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After Seattle, caste debate erupts in Toronto

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has a higher population of South Asians than the American city of Seattle.

Toronto District School Board (TDSB)

Following Seattle city council’s decision to ban caste discrimination last month, Toronto's school board has become the first Canadian authority to recognise that caste discrimination exists in schools and has voted in favor of creating a framework to address the issue.

According to media reports, the motion introduced by Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustee ‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌Yalini Rajakulasingam to recognise caste discrimination in the city’s schools, was supported by sixteen trustees while five voted against it.

TDSB trustee ‌Yalini Rajakulasingam. Image - Twitter 

Speaking in favour of the motion, Rajakulasingam said as quoted by The Globe and the Mail,“This motion is not about division, it’s about creating healing and empowering communities and providing them safer schools that students deserve.”

Referring to the historic Seattle Council vote, the Toronto-based classical dancer trained in Bharatanatyam added,  “In Seattle, 4 per cent of the community identify as South Asian. At the TDSB, we are at 22 per cent.”

The motion, seconded by trustee Anu Sriskandarajah, has reportedly received letters of support from parents and from more than 100 advocacy groups.

Lauding Rajakulasingam's advocacy on the matter, Equality labs is a Dalit civil rights organization, tweeted, “Yalini is Canada’s first Caste-opressesd school board trustee and she courageously came out as part of this motion. She faced terrorism smears, bigotry, gaslighting and violence.”

The motion has also met with criticism from organization like the Canadian Organization for Hindu Heritage Education, who describe the motion as “Hinduphobic” and targeting the Hindu Faith.