By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
OTTAWA, Canada — Four former employees of the Canadian restaurant chain Tim Hortons launched a human rights complaint against their former boss on Friday, saying the franchise owner was racist.
The employees, who were from Mexico, worked at two Dawson Creek, British Columbia locations, owned by Tony Van Den Bosch. They came to Canada earlier this year as part of the country’s temporary foreign workers program.
Eugene Kung, an attorney with the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said the four workers were required to share rooms in one of two homes owned by Van Den Bosch, where up to 10 people lived at one time.
“They had no privacy in the house,” Kung said. “The owner would come in and out as he pleased and would enter people’s rooms.”
Kung also said the workers had to pay a $200 “tip” in addition to their $200 monthly rent for the double-bunked rooms. Kung said Van Den Bosch earned $4,000 a month in rent by doubling up the rooms and doubling the rents.
“When Tim Hortons advertises the double-double, I don’t believe this is what most Canadians had in mind,” Kung said. “The complainants felt extremely vulnerable having their employer as their landlord. This placed them in a position of relative powerlessness right from the start of their stay in Dawson Creek.”
Kung added that Van Den Bosch subjected the workers to discrimination.
“Derogatory, racist comments included ‘[expletive] Mexican workers are lazy’ and ‘Mexican idiots,’ while the employer described himself as the owner of their lives,” Kung said.
He also accused Van Den Bosch of regularly withholding the workers’ Mexican passports for periods of time.
“Two of them were fired and sent back to Mexico after raising concerns about their working and living conditions,” Kung added. “Two of them actually fled in the middle of the night one night because they were so afraid.”
When confronted, Van Den Bosch denied the allegations.
“It’s a bunch of crap. Bunch of crap totally, you know what I mean?” he said. “[Whether] you believe it or not, I can’t help what people believe. They like to believe the negative. People enjoy that sort of stuff. You know what I mean?”
Tim Hortons released a statement to the media, saying in part, “Tim Hortons restaurant owners hire their own staff, and when they have difficulty filling restaurant positions with local workers, they turn to the temporary foreign workers program to appropriately staff their restaurants.”
The company also confirmed that Van Den Bosch no longer owns the franchises in question and has not been with the chain since July 2012.
For further information, please see:
CBC News — Tim Hortons Workers File Double-Double Rights Complaint — 9 November 2012
CJDC – 890 AM — Temporary Foreign Workers File Complaint Against Former Tim Hortons Owner — 9 November 2012
CTV News — Mexican Workers File Human Rights Complaint Against Tim Hortons Boss — 9 November 2012
The Vancouver Sun — Former Tim Hortons Employees from Mexico Accuse Dawson Creek Franchise Owner of Abuse — 9 November 2012