Victoria Shipyards faces racism allegations

Victoria Shipyards will face a human rights tribunal hearing after a worker complained he faced racist remarks and actions while working.

Austin Francis, who is black, filed a discrimination complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in June 2009. He names the company and seven of its employees in his complaint.

Francis’ alleges various employees called him derogatory names, and that somebody left a white hood, designed to look like a KKK hood, on his bag while he was working.

On Jan. 21, the tribunal denied an application by Victoria Shipyards to dismiss the case. The company argued the allegations are a single, isolated incident, but tribunal member Tonie Beharrell disagreed.

“It continues to be clear that Mr. Francis is alleging more than one single instance of racial name-calling,” he wrote in his decision. “These disputes are best resolved at a hearing.”

A previous decision by the tribunal significantly reduced the scope of Francis’ complaint.

The upcoming hearing was scheduled to take place Feb. 14 but has been postponed with no new date set.

If the tribunal finds Francis’ discrimination charge is legitimate, it has the power to grant a number of different remedies as requested by the complainant.

The tribunal can order the respondent to stop discriminating or to adopt a program to fix the discrimination. The tribunal can also order the respondent to pay lost wages and pay compensation for injury to dignity. There is no upper limit for compensation, but the highest amount awarded to date is $35,000.

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