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Profile 2 – Bittu George

By Nancy Dorrance
with photography by Bernard Clark

On the night he became the first person of colour ever to be elected to Kingston City Council, an elated Bittu George made a long-distance call to his parents in India. Kuttyamma (Kay) and Kurian George had been visiting relatives in their former home state of Kerala, and Bittu’s mother was ecstatic to hear the news.

But when she handed the phone to her husband, there was a noticeable pause before he added his own congratulations. Years later, Bittu’s uncle revealed that the usually stoic Kurian had been crying and wanted to compose himself before speaking to his eldest son.

“From the moment I first showed an interest in politics, my father warned me that a person of colour would face big hurdles in Kingston,” Bittu recalls. “So the fact that I broke that barrier meant the world to him.” Sitting in the living room of the family’s Auden Park area home today, his eyes well up at the memory. From a large, elegantly framed picture hanging on the wall behind him, Bittu’s parents smile down benevolently.

Kurian’s cautionary advice to his son, however, was rooted in lived experience; both of Bittu’s parents had faced racial discrimination in the workforce here. “To some extent, that clouded their feelings about Canada and Kingston,” he says. “They constantly pushed me and my younger brother, Bindu, to get a university education . . .