October 12, 2017 1:44 pm EST
Updated: October 13, 2017 12:48 pm EST

Sikh truck drivers alleging racial discrimination by Manitoba Public Insurance

WATCH: Punjabi speaking truck drivers have filed an application with Manitoba courts. Global's Zahra Premji reports.

Dozens of Punjabi speaking truck drivers are calling recent actions by Manitoba Public Insurance racist and discriminatory.

Gagandeep Singh is one of 23 Punjabi speaking truck drivers who have filed an application with the courts in Manitoba alleging discrimination by MPI. He said all 23 drivers received their Manitoba Class F1 truck driving licenses after they transferred to the province from Ontario where they had already passed all necessary tests.

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Singh said himself and some of his fellow drivers have now been driving their trucks in Manitoba since 2014 with no word from MPI that they’d have to take new tests in Manitoba. In September, Singh said they received letters from the company stating they had been given until Oct. 16 to book written, vision, air brake and road tests and have to successfully complete it all by Nov. 6 or their drivers’ licenses would be cancelled.

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Singh said the letter addressed to him from MPI on Sept. 7 said he had originally failed his Class 1 license in Manitoba, went to Ontario to obtain a license and then returned back to Manitoba shortly after, which is why MPI was asking him to take the tests.

“The short period between leaving and returning to Manitoba, in addition to previously failing the Manitoba Class 1 test gives reason to suspect you were avoiding the requirement to pass Class 1 driver testing in Manitoba,” according to the letter MPI sent to Singh.

Singh said he doesn’t understand why this was not brought up as a problem when the drivers initially returned to Manitoba. He said he believes it’s discrimination and he’s asking for MPI to extend the date the tests need to be taken.  He said there isn’t enough time to study and keep working to support his family.

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“All the Indian community got targeted. Why [did] no one else get targeted? Why only Punjabi people got targeted,” Singh said.

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MPI issued a statement Thursday afternoon:

“MPI can confirm that a number of commercial class drivers licensed outside of Manitoba have been notified that they are required to recertify to Manitoba Class One driver testing standards. This action is being taken under relevant provisions of The Drivers and Vehicles Act. This action is not based on race or ethnicity but rather to address public safety concerns and the Corporation’s obligation to enforce Manitoba driver testing and licensing standards as Administrator of The Drivers and Vehicles Act. As a legal action has now been initiated on behalf of 23 of the drivers currently under investigation, no further comment will be provided at this time.”

The lawyer for the drivers, Paul Hesse, said the application alleging discrimination will be heard before a judge in Manitoba Law Courts Monday morning.

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