A Quebec Human Rights Tribunal will decide next month if 15 Chinese workers deserve financial compensation after their Montreal employer allegedly called them pigs.

Closing arguments in the case wrapped up Tuesday at the Montreal courthouse.

The complaint dates back to 2006 when the workers were employed by Calego International, a company that sells bags and other products featuring popular cartoon characters.

The workers alleged that in July of that year they were rounded up by a manager and blamed for the unsanitary conditions in the company's kitchen and bathroom.

"He said, 'This is Canada, not China.' He said, 'You Chinese eat like pigs,'" said Xiang Ma, one of the workers.


Xiang Ma, one of the workers, spoke to reporters at the Montreal courthouse on Tuesday. ((CBC))

The company has denied the comments and refused the workers' demands for an apology. The workers later resigned.

In the five years since the alleged incident occurred, the workers have fought for an apology and compensation.

Two years ago, a Quebec Human Rights Commission ruled the workers were victims of racial discrimination.

The non-binding ruling recommended the company pay the workers each $10,000 plus an additional $7,000 for those who alleged they were physically assaulted as well.

At a total of $164,000 in damages, It was the largest award the commission had ever recommended in a racism case.

Company fights charges

The company refused to pay the damages, and the case advanced to the tribunal. Closing arguments took place on Tuesday at the Montreal courthouse.

Yong Mei Sun still can't talk about the incident without tearing up.

"I wait for the apology for five year and I'm still waiting," she told reporters at the Montreal courthouse on Tuesday.

Lawyer Julius Grey, who is representing Calego, denied the allegations made by the workers.

He said the manager was simply explaining Canadian sanitary standards, and that the workers may have misunderstood the comments.

The damages recommended by the commission were excessive, he argued.

The Quebec Human Rights Tribunal is expected to announce its decision next month.

The decision will be binding.