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BCPIAC Letter in Support of a Legislated Poverty Reduction Act in BC

May 16, 2014 in News, Organizational by admin

On May 6th, 2014, Bill M 212: Poverty Reduction and Economic Inclusion Act was put forward as a motion in the British Columbia Legislature. If passed the bill would legislate the launch of a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy to address poverty in BC. BCPIAC urges Premier Clark and the BC Government to support this important bill. The following is BCPIAC’s letter to the Premier:

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Government computer crash wreaks havoc for people in need of welfare

May 7, 2014 in News, Organizational by admin

(Vancouver) May 7, 2014   Anti-poverty advocates at social justice organizations around the province report that the BC Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation’s computer system has been crashing for much of the last week, and remains mostly offline.   During this time, the Ministry has not been able to provide many of its clients with much-needed services, including shelter and support payments, security deposits, crisis grants, and eligibility assessments for people with an immediate need for welfare.

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BC Utilities Commission releases decision on fees for BC Hydro smart meter opt-out program

May 2, 2014 in BC Hydro, News, Utility Regulation by admin

The BC Utilities Commission released a decision on April 25, 2014 about the fees BC Hydro will be allowed to charge its residential customers under the Meter Choices Program who choose not to have a smart meter installed at their home.

BC Hydro originally planned to install smart meters at every residential customer’s home. In July 2013, following significant opposition by customers, the provincial government directed BC Hydro to provide an opt-out program (with associated charges), available only to those customers who did not already have a smart meter.

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ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS: Tim Hortons denies responsibility for working conditions of temporary foreign workers who complain of human rights violations

April 25, 2014 in Human Rights, News, Organizational, Social Justice by admin

(Vancouver) April 25, 2014. In recent media releases, Tim Hortons has defended its use of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in its franchises, and affirmed a commitment to “create a positive, fair work environment for all of [its] team members”.

So why, then, is Tim Hortons fighting so hard in a BC human rights case to argue that it has no role in the working conditions of the temporary foreign workers that serve its Timbits?

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Launch of African and Black Legal Clinic

April 9, 2014 in News, Organizational, Social Justice by admin

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.

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

October 10, 2013 in Human Rights, News, Social Justice, Tree Planters by admin

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.

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

September 30, 2013 in Human Rights, News, Social Justice, Tree Planters by admin

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.

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Tree planters allege camp conditions akin to slavery

September 30, 2013 in Human Rights, News, Social Justice, Tree Planters by admin

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

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

September 27, 2013 in Organizational by admin

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

July 22, 2013 in Human Rights, News, Social Justice, Tree Planters by admin

(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