Ajinkya “Jinkx” Chodankar (second from right) and his cricket friends take a break from play at Lewis Park. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Racism not cricket in Courtenay

New permanent Canadian resident speaking out after shouted slur interrupts cricket game

By happy coincidence, Ajinkya Chodankar, or “Jinkx” as he calls himself, ran into some students, mostly from India, on the evening of Aug. 4 at Courtenay’s Lewis Park.

Members of the international student program at North Island College, they were playing a game of cricket and asked Jinkx if he wanted to join.

They were having a good time playing when a silver truck drove by. Someone inside yelled at them, ‘Go back to your country, you P***s.’

Jinkx yelled back at the driver as the truck drove off. One of the students thanked him for standing up for them, though he replied it wasn’t something for which they should have to thank anybody.

“This isn’t acceptable. This shouldn’t be something you have to ever deal with,” he says. “It was just because we were brown. It’s so silly. And he didn’t even get the country right. We were from India.”

Moving here in late 2012, Chodankar is a permanent resident of Canada and is married to a Canadian. He has a bachelor of science degree and is a Red Seal chef, having trained at NIC. He’s also a recruit in the Courtenay Fire Department, training to be a firefighter.

“I made a conscientious decision to move to Canada,” he says. “Through my research, Canada came up on top.”

He says he knows that whoever shouted the racial slur at him and the international students does not reflect the Comox Valley as a whole, but he contacted the newspaper in order to make it clear how much Canada means to him and how much he wants to be part of the community in the Valley.

“I surrounded myself with amazing, amazing individuals,” he says. “Then you get one rotten apple…. I’m sure they’re just being silly. I would like to believe that. They’re not bad people. It was just a lapse in judgment.”

In the meantime, Chodankar would like to encourage whoever yelled at him to meet him in person, so he can show the compassion he has for anyone, even the person responsible.

While the hope is that this isn’t a common sentiment in the community, many communities, like this one, do have protocols set up to respond to acts of discrimination and racism.

“There’s no question that these things do happen,” says Jim Brennan, executive director of the Immigrant Welcome Centre, which serves the Comox Valley, Campbell River and the North Island. “They tend to be isolated events.”

However, he points out there is an agreement with a long list of signatories to set out how the community should respond.

“If we do nothing about this… we condone the behaviour,” he adds. “When things happen, you report it.”

Province-wide, communities have signed on to the Organizing Against Racism and Hate (OAHR) program to deal with these kinds of incidents. Locally, this was developed from 2007 to 2009, says Bruce Curtis, chief administrator of Community Justice Centre, which oversees the program in the Comox Valley. It was updated to take into account online acts, and it was renewed in 2016 with 125 signatories, including local governments, First Nations, businesses, community groups, schools and others. 

“We have been contacted by a number of individuals over the years to assist and support them,” he says. “We provide a variety of supports.”

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In extreme cases, where a criminal act has taken place, this gets transferred to the RCMP. For lesser acts or civil matters, Curtis says they work with the newcomer to provide advice on how to handle the situation. If the person responsible is known, they try to set up a process similar to restorative justice mediation and sit that person down with the person they have affected. Through the program, they also do public education around these issues and produce an annual report, which makes it all the more important people report these incidents.

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