Northern Pulp has fired one its senior managers after he confronted the mayor of New Glasgow at a charity event on the weekend.
“I was fired not about incompetence or something I did in the mill. I was fired because I voiced my opinion and expressed myself to the mayor,” says Aby Karoud, who until Tuesday was head of engineering and maintenance at Northern Pulp.
Karoud says he told Mayor Barrie MacMillan that Pictou County has a racism problem.
“He did not appreciate I told him I am living in the Mississippi of the north.”
Karoud says he complained about racism because of the difficulty he and his Chinese wife — also a mill engineer — had in finding a place to live when they arrived in January from Vancouver.
“One woman told me, who’s going to pay your rent, welfare?”
Karoud, who is of Tunisian descent, also admits telling MacMillan leaders like him need to do more to preserve the mill, which employs 250 producing Kraft pulp.
MacMillan did not respond to a CBC request for an interview.
Freedom of expression
Two people who have heard his recollection say the conversation focused on the future of Northern Pulp, not racism.
After being confronted by management on Monday Karoud e-mailed an apology to MacMillan but was fired Tuesday and escorted off the premises.
The June 2, 2015 termination letter shown to CBC by Karoud says his behaviour was “inappropriate, uncalled for and unprofessional.”
“The mayor stated that you were shouting at him and verbally abused him in front of others and his wife.”
The letter speaks of the owner’s “extreme effort to foster our relationships with the communities and leaders around our mill.”
“By doing this you have tarnished the image and undone a lot of the work that the company has been doing to build relations with our local officials.”
Karoud says he was on his own time on Sunday evening, even if the ticket was supplied by the company.
“I wasn’t representing the company in an official venue. If I was I wouldn’t do that. When I am outside the gate, that is my private time.”
Karoud was still on probation when he was fired which, he claims, violates his Canadian Charter right of freedom of expression.
He wants a minimum of six months’ salary and for the company to move him and his wife to Ontario, Quebec or B.C., where he has a better chance of finding work. He says he was being paid $130,000. His wife earns about $80,000.
Northern Pulp will not discuss the firing.
“This is a confidential personnel matter and as such, I nor the company, are able to provide comment,” spokeswoman Kathy Cloutier said in an e-mail to CBC News.