By Barry Ellsworth
Three Muslim workers have filed a human rights complaint alleging Islamophobia after they were fired from a maintenance project in western Canada, Canadian media reported Thursday.
Amino Rashid told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that she and two of her colleagues were dismissed from a maintenance project at the Husky Energy facility in Lloydminster, along the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, after reporting incidents of harassment from other staff.
Rashid said two male workers told her “there are people who feel uncomfortable” with her wearing a hijab, and the one of the pair told her to take off the “hoodie”, the CBC reported. She told them it was not a hoodie, but a religious headscarf.
Rashid said she reported the incident to management at her employer, Newcart Contracting Ltd. – the firm had been contracted by Husky Energy to do the maintenance work at the Lloydminster facility – but the harassment continued. The two other Muslims were also targeted with remarks a few days later on June 3.
That same day, the three were dismissed.
“I was shocked,” Rashid told the CBC, “because usually in a situation like that you fire the person who was the one who was being the bully. You don’t fire the victim. You don’t fire the person who was trying to stand up for themselves.”
Rashid said that when she was hired, supervisors for both Husky and Newcart said they had no problem with her wearing a hijab.
On Tuesday, the three filed complaints with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, as well as Husky, and when informed of the incident, Husky launched an investigation.
“Given the seriousness of these allegations, we will be investigating with the contractor to ensure all of Husky’s policies and procedures were being followed,” company spokesman Mel Duvall told the CBC. Husky, a large energy company in the Alberta Oilsands, requires all its contractors to follow a workplace diversity policy.
Newcart officials declined direct comment on the situation, but did note that more than 30 percent of its workforce is born outside of Canada.
Reaction on a Facebook page dedicated to the incident was mixed, with some citing safety rules regarding headgear on a work site.
One person wrote: “Safety rules apply to everyone, there’s no religious exceptions. Do Muslims want to be treated equally or are they asking for special privileges (sic) here??”
Another commented: “Not a safety concern: the employer clearly says it’s not an issue.”