A Sikh police officer in Canada had been denied a promotion into the senior ranks because of his race and cultural background, a media report has said. Staff sergeant Baljiwan Sandhu, a decorated officer with 28 years of service on the Peel police force, had sought a promotion to inspector in 2013, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario on Friday said that not only he had been denied a promotion but that Peel Regional Police did not consider the portion of work in diversity relations as “real police work.”

“The applicant’s race, ancestry, place of origin, and/or ethnic origin were factors in his failure to be recommended for promotion in February 2013, and as such I find that the applicant has been subject to discrimination because of race,” in violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code, tribunal adjudicator Bruce Best was quoted as saying by the report.

“My client was harassed since he was a cadet in 1989 — including an alleged incident in which fellow officers asked whether anyone ordered a cab when they saw Sandhu — it was the fact that his superiors did not value the work they had assigned him that prompted the complaint in 2013,” Barry Swadron, his lawyer, said.

Sandhu emigrated to Canada from India in 1981. The tribunal found that the officer’s cultural and linguistic background resulted in his superiors routinely seconding him for assignments involving the South Asian community.

“The superiors in his particular case said that the work he did in diversity where he was an absolute star didn’t really count because it wasn’t real police work,” Swadron said.

“To think that the brass of the Peel Regional Police Service take the position that diversity or officers who are not white are to be undervalued, it was too much to swallow,” Swadron said.

Among the 33 officers who applied for promotion to inspector in 2013, only Sandhu and another applicant failed to get the backing of their immediate supervisors, the report said.

Sandhu, meanwhile, excelled in his work with the South Asian community, earning 21 awards, including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

“One South Asian newspaper in 2011 selected him as one of the three most influential South Asians in law enforcement in the country, along with Harjit Sajjan, who has since become Canada’s Minister of Defence,” the ruling reads.

Peel police chief Jennifer Evans did not respond to the questions about the ruling. Instead, she issued a video statement on Tuesday in which she said that such ambassador roles are critical to the success of Peel police.

“It’s important to note that since 2013, Peel Regional Police have introduced changes to our promotional process,”
she said in the video. “The enhancements ensure all officers are recognised for the area they work in, be they front line or support services.”