When Ghassan Asad immigrated to Canada from Saudi Arabia ten years ago, the 28-year-old biochemistry student was hoping for a new life free of the strict political constraints found in his home country.
What he wasn’t hoping for was to be shunned by his peers, interrogated by police and suspected of being involved in the deadly 9/11 terrorist attacks that rocked the world shortly after he was declared a Canadian citizen.
But according to a judgment released Wednesday by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, this is exactly what happened to self-admitted “devout” Muslim soon after the twin towers came toppling down.
Employed at the time as a bioinformatics associate with the Vancouver-based Kinexus Bioinformatics Corp., the decision paints a damming picture of the alleged behavior of Asad’s coworkers and management team, claiming he was alienated and the subject of racial profiling following the terrorist attacks.
“I think it was beyond description,” Asad told the Province Wednesday from Saudi Arabia were he is currently vacationing. “I went through days and days and months and months of pain and suffering.”
Asad’s story begins in 1998 when he moved to Canada to escape the political oppression of his former country. Trained as a lab technician and chemist back home, the university graduate initially found life difficult when he first arrived and was forced to work as a machine operator to support himself.
However, determined to find create a better life for himself, he eventually returned to school, enrolling in IT and business administration courses at Capilano College, before landing a job in 2000 at Kinexus with a starting salary of $36,000.
By all accounts, Asad was well-liked by staff and management, both for his personality and good work, with an employee review dated August 22, 2001 reading: “Ghassan is an excellent employee and a tremendous asset to our company. His dedication is greatly appreciated and he is well liked by his colleagues and the company management.”
However, according to the tribunal’s 227 page report, that was soon about to change.
After being granted his Canadian citizenship on Aug. 24, 2001, a day he described as “one of the best days of my life,” Asad celebrated by going on a trip that included stops in Toronto, Buffalo, Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C. and Detroit.
On his return to work on September 4, 2001, Asad shared with his coworkers tales of this voyage, showing them pictures and even writing a small story in the company’s monthly newsletter about his experiences.
Any enthusiasm they showed, however, was quickly overshadowed by the terrorist attacks seven days later. It was then, claimed the report that Asad started to feel he was being made the target of suspicion, with some coworkers going so far as to suggest he was involved given his recent trip. (MORE)