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Racial slur used against South Asians hurled at Halifax cabbie logo 2020-07-03 Anjuli Patil
a man in a blue shirt: Kuldip Dhunna says the Thursday incident was the first time he's experienced racism in Canada. © CBC Kuldip Dhunna says the Thursday incident was the first time he's experienced racism in Canada.

A Halifax cab driver says he was subjected to racial slurs on Thursday after asking one of his passengers to wear a mask because of COVID-19.

After picking up a man from a downtown Halifax hotel, Kuldip Dhunna said the passenger began coughing.

"Very politely, I told him to wear a mask next time due to COVID," Dhunna said. "And he said, 'No, I've already tested for COVID, my COVID is negative.' He scared me, so that's why I said, 'Still, if you have a negative and you have a cough, you have to wear a mask in the cab.'"

Dhunna said the man, who was white, then began telling him to go back to his country and started calling him a racial slur typically used against people of South Asian descent.

The interaction was captured on Dhunna's dashcam and his daughter, Shivani, shared it on her Instagram page.

Dhunna is originally from India, but has been in Canada since 2007 and is a permanent resident. He has a background in pharmacy, but he's been driving a taxi around the city since 2009.

This embedded video contains racist language

In the video, the passenger tells Dhunna he's "sick and tired of immigrants." The man also accused immigrants of "trying to take our jobs."

Dhunna tells the man he's a Canadian citizen who pays taxes.

The taxi driver then told the passenger the encounter was being recorded and that he intended to report the passenger to police.

"Go ahead and report me," the passenger said.

a couple of people that are sitting on a couch: Kuldip Dhunna's children, from left to right: Sahip, Shivani and Simran. © Brooklyn Currie/CBC Kuldip Dhunna's children, from left to right: Sahip, Shivani and Simran.

Dhunna then asked the man to get out of his taxi. He called his dispatcher, who encouraged him to call police.

Dhunna said police told him they legally couldn't do anything and to just ignore the man. A police officer met with Dhunna and the passenger and nothing more happened.

"If taxi drivers call about our security and [police] say they can't do anything, what is the law?" he said.

What police are saying

A Halifax Regional Police spokesperson told CBC News there were no grounds to lay criminal charges, but if additional information comes to light, they would consider reopening the investigation.

Dhunna said this was his first experience with racism in Canada.

Shivani Dhunna said when her father told her what happened, her heart broke.

"Racism in this day and age needs to be talked about," she said.

His other daughter, Simran, posted the video to Twitter and said immigrant parents go through this kind of thing every day. She said this incident just happened to be recorded.

'If you're racist, you need to be held accountable'

"Even if it's really minor, it needs [to be] addressed. And people, it doesn't matter who it is, if you're racist, you need to be held accountable. We're not just going to walk away," Simran said.

She said she was disappointed police couldn't do anything to help her father. She said there should be repercussions for people who are "verbally and racially abusing somebody."

Her sister agrees.

"When police don't hold people like that accountable in the first place, this is how you sweep the racism under the rug," Shivani said.

Online support

Simran said she's received a lot of support from people online.

"This isn't just regarding our dad, this is for every Black person, every Indigenous person, every person of colour who goes through this every day," she said.


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