Local contractors accuse Bollywood awards of racism
CTV British Columbia
Published Saturday, March 23, 2013 5:56PM PDT
Last Updated Saturday, March 23, 2013 6:47PM PDT
A spokesperson for a Bollywood awards ceremony to be held in Vancouver is apologizing after event organizers were accused of racism, saying they they did not want “brown” people working specific jobs at the event.
Sources told CTV News that organizers for the inaugural Times of India Film Awards instructed local businesses that they did not want "brown" drivers or security guards working at the event, which takes place in Vancouver in early April, fearing they would be too "star-struck" to behave professionally.
But event spokeswoman Laura Ballance said with many big stars including former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan – often dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world – coming to the awards show, organizers just want to avoid star-struck contractors.
“It was in another country where a driver had one of these celebrities in the car, took him to his home, and asked him to do autographs and pictures with his family before he delivered him to the event,” Ballance said.
But the request wasn’t meant to be racist, she said, chalking it up to poor language used by one employee.
“It was not meant to be a racist statement,” she said. “I believe it was an unfortunate word choice on behalf of one of the staffers that was here in Canada.”
Ballance said the event is simply looking for the “most professional” people to interact with stars considered India’s most elite, and that many of those already hired for the gala are of South-Asian descent.
Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan said he was “appalled” at the statement, which he said was made at two separate meetings.
“They should be treating people with respect. There should be no discrimination whatsoever,” he said. “If they made any statement like that, I want them to retract it, you know, properly, and also they should also be told that they will not do anything like this in the future.”
Christy Clark announced in January that the province would pay $11-million to bring the awards to Vancouver, but some instantly called it a slap in the face to B.C.’s ailing film industry.
Others accused the premier of trying to woo Indo-Canadian voters in the upcoming provincial election.
Clark said the awards ceremony will be watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world and getting the chance to host the event will put Vancouver on centre stage.
The three-day celebration will bring some of Bollywood's biggest stars to a special concert, showcase some of the most popular Hindi movies in screenings and wrap up with the awards ceremony on April 6.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Nafeesa Karim