VANCOUVER—A group representing veterinarians across British Columbia has apologized for discriminating against some of its South Asian members and is vowing to do better.
The College of Veterinarians of British Columbia has posted a statement on its website saying it made mistakes and is sorry for the loss of dignity, pain and suffering it caused a number of doctors.
“The college acknowledges its past mistakes in the standards, inspection and discipline arenas,” the statement says.
The apology follows an October 2015 decision from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, which found the college had engaged in systemic racism.
Thirteen veterinarians filed complaints between 2004 and 2005, alleging the college’s disciplinary practices and English language requirements discriminated against them based on race, colour, ancestry and place of origin.
The veterinarians also complained that the college allowed false rumours to be spread about them. Among the rumours were allegations that the doctors did not euthanize animals, but used them instead for training purposes, that they didn’t sterilize surgical equipment, and that their employees were treated like “slaves.”
Tribunal member Judy Parrack said in her written decision that there was a “poisoned relationship” between the college and the South Asian veterinarians, with the college claiming the individuals were “playing the race card.”
“Race-based stereotypes” played a role in how the college dealt with the doctors, Parrack said, including negative views about their credibility and ethics.
“Racism is not generally expressed overtly but is subtle; often a person is unaware that he or she has engaged in racist behaviour as racism in embedded in our society,” she said.
Parrack’s decision ordered the college to pay each of the doctors between $2,000 and $35,000 in damages and to take steps to address “the effects of the discriminatory practices.”
A statement posted on the college’s website says two of the doctors have withdrawn further complaints filed with the tribunal and the college will not be pursuing a judicial review of the tribunal’s decision.
“These results were achieved after careful consideration and confidential mediation.”
The college says it now wants to move forward.
“The college is now working to improve its processes and foster positive, constructive and forward-looking relationships with the complainants and all registrants,” it says.