Quebec body tells fired priest ‘you are not an employee’

Quebec body tells fired priest ‘you are not an employee’
By Robert Frank
www.thesuburban.com

After seven years of working morning, noon and night as a priest at Dollard des Ormeaux’ Sikh temple, Hardeep Singh Randhawa was shocked to be told by the Quebec government that he is not an employee.

That’s what the Commission des normes du travail told Giani Randhawa in a letter denying his claim that he was exploited, harassed and unfairly dismissed by temple officials last month.

“Every day, I ask God what did I do wrong to deserve this?” he told reporters outside the Gurdwara Sahib of Greater Montreal congregation while parishioners inside celebrated Punjab New Year festivities known as Baisakhi.

“We have been trying to help him file a complaint with the commission about this labour issue,” said Mustapha Henaway of the Immigrant Worker Centre (www.iwc-pti.ca) in Côte des Neiges. “They’re saying that a religious institution doesn’t fall under Quebec labour standards, even if they have violated his most basic labour rights.”

“We handle some 500 individual cases per year, but this is the first time that someone working in a religious institution has come to us,” the case worker explained. “So for us, it is a very new kind of case as well.”

Mr. Henaway said that even though the priest’s employment agreement with the Sikh temple was for $275 per week, “they were paying him only $100 per week.”

“We are trying to help him seek back wages, overtime pay as well as compensation for the type of abuse that he faced on his last day of work-which is tantamount to what is called psychological harassment in the workplace and is illegal according to Quebec labour standards.”

“There is quite a paper trail on this,” Mr. Henaway added. “We plan to file an appeal by the end of this week.”

Giani Randhawa also told The Suburban that Montreal police have asked him to make another statement about his allegations that he was beaten by three parishioners on March 11, just prior to being summarily dismissed.

He said that he is still being treated at Lachine hospital and outpatient clinics for vertigo and brief losses of consciousness that he has suffered since the incident.

“I am unable to do anything,” he said.

“I cannot plan for my future until my health improves. No one has taken notice of my plight. 

My personal effects are still in the temple and I have not received any communication from temple officials.”

When The Suburban went to press, Quebec Labour Minister Lise Thériault’s office had not yet responded to questions as to whether the Commission des normes du travail reached its decision in order to avoid alienating cultural communities. Last month, a senior police official told The Suburban that police are reluctant to enter places of worship unless there is clear evidence of a crime.

After expelled priest Hardeep Singh Randhawa (centre) briefed reporters about his plight, security personnel tried to stop a CTV cameraman (left) from standing on the opposite side of the street to record images of the Sikh temple exterior in Dollard des Ormeaux. 

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