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Fifty-five African tree planters awarded $600,000 for discrimination in B.C. camp

Moka Balikama makes a phone call outside the human-rights tribunal in Vancouver on Oct. 2, 2013, before a hearing looking into the mistreatment of him and others.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ruled the operators of a tree-planting business discriminated against African workers and has ordered the employer to pay more than $600,000 in damages.

Tribunal member Norman Trerise says in his 114-page ruling that the owners of Khaira Enterprises Ltd. taunted and harassed the 55 workers with racial slurs and had a blatant disregard for employment standards.

Trerise ruled all the workers experienced some form of adverse treatment from their employers, including lack of payment, hours of work, poor camp condition and other issues.

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The tree planters worked in a camp in Golden, in southeast B.C., in 2010, until it was shut down by the provincial Ministry of Forests, when the planters complained to ministry staff that they hadn't had anything to eat for two days.

The ruling said that the case was clear, there were open racial taunts and payment of wages was drawn along racial lines.

The tribunal has ordered the company to pay each worker $10,000 for injury to their dignity and self-respect, plus $1,000 for every 30-day period each worked between March 17, 2010 and June 17, 2010.

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