By TOM GODFREY
An Ottawa man who was refused a job with a cleaning firm because he is “Black and a foreigner” has been awarded $8,000 by an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal for the loss of dignity he suffered from the racial slurs.
Malek Bouraoui was denied a job last year by Ottawa Valley Cleaning and Restoration after a company official told him they “only hire White men”.
Bouraoui filed a complaint against the company to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, which sent it to a Tribunal for a hearing.
The Tribunal last week awarded Bouraoui $8,000 in damages and ordered employees of the company to undergo sensitivity training.
Bouraoui said soon after he applied for the job, he received a call from a company employee, named Jesse, who asked if he was White or Black and what country he was from, according to a decision of the hearing.
“Try learning English you will have better luck,” Jesse later told Bouraoui by text messages that were presented as evidence to the Tribunal. “I don’t hire foreigners. I keep the White man working.”
The employee stressed in multiple texts laden with spelling mistakes that he “does not hire foreiners (sic) and only White men, whom he keeps working”.
“I only hire White men and how the f _ _ _ is that racist,” Jesse asked in one text. “Stop texting me an (sic) go file a complaint he will probably be a White man and he will probably laugh at you and tell you to go away.”
Tribunal vice-chair Geneviève Debané was not laughing.
Debané said Bouraoui was shocked by the text messages and had “never been exposed in Canada to such direct discrimination”.
“The applicant testified that he was hurt and humiliated,” she wrote in her decision. “He felt that the respondent was treating him like a second-class citizen because he was Black and not born in Canada.”
Bouraoui said the incident had a lasting effect and “when he applies for jobs the issue of his racial identity is always in the back of his mind and he wonders if it is part of the decision-making process when he is not hired”.
“The applicant (Bouraoui) is still very angry and hurt with respect to the way that he was treated,” said Debané. “He is shocked and disappointed that this has happened in Canada, a country in which he believed equality prevailed.”
The Tribunal said the text messages were not only discriminatory but “egregious and abusive in nature”.
“I find that the sole reason the applicant was denied employment with the respondent is because of his race, colour and place of origin,” said Debané. “When the applicant took offence to the discriminatory comments, the respondent proceeded to repeatedly ridicule and humiliate the applicant.”
She said losing long-term employment due to discrimination is more harmful than losing a new job.
“The more prolonged, hurtful and serious harassing comments are, the greater the injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect,” said Debané.
The Tribunal awarded Boraoui the full amount of the compensation that he was seeking for “injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect”.
The company has been ordered to pay the amount with full interest dating back to the incident. Company officials could not be reached for comment.