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Montréal, April 19, 2011 --- Fifteen Chinese workers who were discriminated on the job back in 2006 have finally been awarded $10,000 in moral and punitive damages by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal.

In a 64-page decision rendered last week, the Tribunal ordered Calego International, a bag design import company; its president Stephen Rapps; Agence Vincent, a personnel recruitment agency and Vincent Agostino, owner of Agence Vincent, to jointly pay each worker $7,000 in moral damages. It also orders Calego and its president to pay $3,000 in punitive damages to each worker, and to set up a workplace program to prevent discrimination and to facilitate immigrant workers' integration.

“We are of course, very pleased with our five-year quest for equality, and we encourage Chinese and other immigrant workers to do the same when they are victims of racial discrimination,” said Ms. Xiang Ma speaking on behalf of the group.

The case dates back to July 2006, when Chinese workers, all of whom were newcomers to Canada, were singled out and called to a meeting with Mr. Rapps, who then blamed them for unsanitary conditions in the kitchen and washroom. According to the Chinese workers, they were subjected to racial slurs when they were told that “This is Canada, not China. We take shower and shampoo every day, wash hands with soap, flush the toilet after use… You Chinese eat like pigs.”

Offended by the remarks, many workers protested by walking out; some came back the next day to demand an apology and improved work conditions. When they failed to have their demands accepted by the company, many quit their job and eventually filed a civil rights complaint with CRARR's assistance.

Despite the respondents' attempt to deny racial bias in their actions, the Tribunal concluded that “… the terms employed, the reference to the Canadian standard that implicitly contains comparisons to other standards, the infantilizing words on body hygiene directed at the Chinese workers in an arrogant and condescending tone, marked by little respect, are hurtful, humiliating and degrading words related to the Chinese workers' national origin.”

After reviewing the evidence, the 15 victims' “clear, convincing and credible” testimonies, as well as the social and historical context of racial discrimination and civil rights in Quebec and in Canada, the Tribunal concluded that the workers were indeed discriminated against and therefore, awarded $10,000 each in damages. The Tribunal, however, rejected the workers' request for an order of a written apology to themselves and the Chinese community as a whole, as Mr. Rapps denied having made discriminatory statements towards the workers and maintained his refusal to apologize to the victims.

“We can be proud again of our Chinese heritage, and our faith in the Quebec justice system is restored,” said Mr. Yong Shan He, another worker.

“This is one of the most important court decisions on racism in employment, and one of the few in Quebec that involves Chinese or Asian victims, since most are reluctant to come forward and file complaints,” added CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.

“As the Tribunal has stated, $150,000 in damages, plus interests, and a mandatory workplace civil rights program are, hopefully, significant deterrents of employment discrimination,” he added.

Read the decision:

TDPQ Calego 04-11.pdf827.16 KB