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Indo-Canadian Asbestos Removal Firm Owners File Human Rights Case Against WorkSafeBC For Discrimination

Mike Singh And His Son Shawn Singh Also Sue Vancouver Sun, Indo-Newspaper, WCB And Insulators Union For Defamation

Mike Singh

Imagine trying to run your business with the utmost responsibility in a very sensitive field of environmental consulting, specifically the removal of asbestos which are linked to cancer, and then suddenly having the regulatory agency run hog wild on you, accusing you of all sorts of things and then helping to spread the bad word against you through mainstream media who’s looking for easy scapegoats to put on their front pages with all culminating in very serious repercussions, where all these players are talking about sending you to jail. That’s the nightmarish scenario Manoj “Mike” Singh and his son Shawn Singh, who run Vancouver-based Seattle Environmental Consulting Ltd, say they were suddenly thrust into!

By R. Paul Dhillon

VANCOUVER – Imagine trying to run your business with the utmost responsibility in a very sensitive field of environmental consulting, specifically the removal of asbestos which are linked to cancer, and then suddenly having the regulatory agency run hog wild on you, accusing you of all sorts of things and then helping to spread the bad word against you through mainstream media who’s looking for easy scapegoats to put on their front pages with all culminating in very serious repercussions, where all these players are talking about sending you to jail.

That’s the nightmarish scenario that Manoj “Mike” Singh and his son Shawn Singh, who run Vancouver-based Seattle Environmental Consulting Ltd, say they were suddenly thrust into, with politicians and industry stakeholders wanting their head, and saying in the media that both should be sent to jail for their actions when in fact they had nothing of what they were accused of.

Ultimately, the court found that they had committed nothing but small violations that are common in the asbestos removal industry and they were fined $15,000.

While there had been a lengthy campaign of negative stories against the father and son and fingers pointed that they should go to jail for contempt of court – that all changed when the court dismissed many of the claims made against the Singhs by WorkSafeBC, forcing the media to remove all allegedly libellous stories against the Singhs from internet postings.

When the Singhs sued for defamation recently, here is what the Vancouver Sun was forced to write as a retraction in their July 4, 2014 edition:

“CORRECTION: Mike Singh, his son Shawn Singh and Seattle Environmental Consulting Ltd. were not found in contempt of a court order prohibiting them from exposing persons to asbestos or putting persons at risk of exposure to asbestos. Claims by WorkSafeBC to that effect were dismissed. The $15,000 in fines levied by the BC Supreme Court Judge relate to other conduct previously enjoined by the court. Incorrect information appeared Nov. 9 [2013] on A11,” wrote the Sun.

It took the mainstream daily more than eight months to run a retraction on information that was by their own admission was INCORRECT!

A headline in Vancouver Sun’s May 8, 2013 edition ran: “Jail Time Possible For Repeat Asbestos Violations” with the first paragraph in the story being: “WorkSafeBC will ask the court for stronger action against a Lower Mainland asbestos removal contractor that could result in rare jail time for exposing workers to health risks.

“B.C’s workplace safety agency filed an application in B.C. Supreme Court on April 26 for a hearing this month that asks a judge to find Mike Singh, son Shawn Singh and company Seattle Environmental Consulting Ltd. in contempt of court for ignoring a 2012 court order to stop exposing employees to asbestos.”

But the fact was that the Singhs were never exposing their employees to asbestos and WorkSafeBC and others, who the Singhs allege wanted them out of business, were rushing to judgement.

Imagine a company having to suffer the ill-will of their industry, their large South Asian community, since the same information appeared in an Indo-Canadian newspaper and their website, their professional reputation and ability to keeping their business afloat when such allegations of exposing their employees to the harmfulness of asbestos, “for violating the Workers’ Compensation Act of BC and occupational health and safety regulations” are made against them.

Shawn Singh

And adding insult to injury, now those same players, using the media, were asking for your head, saying that Singhs should go to jail for exposing workers when it has not even been determined that they have done anything wrong.

“My life over the past year and a half has been a living hell,” Mike Singh told the LINK.

“I’ve had heart problems, I’ve lost weight and been in depression because I feel I was targeted. They have done this to a lot of our people who are in this business and it’s because we are low cost. But just because we are giving the market a competitive service doesn’t mean we don’t know what we are doing. We have been in this business for a long time and it’s a disgrace the way we have been treated. It’s simply unjust,” he said

Aside from filing the defamation lawsuits against the various parties, including BC Insulators Heat and Frost Insulators Local 118 Lee Loftus, who has been a vocal critic of the Singhs, they have now filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal alleging discrimination because of their ethnicity.

WorkSafeBC has filed a response denying Singhs claim.

Singhs are also seeking small-claims damages for the way WorkSafeBC and its employees have targeted them and their company.

Mike Singh has said from day one that he has done nothing wrong and he is being treated unfairly. He has said categorically that Work-SafeBC is discriminating against him because he is Indo-Canadian.

He says it’s another example of targeting the low cost service providers in his industry, just the way the Veterinarian doctors establishment did against low cost Indo-Canadian veterinarians.

“Sometimes they push the little guy so much, kicking him when he is down. But there is so much anybody can take until you have to come out of your state of shock and say I’m going to fight against this injustice and that is what me and my son are doing,” Singh said.

R. Paul Dhillon is the Editor of the South Asian LINK Newspaper. He is an award winning journalist and filmmaker. His debut feature film was Sweet Amerika starring Bollywood veteran Gulshan Grover, a drama set around the time of 9/11 attacks in New York, which he co-wrote, produced and directed.

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