13 Indo-Canadian vets in B.C. victims of ‘systemic discrimination’: ruling

WATCH: The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has come down hard on the B.C. Veterinary Medical Association, for what the former calls 'systemic discrimination.' John Daly explains.

Veterinary doctors practicing in B.C. but trained in India were trying to provide lower-cost services to pet owners and the establishment didn’t like it. So, according to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, the B.C. Veterinary Medical Association smeared them with racially-charged allegations. The tribunal has come down hard on the association, saying it “engaged in systemic discrimination” and hammering it with fines.

The association, now called the College of Veterinarians of B.C., has been ordered to pay 13 veterinary doctors born and trained in India between $2,000 and $35,000 apiece for “injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.” That’s in addition to more than $45,000 in expenses and lost salaries.

The tribunal said the association performed unscheduled inspections of clinics run by South Asian doctors and forced them to pass a language-proficiency test, in various incidents between 2002 and 2006.

Hakam Bhullar, the owner of Atlas Vet Clinic, believes the language-proficiency test was designed for them to fail. The test was so hard, he dared association members to take the exam themselves to see if they could get a passing score.

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“I put a $1.6-million reward if they could pass [it] themselves…They didn’t take the challenge,” said Bhullar. “They know they cannot pass it.”

Bhullar said the BCMVA retaliated by pursuing complaints against South Asian vets based on rumours and unsubstantiated claims.

In 2009, a BCVMA inquiry said Bhullar acted improperly in several cases, including “debarking” a dog without the owner’s consent. The association said the allegations against Bhullar were so severe, they had no choice but to stop him from practicing in B.C. The inquiry’s findings were overturned by the B.C. Supreme Court.

Bhullar said he feels a measure of vindication now that the tribunal has ruled in his group’s favour.

“We are not fighting for money, we are fighting for justice, and justice prevailed,” said Bhullar, who said he spent more than $1 million of his money to fight the case.

“Now I can tell my kids, ‘no, I’m not a bad vet. I’m a good vet.'”

The full decision can be viewed here.

-With files from John Daly