim.

"The work is never done, and that's how we pass it on to the next generation," he said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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