By Rachel Aiello, Ottawa News Bureau Online Producer
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TORONTO, Ontario (CTV Network) – The following contains disturbing language and anti-Black racist threats that readers may find offensive.
A black man alleges his bosses at an Ontario sheet metal company failed to protect him from racist death threats, including a noose pulled on his locker in March and another written threat in the bathroom in May.
“This is unacceptable behavior in the work environment,” longtime employee Agim Williams told CTVNews.ca in a video interview. Williams said he never felt racist threats against black people were taken seriously by his bosses at VAC Developments Ltd. in Oakville, Ontario. The company never returned any phone calls or emails from CTVNews.ca.
Although Williams repeatedly asked his managers to call the police, they did so almost a week after the last graffiti was removed.
And, a month after police began investigating, Williams was among a group of several laid-off employees. “What they did only made my feelings worse… and my stress levels,” he said.
A study by the Health Science Association found that fear of retaliation from employees prevented them from reporting racism in the workplace. And Williams believes the dismissal was a retaliatory measure for involving the police.
A spokesperson for the Halton Regional Police Service confirmed that there was an active investigation into the “racist and threatening messages” but that no arrests had been made. “I can also confirm to you that the workplace is cooperating with the police in the investigation,” Const said. Steve Elms told CTVNews.ca in an email. “No type of hate crime will be tolerated. “
However, Williams doubts the truth will come out, as the two written threats are now several months old and no security camera could have captured what happened.
Since 1979, VAC Developments Ltd. is a sheet supplier for Canadian and US aerospace or defense companies, such as Boeing, Bombardier, Spirit Aerosystem and Raytheon Canada Ltd.
WILLIAMS: I HAD “FAITH AND RESPECT IN THE COMPANY” on time.
Although he enjoyed working there, he was one of the few black employees. He said he had sometimes heard racist comments or left machines in dangerous positions – but he chose not to dwell on them.
“I’m just a guy who puts my head down and works. I just prefer to continue.
What was harder to ignore, however, was being blatantly threatened at work.
On March 11, Williams was surprised when he saw that a noose had been pulled on his locker. He took a photo, which CTVNews.ca saw, and reported it to the company’s human resources department. A janitor was quickly assigned to remove the graffiti.
But to his dismay, police were not called and he said there had been no internal company investigation. “I had faith and respect in the business that they would have run it the way it should have been run. And unfortunately that didn’t happen, ”said Williams.
Instead, physical letters were sent to employees warning them that racism “will not be tolerated,” a copy of which was shown to CTVNews.ca. And the letter said that a marker had been used to “vandalize an employee’s locker this morning with a racist design.”
Williams briefly considered going to the police himself, but feared losing his job “because then it would be seen as if I were walking behind the back of the company.”
“I was hoping it would be the last,” he said.
“I WAS DELIVERED” But several months later, Williams would have been targeted again. On Wednesday May 12, the racist messages “Kill William the Ape” and “F – k BLM” were written on the toilets.
According to Williams, the employee who discovered it reported it, and the HR manager and two other bosses told them not to tell Williams. They wouldn’t say it directly to Williams for two hours.
Meanwhile, the cleaning staff once again removed the graffiti, but photos of it quickly began to circulate among the other workers.
One of his colleagues was even in tears as he described the graffiti they had seen before it was removed. Others started approaching him to ask him how he was feeling. Others just whispered or stared at him.
“At this point I’m completely pissed off because everyone keeps coming towards me and I don’t know what’s going on,” he said. Williams was dazed when the human resources manager, customer service manager, and production manager all encountered him and attempted to comfort him.
“They were talking and I wasn’t even listening to that because at this point there isn’t much [they] I can say it will make me feel better, ”he said, noting that he left work earlier and had the rest of the week off work. “I DON’T FEEL SAFE AT WORK” When the police were not called during this time, Williams asked why. He sent an email to the human resources manager who “given these two very serious incidents, I do not feel safe at work”.
When police began investigating the incidents the following week, Williams felt vindicated after saying one of the detectives told him that “the company should have reported first because it’s a valid cause. for an investigation “.
But even that was cold comfort when he and several other employees were fired several weeks ago.
“It was a devastating feeling at the time. I was so upset, ”he said, believing that this decision was at least partly linked to the involvement of the police.
Williams said what happened to him explains why many black employees don’t end up complaining to their bosses. In a poll conducted last year by the Health Science Association, three in four respondents did not ask for help tackling racism for fear of reprisal.
Last year, a mental health survey found that 62 percent of black Canadians said racial discrimination was a problem in their workforce – a finding echoed by another survey in May that found racial discrimination to be a problem. revealed that 96 percent of black employees believe racism is a problem in their workplace.
And an online poll released this week found that nearly 80% of black Canadians said racism had damaged their relationship with their employer.
Williams has said he will definitely not be returning to VAC Developments Ltd. as he feels his former bosses are unwilling to protect him.
For now, Williams is awaiting the results of the investigation and remains concerned about the remaining employees of color there.
“If not called now, these acts will be perpetuated forever throughout the young generation to come.”
Edited by CTVNews.ca Producer Michael Stittle
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