Turbans 'Sacred'; Sidelined workers file human rights complaint
Two turban-wearing Sikhs have filed a human rights complaint against International Forest Products, saying a new hard hat policy is preventing them from returning to their jobs at a Delta, B.C., sawmill.
Lawyer David Perry is representing Kalwant Singh Sahota and Mander Singh Sohal, who have worked at Interfor's Acorn division for years, but are now unable to continue unless they abandon their turbans for hard hats.
Mr. Perry said yesterday that the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal accepted the complaint on March 9 and that Interfor has until April 9 to file its response.
The company did not return repeated calls to head office and the Acorn division manager yesterday.
"Both of these guys are both long, long-term forestry employee workers, and this is the first time this has ever happened," Mr. Perry said. "It is actually worse than it would be for other workplaces because when you think about the history of Punjabi pioneers coming here, forestry was one of the few industries that they could get into."
Mr. Sahota, who is on a disability leave, said he learned last November that he would no longer be able to work at the mill wearing his turban because of a stricter hard hat rule.
"This is pretty devastating when they give you the news that you cannot come across the yard without a hard hat.
"So when you are in the industry for so long and nobody ever questioned that thing before and all of a sudden they drop a bombshell, imagine how you can feel," he said yesterday. "This turban is pretty sacred to us." [Link]
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