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Racial complaints at PoCo pre-trial
A guard at North Fraser Pre-trial Centre has alleged that the work environment at the jail is “poisoned” and that racist conduct among employees is often ignored by superiors.
Levan Francis, who has been a guard at the Port Coquitlam facility since 2006, filed a human rights complaint against the Ministry of Justice last year, saying the N-word is often used among staff and that a fellow officer once told him, “We don’t like your kind.”
The ministry had been seeking a dismissal of the complaint, a request the Human Rights Tribunal denied last week.
Francis, who is originally from Barbados and has worked for the ministry since 2000, said he has faced retaliation and harassment at work since first taking up his complaints with superiors in 2012.
“It is Mr. Francis’ position that he raised many issues of race-based adverse treatment with the ministry,” said Marlene Tyshynski, a tribunal member, in her reasons for denying the ministry’s request. “In his view, the issues he raised have not been adequately addressed.”
In his complaint, Francis stated that one of his co-workers referred to him as an “LBM,” which was short for “lazy black man.”
The ministry denies that it has discriminated against Francis and that any allegations of retaliation are false, Tyshynski wrote. The employer contends that any issues arising from Francis’ complaints were dealt with when he first came forward with his allegations in June 2012 and again in September 2013.
The ministry sought to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the allegations took place beyond a six-month time limit outlined in the Human Rights Code. But Tyshynski found that because some of the issues were ongoing, allegations from January 2012 onward should be considered by the tribunal.
“Some are allegations of direct discrimination against Mr. Francis based on race or colour, some allege adverse treatment where race or colour could be a factor, some allege a poisoned work environment where jokes and comments are at the expense of persons of colour,” she said.
“It is my view that all of the dated allegations are of the same character in that they raise the issue of discrimination based on race or colour in the context of an allegedly poisoned workplace.”