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Fired Muslim oilpatch workers welcome Husky investigation

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Andrea Huncar

The Edmonton woman fired from her oilsands job after raising concerns about Islamophobia welcomed news of an investigation by Husky Energy.

Social justice advocates urged the Calgary-based multinational oil company to address workplace discrimination and offer Amino Rashid and two colleagues who were also fired, new jobs.

Husky Energy said it would investigate their recent termination by subcontractor Newcart Contracting Inc., after being contacted about the case by CBC News.

“I was really happy to hear that because it meant that they were taking me seriously,” said Rashid, who has filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
Rashid, a student at York University in Toronto who was counting on the income to cover student loans and living expenses, was hired to work on a maintenance project at the Husky upgrader in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.

But she and her colleagues were fired on June 3, just 11 days into their contract.

Earlier that day, they had complained about an Islamophobic incident targeting Rashid — the second incident in days.

In both interactions involving two different workers, Rashid was told to take “that thing” off her head, referring to her hijab.

The men argued that if they couldn’t wear hoodies then she couldn’t either, said Rashid, an account backed by witnesses who also spoke to CBC News.
Newcart declined to discuss the case, citing privacy legislation.

The company said in a statement it provides a “safe, inclusive employment experience” and accommodates religious requirements whenever possible under workplace health and safety policy and legislation.

But a taped recording of Rashid and her colleagues confronting their supervisors provides more insight into their dismissal.

One manager said Newcart was starting to cut back on workers and the trio were “randomly selected.”

When pressed, the manager explained random meant he chose their names from the sign-in sheet. He warned that they were no longer eligible for rehire on the next project because of their behaviour, and defended the workers’ comparison of the hijab to a hoodie.

The supervisor did not raise safety concerns about Rashid’s hijab, and she said she was told earlier it wasn’t an issue.

Safety issue or Islamophobia?

Rashid’s story has sparked fierce debate online, with many insisting it was a case of Islamophobia or ignorance while others argued it was about safety.

“It’s a huge safety issue! No hoodies or baggy clothes that can get caught in machinery,” wrote one person on Facebook.

A long-time oil industry worker who wrote to CBC said “any head covering, hoodie, raincoat hood first had to be fire retardant,” adding the items could also cause a blind spot “and people have been hit [by] moving equipment from this. My question is at what point do you draw a line?”

In her job as a safety watch, Rashid looked out for the safety of her coworkers, including watching what they wear.

She said Newcart and Husky told her they had no concerns with her hijab, but on previous projects when other company supervisors did, she wore a ‘fire retardant hoodie’ on top of her hijab, as well as always tucking her head scarf tightly into her coveralls.
Like Rashid, Maryama Jama, 24, who was also fired, relies on oilpatch jobs to cover her living expenses and tuition at York University, where she studies Health Sciences.

Both women are now scrambling to find other employment. Bills are piling up and they fear they won’t be able to return to school this fall.

Despite this, Jama decided to speak out about the racist comments she said she has endured in the work camps for the past three years, such as:

“I can’t find work because ISIS is taking all of our jobs.”

“Oh you speak proper English? Most of you guys don’t speak proper English”

“It’s shocking but you have to bite your tongue,” said Jama, who has also filed a human rights complaint and welcomed Husky’s investigation.

“I’m a minority so I don’t have a say, even though I was born here. It makes me feel helpless and useless in the country I was born in,” she said. “That’s how it is as a black girl in this world. You must go through those obstacles in life.”

Mark Cherrington, a social justice advocate in Edmonton, said “the Canadian thing to do” would be for Husky to provide the trio with another employment opportunity.

“Their lives were really disrupted, in my opinion, by no fault of their own other than their religious beliefs,” he said.

He urged the companies to foster a more inclusive culture.

“So if your employees are ignorant, if they’re not understanding, if there’s intolerance, as an employer you have to do the utmost not only to address the immediate concerns but also the bigger picture,” said Cherrington.

Husky has said it’s investigating due to “the seriousness of these allegations,” but added that all temporary contractors are leaving the Lloydminster site because the maintenance project is ending.
In a statement, the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council said “Islamophobia in the workplace is not acceptable and those responsible need to be held accountable.”

“We will be following the investigation closely and look forward to the final decision,” wrote AMPAC president Faisal Khan Suri.

Rashid, who has lived in Canada most of her life, took the Islamophobic and racist comments unleashed by her story in stride, saying she’s touched by all the beautiful messages from people she knows and strangers alike.

“I want all the people who can’t speak for themselves, that feel like they don’t have a right to speak up, I want them to know that I’m speaking up for you … Even my own family members that have been through it. I want them to know that I’m doing it for them.”

Canada

Canada’s institutions repeatedly failed former child refugee Abdoul Abdi

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The ethical case to fight the deportation of former child refugee Abdoul Abdi from Canada is a straightforward one with no visible shades of grey.

Yet it has ballooned into a needless battle exposing federal and provincial indifference to non-citizen children.

On Feb. 15, a Federal Court will hear an emergency request to temporarily stop Abdi’s deportation.

The broad strokes of Abdi’s story are these.

Instability was the only constant in the life of this man, born 24 years ago in Saudi Arabia to a Saudi father and Somali mother. He lived for four years at a refugee camp in Djibouti and then at age 6 landed in Canada along with his sister and aunts.

At age 8, child protective services scooped him and his sister out of their aunt’s home for reasons unknown. This is not surprising — research in Ontario last year showed Aboriginal and Black children are far more likely to be investigated and taken into care than white children.

The family now speculates this could be because their aunt, who didn’t speak much English, took too long to register them for school.

Abdi bounced around among not one or two or a dozen homes but 31 of them, some, he says, abusive situations. A study last year by Ontario’s Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth linked foster care experiences to later outcomes of homelessness and criminality, among others.
Abdi, too, got sucked into illegal activities.

When he messed up, he faced the consequences. About four years in prison for multiple offences, including aggravated assault.

He is also paying the price for errors by the system.

On Jan. 4, no alarm bells were sounded in the labyrinthine corridors of power in Canada, when Canada Border Services Agency officers arrested Abdi as he left prison after serving his sentence and was at the gates of a halfway house.

They were going to deport him, they said. Send him packing because it turned out the kid who grew up in Canada was not a Canadian citizen. His crown parents — the Department of Community Services — had never applied for a citizenship for him.

Where was he being banished? Not to Saudi, his birthplace, which might have been the logical though still unjustifiable choice, but to Somalia, the place of his mother’s ethnic origins, a place so dangerous that Canadian officials and planes don’t go there. A place whose language Abdi does not speak, and where he knows no one.

Repeatedly abandoned as a child, Abdi is now an officially unwanted adult.

It has taken a village, for us to hear of Abdi.

More accurately, it has taken a set of extraordinarily large-hearted individuals, many of whom have never met Abdi, but who are tied together by a passionate rejection of injustice to bring his story to the forefront of our nation’s conscience.

Last month, Halifax poet laureate and activist El Jones chronicled in the Halifax Examiner just one week of the collective action taken for Abdi.

In it she wove the stories of disparate lives criss-crossing through past injustices. How Jones came across Abdi via Coralee Smith, the mother of Ashley Smith who died in 2007, asphyxiated from a ligature tied around her neck as correctional officers watched.

How Abdi’s sister Fatouma courageously challenged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a town hall in Nova Scotia, thereby ensuring national attention on this case.

How Jones and journalist/activist Desmond Cole questioned Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen at a National Black Summit in that city, and endured criticisms of being disruptive and rude and not supporting a fellow Black minister.

“As though,” Jones writes, “having a Black man sign the deportation papers is progress.”

She writes of Abdi’s “fantastic” lawyer Ben Perryman who finds himself suddenly under the glare of media spotlight.

And of the near-misses, the small successes, the support and amplification from Black Lives Matter and academics/activists Rinaldo Walcott and Idil Abdillahi, and student activist Masuma Khan among others.

Here is an important thing:

“All of us have jobs, and school, and families,” she writes. “This isn’t even the only thing we’re advocating on this week, because there’s always more suffering, more rights being denied, more people in need.”

Yet Jones writes of hope, and of love that carries them forward.

Their undertaking serves to underline the inhumanity of the decisions that mark this case.

Federal minister of public safety Ralph Goodale refused to pause a deportation hearing while Abdi’s lawyers mount a constitutional challenge to his deportation. At its hearing on March 7, the Immigration and Refugee Board will not review the complexities of the case to decide if Abdi can enter or remain in the country, his lawyer told the CBC. His criminal record will inevitably lead to a deportation order, he said.

A deportation order would automatically strip Abdi’s permanent resident status.

No PR status means he can’t keep his job, means he risks going back to prison; being employed is a condition for his release.

And round and round it goes.

This is the face of institutions ganging up against vulnerable individuals. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told an audience in Quebec it’s time to recognize anti-Black racism exists in Canada. “Canada can and must do better,” he said.

What are we waiting for?

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Canada

Ottawa police identify Northview Road homicide victim as Egal Daud

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CBC — Ottawa police have identified the man found dead inside a vehicle in Nepean Sunday as Egal Daud, 30, and say he was fatally shot.
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Daud’s body was found inside a parked car on Northview Road, near the intersection of Baseline and Merivale roads, around 10 a.m.
The Ottawa police major crime unit, which is leading the investigation, said his body may have been there since Saturday.

Staff Sgt. Bruce Pirt added on Sunday police didn’t yet know if the shooting happened there, or if that’s just where the vehicle was left.

Anyone with information is asked to call the major crime unit at 613-236-1222 extension 5493 or give an anonymous tip via Crime Stoppers or the Ottawa police app.

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Canada

WATCH: Canada under fire for bid to deport Somali refugee

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Canada is facing criticism from human rights groups for its attempts to deport a 24-year-old immigrant to Somalia. Abdoul Abdi was born in Saudi Arabia and he says he has no ties to Somalia, where there have been years of violence from the armed group al-Shabab.

For now, the deportation is postponed while his lawyers ask a court to allow him to stay.

Al Jazeera’s Daniel Lak reports from Toronto.

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