Don’t call me ‘gori’

| Vancouver, Canada | 13 Dec 2015 | Asia Samachar |


Don’t call me ‘gori’. That’s the complaint of a lady tenant who rented a room in a Punjabi-owned house in Canada.

She took the case to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, alleging that she was discriminated against on the basis of colour or sex, contrary to Section 10 of the Human Rights Code.

Making her case, complainant Jocelyn Gowland said Kulwinder Singh Gill and his family members had referred to her as “gori” and it was an everyday occurrence, that she often overheard the word in conversations between members of the Gill family.

She said the word “gori”, when used in reference to her, was offensive and a “slur”. She called it “reverse racism” and said “it’s just rude; why not call a person by her name”.

The matter was heard in Vancouver on 30 Nov 2015. Both Gowland and Kulwinder had represented themselves, with tribunal member Parnesh Sharma presiding.

In a 12-page judgment issued on 11 Dec 2015, Sharma described  Gowland as a ’difficult and disruptive tenant’.

In the judgment notes, Kulwinder testified that gori is a common word and may have included references to Gowland, but the use of “gori” in everyday conversation was “because that is how we refer to white women or white people in Punjabi”.

Sharma said there was nothing unusual or pejorative in the usage of the word ‘gori’.

“‘Gori’ was used as a simple noun, for that is what the word is, as general reference to white women or white people. I find Mr. Gill and his family members considered the word innocuous and inoffensive and that it was not used by them as a slur or to demean Ms. Gowland,” said Sharma.

“Words may mean different things to different listeners. And much depends on the context and the cultural milieu within which conversations take place. Without proper context, nuance and subtlety are absent and meanings are imprecise or lost.

“Words may mean different things to different people, but it cannot mean whatever one chooses it to mean,” he said.

The tribunal found that the complaint was ‘not justified’.


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