'It's been vile': Group that helps refugees find work fed up with racist comments

A Winnipeg group dedicated to helping refugees find work says it has become the target of racists social media.

'How bout hire a Canadian or fck off', among the posts Hire a Refugee received

Hire A Refugee is a Winnipeg based company helping newcomers secure odd jobs in the city. It's co-founders say recently the group has been the target of racism. (Facebook)

A Winnipeg group dedicated to helping refugees find work in Canada says it has become the target of online racism. Co-founders of Hire A Refugee said they've had to remove a number of hateful messages from their Facebook page. 

"It's been vile, it's been mean and full of vitriol and I know that most Winnipeggers, Manitobans, citizens are not like that but it concerns us," said co-founder Bob Axworthy. Here are some of the examples he provided: 

  • WTF why only refugees were here don't need no MF taking over jobs" - N**** T*******
  • How bout hire a canadian or fck off," -D*** W**** E****
  • I have dog shit to be cleaned it pays what you take" -D***** D******

Hire A Refugee launched its website in March to help newcomers secure odd jobs. It asks Winnipeggers to consider employing refugees for menial work such as painting, grass cutting, window washing, yard cleanup, moving, demolition, junk removal, house cleaning and office cleaning. Axworthy says so far the not-for-profit group has helped secure jobs for as many as 35 newcomers.

"We're there to help get people jobs so they can get some money to get started to pay their rent to buy some groceries and all those things," said Axworthy.

Axworthy said since March, he's had to delete racist posts from the groups Facebook page every other day. The messages have upset and angered him, but until now he'd been reluctant to draw attention to the negative sentiments.

"The last comment I saw I said, OK, this is enough. This story needs to be told," he said.
Mohammad Zadah fled the war in Syria and came to Winnipeg with his wife and four kids in 2016. He has been studying English, and hopes to find a job at a barbershop. (CBC)

"These are men, women, and children, who have come to Canada to escape war. They want a roof over their heads, their children in school, and to have a job and contribute," said co-founder Omar Rahimi in a news release.

Rahimi came to Canada as a refugee in 2001. He now owns a business, and runs a non-profit soccer club.

 "These are not people who left their country because they wanted to live on government assistance. They left to pursue a better life," said Rahimi.

​Hire A Refugee has been assisting Mohammad Zadeh get work cutting hair. Back in Syria he was a barber for 20 years and taught students his craft. In 2012 he fled his home country with his wife and four kids and moved to a refugee camp in Lebanon. In February 2016 they came to Canada. 
Hire A Refugee launched a website in March, in an effort to assist newcomers to Winnipeg to find work to support their families. (Facebook)

"People in Winnipeg good, but sometimes have racism a little," said Zadeh, who has been learning English since coming here. 

Zadeh said a friend of his, who is also a Syrian refugee, was recently at Tim Hortons when he was told by a stranger to go back to where he came from.

"I feel sad, because people not happy [with] people [from] outside in Canada," said Zadeh. "But now we people [from] Syria very happy, now. Learn English, to work, want to work for family for Canada. Thank you, Canada." 


Caroline Barghout

Investigative Reporter, CBC Manitoba I-Team

Caroline began her career co-hosting an internet radio talk show in Toronto and then worked at various stations in Oshawa, Sudbury and Toronto before landing in Winnipeg in 2007. Since joining CBC Manitoba as a reporter in 2013, she has won an award for her work on crowded jails and her investigation into Tina Fontaine's death led to changes in the child welfare system. Email: