“There is little question that he was, and is, an excellent officer”
THE Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has ruled that Staff-Sgt. Baljiwan Sandhu of Peel Regional Police was not recommended for promotion to the rank of inspector in February 2013 “in part due to his race, ancestry, place of origin, and / or ethnic origin.”
Tribunal adjudicator Bruce Best said that this was in violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Peel Regional Police is Ontario’s second largest municipal force that polices the cities of Brampton and Mississauga, where about 60 per cent of residents are “visible minorities” as defined by Statistics Canada.
Sandhu, who came to Canada in 1981, joined the Peel force in 1989 and was the first Punjabi officer in District 2 in the city of Brampton.
Back in June 2015, the Toronto Star had reported that in his complaint filed in January 2014, Sandhu listed examples of alleged discrimination that he faced when he started his career. These included:
* During a basic training presentation on the operations of the service’s communications bureau, a speaker remarked that, in the future, outgoing police officers would be replaced by “women and Pakis.” Sandhu stated that the rest of the recruit class looked at him, leaving him “hurt and embarrassed.”
* Officers mimicked his accent. “It reached the point where I felt like I was an ethnic punching bag, yet I soldiered on,” he said in his complaint.
* He once walked into a packed gym at police headquarters and someone shouted: “Hey, no one called a cab!” Sandhu said the room “erupted with laughter,” which he found distressing but “forced” himself to “laugh” to “endure” the “blatant racial slur.”
* In 2007, Sandhu said a senior officer remarked at a traffic accident scene that there should be no trouble sorting it out because those involved were not South Asians, who “lie all the time.”
Best said in his decision that he found that two officers “devalued the experience he had in Diversity and in South Asian Intelligence, and that this was the primary reason for not recommending him.” He noted that even if the officers’ decision in this regard was not intentional, “it is well established that intent is not required to establish discrimination.”
He also noted: “In addition to my finding that work in the South Asian units was devalued in the service, I also accept the evidence that the applicant was assigned to these positions, in part, due to his race, particularly his ethnic origin and place of origin, because of his specific cultural knowledge and language skills. I further find that the length of time he spent in those portfolios was also due in part to these same factors.”
Best said: “The low value placed on the applicant’s experience in South Asian Intelligence and Diversity, and the discounting of that work in terms of assessing his suitability for promotion, amounts to discrimination in that it disadvantaged the applicant when he applied for promotion to inspector.”
He pointed out: “The applicant was originally posted to the Diversity Relations Media position, at the direction of then-Chief Metcalf, because of his specific language skills and cultural knowledge. I further found that the applicant recognized that remaining in Diversity would, whether justified or not, hinder his ambition to move up the ranks, and that he had, as early as 2010, raised this issue with his superior officers and indicated his desire to move to another posting after two years in the position. However, because of his particular cultural knowledge and language skills, he remained in Diversity for far longer than he wished to, and, even after he was successful in transferring out, the time he had spent there had effectively delayed his career aspirations.”
Best in his ruling said there were a number of things that he “found were NOT the reason for the applicant’s failure to be recommended for promotion.” [Capitalization Best’s]
He said: “First, performance was not an issue.
“Second, it was not because of lack of time in the Staff Sergeant / Detective Sergeant role. He had been at that rank for four years, not counting the six-month period of indefinite acting at that rank immediately prior to his promotion.
“Third, it was not because of his lack of experience as an Acting Inspector; though [Inspector Steve] Mendyk noted that “some had more”, the applicant’s over 800 hours of acting time was, as acknowledged by Superintendent [Mike] MacMullen, more than enough to be considered for promotion. The fact that his acting time was all in Diversity, however, is relevant, and in fact was specifically raised in the Command Team Assessment as a factor against recommending the applicant for promotion.
“Fourth, his unique contributions to the Service were acknowledged by all concerned. There is little question that he was, and is, an excellent officer. His skills as an officer, combined with his cultural and linguistic skills, have without doubt assisted the Service in enhancing its reputation within the community.
“Fifth, the only specific reason given in his command team assessment was his lack of experience supervising front-line officers. As I have found above, the applicant did in fact have such experience from his time as a Staff Sergeant at the Airport Division. Furthermore, given the evidence, in particular the experience of the other candidates for the 2013 promotional process, and the experience at the rank of staff / detective sergeant of those senior officers who testified before me, I do not find that the applicant’s experience supervising front-line officers was as important a factor in recommending an individual for promotion to inspector as has been suggested by the respondent.”
Best added: “Given the above, my finding is that the applicant’s time in Diversity and South Asian Intelligence was a reason, and in fact the primary reason, he was not recommended for promotion to inspector.”
Sandhu’ lawyer, Barry Swadron, told CBC that because of the stress caused by this case, he has been on long-term disability for the past three years, and it’s unclear whether he will decide to return to the force.
MEANWHILE, Peel Regional Police Chief Jennifer Evans said on Tuesday that she wants to reassure the community and employees that their police force is a diverse and inclusive employer, and that all employees have the same opportunities for promotion regardless of race, ancestry, place of origin and /or ethnic origin.
Evans repeated her long-standing commitment to ensuring Peel Regional Police is free of workplace discrimination and harassment.
While in the past, traditional policing models were heavily focused on front-line operations, the existing Peel Regional Police model is also focused on community policing and public engagement. Community policing roles, including those in areas like Diversity Relations, Crime Prevention and Community Support are essential to building strong relationships with community partners which is a priority for Peel Regional Police, said Evans.
She added that their Diversity Relations Unit is growing steadily to keep up with increasing demands for service within the community. The officers in that area do incredible work and are valued for what they do to enhance and sustain strong connections within the community.