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Who Made You The Judge

“Racism in Canada is more prevalent than you think,” says Angelene.

Angelene was born and raised in Ladner, BC, a small, primarily Caucasian suburb of Vancouver. She experiences blatant racism but more frequently encounters covert racism and micro-aggressions. People often categorize Angelene as Black or Indian, trying to fit her into their idea of these labels. Neither is correct. Her ancestors are from an Indian diaspora.

After the abolishment of slavery, the British initiated indentured servitude to reintroduce slavery in a legal form. Under the British Indenture System, more than 1 million Indians were transported to various British colonies, including Fiji. 60,965 were transported from India to Fiji starting in 1897. The system targeted out-of-work, underprivileged, and uneducated labourers and

Angelene Prakash  (she/her)

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manipulated them into deceitful contracts of indentured labour called a Girmit. The word Girmit came from the indentured labourer’s pronunciation of the English word agreement, and Girmitiya refers to the labourers.


The Girmit outlined the period of labour, typically five years renewable for another 5, the pay and rations. They were to receive payment, a small amount of land, and for some, the promise of a return passage once their contract was over. In reality, this seldom happened. Wages were negligible; they were horribly mistreated and forced to live in unsanitary environments. Food and medical attention were scarce, and assaults and rape were rampant. The conditions were so atrocious that Fiji had the highest rate of suicide among the colonies. At the end of the Girmit, the Girmitiya were allowed to return to India at their own expense. Still, the majority could not afford this and settled in Fiji, creating a hyphenated Indo-Fijian identity.

“I’m not Brown enough to be Brown because we’re not directly from India, not Fijian enough to be Fijian because I grew up in Ladner.” – Angelene Prakash.


Their culture and Hindi dialect, Fiji Baat, are seen as improper or washed out and, therefore, inauthentic. Angelene often feels the need to explain and legitimize herself to others. The continuous questioning of her identity invalidates her experiences and leaves her isolated; So, where does she fit?

Immigration to Canada and generational trauma led many immigrant parents to focus solely on survival, leaving their children’s emotional needs unaddressed. Angelene’s upbringing was influenced by religious and cultural values that place women at the bottom of the patriarchal hierarchy. Even though she was encouraged to participate in sports and be independent, she was urged to practice modesty, not speak of her period, and submit to a world of culturally gendered roles. Her parents did not teach critical thinking; they taught her to accept whatever happened. At the same time, it was instilled in her to grow up and do something worthwhile to support herself and, eventually, her parents. She understands the sacrifice they made to immigrate and feels a strong sense of indebtedness.


Until she was 16, Angelene did her best to avoid being home. She disagreed with corporal punishment and the patriarchal system of her family. She participated in as many extracurricular sports as possible, which, at the time, she felt defined her identity. An injury ended her involvement in athletics, and her sense of identity was abruptly taken, resulting in a loss of self-confidence, depression, and increased social anxiety. It also brought other lifelong issues to the surface; her constant battle with racial discrimination, lack of representation, and no sense of belonging. No one asked about her feelings; she was left alone to question herself without a safe space to talk to anyone.


There is a negative stigma associated with therapy in Angelene’s culture. Regardless, she started her journey with therapy in her mid 20’s. The ongoing treatment and complete understanding of her ancestry have answered the question, why is she the way she is? It has allowed her to be one with her identity and the freedom to be her authentic self. 

Today, Angelene is a social justice advocate, brilliant speaker, captivating podcaster, and community organizer. She is determined to advocate for her younger self and those who identify with her. She spends her time in several advocacy spaces, including menstrual equity, cosmetic reform, and anti-racism.

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