Temporary foreign workers claim sexual abuse at Ashcroft farm | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Temporary foreign workers claim sexual abuse at Ashcroft farm

Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Desert Hills Ranch

Three temporary workers from South American claim they were sexually abused and exploited while working on an Ashcroft farm.

The Guatemalan workers took their complaint to the BC Human Rights Tribunal, which then had to decide whether to continue the complaint process before their alleged assailant is criminally charged.

Prosecutors haven't charged anyone yet, but the tribunal named Desert Hills Ranch farm manager and co-owner David Porter as the alleged abuser.

The workers said in the tribunal decision Porter "sexually abused them, exploited them and humiliated them in their employment."

Porter denied the claims.

READ MORE: Okanagan migrant farmworker’s sexual assault allegations shine light on wider issue

Very little is known about the investigation, which is not to be confused with a winery in Oliver with a similar name where a co-owner is facing similar allegations.

RCMP began its investigation into Porter in 2020, executing search warrants the next year, the tribunal said. By May 2023, Crown counsel said they were still reviewing the file.

The tribunal didn't give any more details about the investigation or the complaints from the foreign workers in what was largely an procedural decision.

Porter's parents opened the vegetable farm in the early 1990s, which sells to grocery stores across the country.

Porter works as the marketing manager.

He tried to have the human rights hearings delayed until criminal proceedings are concluded entirely arguing it would be more efficient for the tribunal, but failed. 

The tribunal will hear the three complaints together and won't identify the farm workers.

The tribunal said it would protect the identities of victims to spare them from widespread publication. It also noted the workers feared publishing their names would put them at risk for future employment in Canada.

It's not clear how many victims may be involved in the criminal investigation or whether prosecutors are still considering charges.

BC Prosecution Service spokesperson Dan McLaughlin said he "has no information to share" when contacted by iNFOnews.ca.

Ashcroft RCMP did not respond to a request for comment and a BC RCMP spokesperson refused to confirm whether or not they are investigating.

"The RCMP does not confirm or deny any investigation, or the name of any person who may be subject to an investigation, until such time as charges have been laid," E Division spokesperson Staff Sgt. Kris Clark said in an emailed response.

— This story was updated with a comment from the BC Prosecution Service at 4:51 p.m., Jan. 15, 2024.

— This story was updated with a comment from BC RCMP at 10:15 a.m., Jan. 16, 2024.

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