Three women make Islamophobia claims against Canada’s largest energy company

25th Aug 2017

Naveen Gharyal

One of Canada’s largest energy companies has launched an investigation after three Edmonton residents who were fired from a Husky Energy maintenance project in Lloydminster launched a human rights complaint against a contractor over incidents of alleged Islamophobia.

Amino Rashid, 24, and two former colleagues who are also Muslim, told CBC that they were dismissed after reporting two separate incidents, only days apart. Rashid said two men scolded her for wearing a hijab and told her to take off her “hoodie”. One of those workers allegedly told her that “there are people who feel uncomfortable” about her hijab.
The incidents are believed to have occurred at Husky Energy’s upgrader in Lloydminster, which straddles the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, on May 31 and June 3, the same day the trio were dismissed from Newcart Contracting Ltd.

Rashid, who works as a safety checker in the oil sands during the summer to cover living costs and student loans at York University in Toronto, said: “I was shocked, because usually in a situation like that you fire the person who was the one who was being the bully. You don’t fire the victim. You don’t fire the person who was trying to stand up for themselves.”
She said when she was hired, supervisors confidently told her neither Newcart nor Husky had an issue with her hijab.

Rashid and her former co-workers filed complaints with the Alberta Human Rights Commission and they have also complained to Husky Energy. However, these actions will not solve their immediate concerns. Rashid fears that she could lose her home in Toronto, and might not be able to return to university this year and said: “Losing this job derailed my life and possibly my future.”

Soon after CBC News contacted Husky about the case, the energy giant launched an investigation. Spokesperson Mel Duvall commented: “Given the seriousness of these allegations, we will be investigating with the contractor to ensure all of Husky’s policies and procedures were being followed.”

Rashid’s distress at her unfair treatment is deeply upsetting as she says: “I wanted to just go home and cry, for somebody to just be so disrespectful and not even care at all, it’s inhumane.”

But when Rashid and her former colleagues confronted Newcart managers about their dismissal, what they said to her shocked her even more. The managers explained how they are “Starting to cut back on people, and it was randomly selected that it turned out to be you guys.” When Rashid continued to question him, he tried to shut down the meeting.

“This conversation’s over. You were eligible for re-employment for the next shutdown but because of how you’re acting now, you’re not. So what Chad said about hoodies he didn’t realize.” After hearing the manager referring to their hijab’s as ‘hoodies’ the women cut him off and rejected to the use of the word ‘hoodie’. But despite this, the manager ended the meeting and wanted to say nothing more to the dismissed women who then had no other choice but to leave.

After Rashid shared her story, she was angered to learn that her family members had also faced discrimination on oil sands worksites, but didn’t feel they could speak up. She said companies need to address racial and religious divides through education, and respond swiftly to hate-based incidents to send a message that it won’t be tolerated.

“I wish I could just put them in my shoes and show them how it feels for something like that to happen to you,” said Rashid. “That’s why I’m speaking up right now because it’s wrong and I’m not going to tolerate it.”

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