Racism among nonwhites: Black woman complains against ethnically diverse Surrey company

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      Do racialized groups discriminate against other nonwhites?

      Yes, it can happen, according to a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

      “Racism can clearly operate between groups of people who are racialized in Canada,” states tribunal member Devyn Cousineau.

      Cousineau made the point in her reasons for decision in connection with a complaint.

      The complaint was filed by a black woman against a supposedly ethnically diverse company in Surrey.

      Christine Lado, originally from South Sudan, has claimed that she was singled out for public criticism and unfair scrutiny because of her race.

      Lado alleged that her South Asian supervisor, Umer Shahid, treated other workers better because they are South Asian like him.

      The discrimination allegedly happened in the production site of Naturally Homegrown Foods Ltd., maker of Hardbite chips.

      The Hardbite chips maker filed an application to dismiss Lado’s complaint, arguing that it has no reasonable prospect of success.

      However, Cousineau rejected the company’s application.

      In her reasons for decision dated July 3, 2019, Cousineau noted that Naturally Homegrown Foods pointed out that its workforce is “ethnically diverse”.

      According to the company, more than 70 percent of its production employees are “visible minorities”.

      “While the argument is not made directly,” Cousineau wrote, “I take it that the inference the Tribunal is meant to draw is that the Respondents are less likely to engage in racial discrimination because they themselves, and most of their employees, are from racialized groups.”

      Cousineau did “not find this argument persuasive”.

      “The nature of Ms. Lado’s complaint is that Mr. Shahid, as a supervisor, exercised preference for workers of his own racial background,” Cousineau wrote. “The racial make up of the workforce, or company management, is not an answer to this allegation.”

      Lado was fired by the company two weeks after she raised concerns over the way she was being treated.

      Lado’s former coworker Sue Brayson, who is white, provided a sworn statement.

      Cousineau related that Brayson stated that she has observed Shahid “single Ms. Lado out for public criticism in a way that was ‘nasty’ and which she did not observe him do with other workers”.

      “She [Brayson] says that she saw Punjabi and South Asian workers make errors in their work but does not know if Mr. Shahid spoke to them about their performance,” Cousineau wrote. “In contrast, she says that she saw Mr. Shahid call Ms. Lado out publicly for mistakes.

      “She says that Mr. Shahid used a timer to time Ms. Lado’s performance, along with her own—a practice which she never observed with any other employee,” Cousineau continued with Brayson’s claim. “She says she observed that Mr. Shahid would allow Punjabi and South Asian workers take long breaks without consequence but would chastise her and Ms. Lado if they were a couple of minutes late. She says that she complained to the company’s Director of Finance, along with Ms. Lado, that they were being treated differently.”

      Two other coworkers provided affidavits, and they are ethnically Lao and Thai.

      “One of these workers says that he believed he was treated differently by Mr. Shahid because of his race,” Cousineau noted.