November 06, 2013 - 1:10 PM
VANCOUVER - The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal will hear final arguments next month as it considers the case of a group of tree planters who allege they endured slave-like conditions and discrimination while working at a remote camp in southeastern B.C.
The roughly 50 planters, many of them recent immigrants or refugees from Africa, complained about the conditions of the Khaira Enterprises Ltd., camp in July 2010.
Forests ministry officials shut down the camp, near Golden, after the planters were discovered in filthy conditions, without proper shelter or clean water, and told ministry staff they had not had food for two days.
Twenty witnesses testified during hearings that began Sept. 30, and the tribunal was told workers were paid infrequently and were also subjected to extreme racial harassment, including racial slurs, verbal abuse and mockery.
Khaira's owners deny the allegations of discrimination and mistreatment, although B.C.'s Employment Standards Branch issued an order to the company in 2011 to repay $260,000 in wages to affected employees — an amount the workers' lawyer says has not been entirely reimbursed.
The Human Rights Tribunal hearing concluded Nov. 4 and final arguments are slated for Dec. 12, with a decision expected to be reserved.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2013