Bhupinder Johar. (The News files)

Bhupinder Johar. (The News files)

Maple Ridge vet hoping for BC Human Rights Tribunal hearing against CVBC

College of Veterinarians of British Columbia denies discrimination

A Maple Ridge Indo-Canadian veterinarian is waiting to hear if he will get another hearing in front of the BC Human Rights Tribunal against the college that oversees his profession.

Dr. Bhupinder Johar of Haney Animal Hospital, with three other Indo-Canadian vets, allege the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia (CVBC) along with Luisa Hlus, former CEO and registrar of the college, discriminated against them because of their place of origin, colour, and race.

This is not the first time the local vet has taken on the college. In 2015, he and 12 other Indo-Canadian vets offering low cost services won a 10-year battle against the college, alleging systemic discrimination between 2002 and 2006.

Johar won $30,000 in damages in the case.

READ MORE: Maple Ridge veterinarian wins human rights complaint

The CVBC fought the ruling for another two years, explained Johar, before deciding to abandon the fight, apologize and implement the findings of the tribunal. This included coming up with non-discrimination policy and posting it to their website.

The policy, published in January 2016, says the college, “will not engage in or tolerate any form of discrimination among its registrants, staff, contracted agents, council members, or committee members,” and that it will “promptly, thoroughly and impartially respond to all complaints of discrimination.”

However, Johar and the other three veterinarians claim discrimination is still taking place.

READ: Can’t wear a mask? Be prepared to prove it, B.C. Human Rights Tribunal rules

“They continued to pick on the doctors who were sympathetic, even including me, for petty cases,” said Johar.

In their latest complaint filed in 2017, Johar contends the college took issue with himself and the other three vets for advertising with coupons.

“I haven’t killed a cat, I have not killed a dog, it is just putting a coupon,” asserted Johar, adding he accepted the college’s complaint and told the college it was only one time and he would not do it again.

“They still wanted me to get reprimanded – put my name on the website with penalties and go for some education on how to advertise,” continued Johar.

He accused the college of not taking action against other doctors who were putting out their own coupons.

The case is only at the beginning stages.

In a preliminary ruling on April 7, 2021, acting tribunal chair Paul Singh denied an application made by Johar and the other complainants for the disclosure of documents that the CVBC has claimed privilege. These include unredacted minutes of a Sept. 3, 2015 meeting of CVBC’s Investigative Committee regarding a complaint file involving Johar; materials before the investigative committee and the minutes of a March 14, 2019 investigative committee meeting for a complaint file involving Dr. Renu Sood; and documents regarding steps taken by Ms. Hlus under CVBC’s Non‐Discrimination Policy in response to discrimination complaints from Dr. Anil Sharma, Sood, and Johar.

The CVBC denies any discrimination took place and has filed an application to dismiss the complaint without a hearing.

Interim registrar at the CVBC Jane Pritchard, says many changes have taken place in the organization since Johar’s first Human Rights Tribunal case.

For one thing, she said, the English language proficiency test was changed to align with national testing so it is now standard across the country, as well as the United States.

The college has also brought diversity to all of their standing committees and councils, including diversity in gender, age, ethnicity, regionalities, and specialty, noted Pritchard.

“We also require diversity and inclusion training for all of our council members and staff and we do regular training sessions,” said Pritchard, although, she admitted, it’s been harder to do because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, she said, they brought diversity and inclusion to their strategic plan this year.

Even though advertising standards have changed at the CVBC. At the time, Pritchard said, Johar was in contravention of the college’s advertising standards.

“We feel that we followed all of the due processes and handled it in a way that was not biased. We feel that the allegations of discrimination are not supported in this case,” she said.

“But if we are doing something wrong, we definitely want to know about it,” added Pritchard.

Pritchard believes there is no excuse for racism and that the CVBC, the council and all of the committees have been focused on moving away from a heritage where it was present.

“We can’t change our beginning, we can’t change where we came from. We start from where we are and we’re definitely focused on changing our ending,” asserted Pritchard, adding the college is very, very focused on making sure there is equity and diversity.

Johar and his colleagues are pushing for the case to be heard before the tribunal.

“The reason that I decided to come to Canada is that I want to enjoy the peace of mind and live in a very fair society,” said Johar who was born, educated and trained as a veterinarian in India.

He said all he is asking for from the CVBC is to be investigated fairly, like all other veterinarians across the province, and for the college to learn from its past mistakes so as to not repeat them in the future.

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