Canadian Parsi body decries its leader’s speech


February 19, 2014

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10WZC | Diaspora | Issues

The Zoroastrian Society of Ontario (ZSO) has denounced a controversial public speech made by its president Sarosh Bharucha, suggesting that Mumbai Parsis should migrate to Canada if they object to the community’s "outdated" practices.

Bharucha made these remarks during the World Zoroastrian Congress in Mumbai last December.

A TOI report had quoted him stating, "If some members of your community differ from your time-honoured Zoroastrian traditions, please guide them and assist them to immigrate to Canada. We will welcome them."

Bharucha’s comments have not gone down well with the 6,000 members of the Zoroastrian community in Ontario. "In view of certain events in the past few weeks, it has now become necessary and indeed imperative, for the ZSO executive committee to clarify and correct several inaccurate and controversial statements, unilaterally made by Mr Bharucha. We categorically state that his comments were made without any prior knowledge or consent of the executive committee. They are his personal opinions and beliefs and in no way should be construed as being shared or endorsed by the members of the committee in particular or ZSO as a whole," said a statement issued by the committee.

It also objected to his remarks on Parsis living in baugs in Mumbai. Bharucha had said, "Ontario’s Parsis would never self-segregate themselves into ethnic enclaves"- a common practice in Mumbai with its Parsi ‘baugs’ and colonies.

"We do not look down upon the Parsi baugs as ethnic enclaves. We are quite aware of the positive influence they have had in preserving community cohesion elsewhere," said the ZSO committee.

The president had also commented on touchy issues like inter-marriage in the community and how priests in Canada welcomed such couples and performed such ceremonies. The executive committee, however, clarified that these remarks should not be misconstrued as ZSO policy encouraging the practice. "Intermarriage over here is a fact of life, even in the most traditional families, no different than in many other places. While we accept the same with a certain degree of stoicism, we are very much distressed with the excessive publicity we have received as the Mecca for intermarried Zoroastrians," it said.

The executive committee also criticized the president’s "unauthorised newsletter" from Mumbai, emailed to its members, making comments on the Zoroastrian calendar and about non-Zoroastrian spouses and children".

"The Executive Committee of the ZSO had deemed inappropriate for inclusion in a ZSO newsletter," it said.