Vancouver firefighter launches Human Rights claim

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A former Vancouver firefighter who says he was the victim of constant racial discrimination has launched a Human Rights claim, insisting workplace harassment made his life “unbelievable hell.”

Luis Gonzalez told CBC’s Go Public that he became the butt of racist Mexican jokes from his first week in training, when an instructor compared him to “a real wetback.”

The racial slur was just a sign of things to come and 33-year-old Gonzalez – who was born in El Salvador and raised in Alberta – told the news channel that the discrimination continued.

"It was always; 'That Mexican,'” he claimed. “It was never; 'That rookie, that junior man, that probationary firefighter.' It was always; 'That Mexican.'"

After a campaign of harassment – which included officers using derogatory terms and putting up racist posters around the fire station – Gonzales filed a complaint with the city of Vancouver, citing senior members as those responsible for most of the harassment.

The subsequent investigation and report agreed that Gonzalez had experienced “disrespectful, harassing conduct,” contrary to the city's human rights and harassment policy but nobody was ever disciplined.

One unidentified source told CBC news that a toxic culture within the service may have been to blame – “There’s a culture of fear and intimidation,” he said. “If the name of the game is racism, everyone goes along with it.”

Now, Gonzalez says he not only wants those responsible to be held accountable, but also acknowledgement that he was the subject of racial discrimination.

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