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Organizational 28 Apr 2005

Launch of African and Black Legal Clinic

The African and Black Legal Clinic (ABLC) is a joint project between Neighborhood Care International Association (NCI), Access Pro Bono of BC and the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

The purpose of the ABLC is to provide free 1-hour legal advice appointments to African and Black people living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) and throughout Metro Vancouver, including providing services to African and Black people who live in low-income housing or who are homeless.

The goal of the ABLC is to provide an accessible, safe place for people to come and discuss their legal issues. All ABLC clinics will be staffed by volunteer lawyers and an interpreter fluent in several African languages, English and French.

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News | Organizational | Social Justice 09 Apr 2014

African tree planters were served ‘nasty’ food not given to others, B.C. Human Right tribunal told

BY JOHN COLEBOURN, THE PROVINCE | October 7, 2013

Original article here.

Food given to a group of African tree planters at bush camps in British Columbia was much different than the menu for the rest of the workers, a B.C. Human Rights tribunal was told.

The allegations of sub-standard food and deplorable living conditions were outlined on Monday at the tribunal looking into the conduct of Surrey-based Khaira Enterprises Ltd.

African worker Amani Bahati in a tele-conference appearance as a key witness called the meals disgusting because “they didn’t know how to cook the food.

“The food was nasty,” he told the tribunal of the meals given to the African workers. He said there were about 40 workers who all spoke Swahili and they would be given bread and peanut butter for breakfast and lunch and chicken and rice for dinner every day as food.

“Our food was nasty while they were eating nice food,” said Bahati.

The work camps were at Revelstoke, Golden and near Kamloops. ”We had a cooker for the Africans and the East Indian people had their own cooker,” he said. “Two different types of food was cooked.”

The worst food came at the camp set up in Golden in July 2010, said Bahati.

The tree planting operation was eventually shut down by B.C.’s Ministry of Foresty in July 2010 after ministry staff found many of the tree planters had not been fed in a number of days.

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Human Rights | News | Social Justice | Tree Planters 10 Oct 2013

B.C. rights commission hears racism, sexism complaint against tree planting firm

By The Canadian Press, September 30, 2013

Read article here.

VANCOUVER – Allegations of racism and sexism go before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal today against the owners of a tree planting business.

A group of tree planters, most of them immigrants or refugees of African origin, were found living in squalid conditions in a camp in Golden, B.C., in February 2010.

They were employed by Khaira Enterprises Ltd., and its owners, Khalid Bajwa and Hardilpreet Sidhu, who were ordered by B.C.’s Employment Standards Branch to pay the workers almost $260,000 in back wages.

Eugene Kung, with the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre, is the lawyer for the 50 workers who complained to the tribunal about the discrimination.

Kung says he’ll argue that racism and discrimination were at the root of the horrific experiences the workers endured.

The centre says the workers have received less than half of the amount of wages they’ve been owed.

© Copyright (c) The Canadian Press

Human Rights | News | Social Justice | Tree Planters 30 Sep 2013

Tree planters allege camp conditions akin to slavery

Human Rights Tribunal for 50 African immigrants to begin today

CBC News, September 30, 2013

Read article here.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal is scheduled to hear the case of 50 tree planters, originally from Africa, who allege they were forced to work in deplorable conditions in remote camps around B.C.

The workers say they were shuttled from camp to camp by Surrey based Khaira Enterprises until their story emerged from a camp in the Golden area.

When officials from the provincial Forests Ministry arrived at the site in the summer of 2010, the tree planters told them they had not eaten in two days, were living in squalor and were not getting paid by Surrey-based Khaira Enterprises.

The treeplanters alleged they were forced to live in cramped conditions inside shipping containers in the camp.  (CBC)

Sarah Khan, a lawyer with the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre who represents the workers, says they will seek back pay and damages at a hearing that begins today in Vancouver.

“What we are saying is the conditions were so bad they are akin to slavery,” Khan says.

“They were forced to live in cramped storage containers for a lot of the time they worked for Khaira. They were given expired and under cooked food routinely and also routinely subjected to racial slurs, discrimination and violence.”

The B.C. government’s reforestation policy will also come under scrutiny, according to forestry consultant John Betts, who says the province was warned about Khaira, yet still gave the company contracts.

“We were very skeptical if not outright suspicious it was not a fit bid and it should not have been awarded,” Betts says.

One of the owners of Khaira Enterprises was also charged with fraud. The company and did not return CBC phone calls.

Six weeks have been set aside for the hearing.

In 2011, Khaira was ordered by B.C.’s Employment Standards Branch to pay its workers almost $250,000.

© Copyright (c) CBC News

Human Rights | News | Social Justice | Tree Planters 30 Sep 2013

Khaira Tree Planters case to be heard by Human Rights Tribunal starting Monday

(Vancouver) September 27, 2013. Starting on Monday, September 30, 2013, the BC Human Rights Tribunal will hear about the shocking human rights abuses experienced by tree planters employed by Khaira Enterprises Ltd., more than three years after the company’s Golden, B.C. tree planting camp was shut down by authorities.

The complainants, who are primarily immigrants and refugees of African origin, will testify that the owners of Khaira Enterprises subjected them to extreme acts of racism and sexism; from verbal insults to inhuman working and living conditions.

“We will argue that racism and discrimination were at the root of the horrific experiences that they endured,” said Eugene Kung, counsel for 50 Khaira tree planters who have brought the complaint. “The Human Rights Tribunal hearing will address that discrimination directly.”

The BC Employment Standards Branch previously awarded the workers about $260,000 in unpaid wages, but the workers have received less than half the amount owing.

“The workers will ask the Tribunal to share their view that discrimination has no place in British Columbia,” said Mr. Kung.

Please note that several of the tree planters will be testifying about their experiences at the hearing, but will not be speaking to the media directly.

BC Human Rights Tribunal address is:  1170-605 Robson St, Vancouver, BC

For more information, please contact Eugene Kung or Sarah Khan at BCPIAC at (604) 687- 3063

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Organizational 27 Sep 2013

3 years after camp closure, Khaira Tree Planters prepare for Human Rights Tribunal Hearing

(Vancouver) July 22, 2013. July 21st marked the three-year anniversary of the closure of the Khaira Enterprises Ltd. camp in Golden, B.C. where tree planters, primarily of African origin, were effectively enslaved. A human rights complaint about the discrimination faced by the African workers will be heard before the BC Human Rights Tribunal starting on September 30, 2013.

The BC Employment Standards Branch had previously awarded the workers more than $260,000 in unpaid wages, but the workers have received less than half of the amount owing.

“The workers are looking forward to having their Human Rights case heard,” said Eugene Kung, a lawyer with BCPIAC who is representing about 30 tree planters. “We’ll argue that the deplorable conditions and treatment that the African workers experienced was rooted in race-based discrimination by the employer, and that’s why the Human Rights process is important in the workers’ ongoing search for justice.”

The Khaira tree planters will be calling numerous witnesses to testify about the discriminatory treatment they endured, with the hearing expected to last for several weeks.

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 For more information, please contact Eugene Kung at BCPIAC 604-687-3063

Human Rights | News | Social Justice | Tree Planters 22 Jul 2013

Tenant rights advocates want better protection for B.C. renters

By Kevin Griffin | Vancouver Sun | May 1, 2013

Read article here.

Provincial laws protecting renters need to be improved, a coalition of legal and tenant’s rights groups says.

The Pivot Legal Society, West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund, the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre and other groups are proposing 13 changes to the B.C. Residential Tenancy Act which governs relations between renters and landlords.

Scott Bernstein, lawyer with Pivot Legal, said B.C. law hasn’t been changed in years, and protection of tenants here has fallen behind other provinces such as Ontario.

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News | Organizational | Social Justice 02 May 2013

B.C. coalition sets out 13 proposals for tenant protection

by Carlito Pablo | straight.com | May 1, 2013

Read article here.

A new coalition has come up with 13 “modest” proposals to serve as “reasonable protections for tenants”.

The recommendations are in a report released Wednesday (May 1) by the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Community Legal Assistance Society, Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, Pivot Legal Society, West Coast LEAF, and Active Manufactured Homeowners Association.

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News | Organizational | Social Justice 02 May 2013

Forestry workers who endured squalid camp still haven’t received pay, EI

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun February 3, 2013

Read article here.

More than two years after 25 forestry workers were found living in squalid conditions at a camp near Golden, they have not received Employment Insurance and their former company has yet to pay them the wages they are owed.

B.C.’s Employment Standards Branch has determined that the company, Khaira Enterprises, owes almost $280,000 in unpaid wages and interest to 58 former employees, but directors Khalid Bajwa and Hardilpreet Sidhu have not paid a penny of it, said Eugene Kung of the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre, which represents most of the 25 workers from the camp near Golden.

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Human Rights | News | Social Justice | Tree Planters 13 Feb 2013

Double Double Takes on New Meaning as Temporary Foreign Workers Trapped by Tim Hortons Boss

(Vancouver) November 9, 2012. The BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre (BCPIAC) has launched a complaint at the BC Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) on behalf of four temporary foreign workers (TFW) from Mexico employed at two Tim Hortons locations in Dawson Creek, BC.

Living two to a room, in a five bedroom home, workers were asked to pay $200.00 each at the beginning of the month, and then asked by the employer for an additional $200.00 rent mid-month, which their employer referred to as a “tip.” “When Tim Hortons advertises the Double Double, I don’t believe this is what most Canadians had in mind,” said Eugene Kung, counsel with BCPIAC. In total the employer received $4,000 a month in rent from each of two separate homes where he required his employees to live.

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Human Rights | News | Organizational | Social Justice 09 Nov 2012

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