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Amaruk legitimate, media out to discredit him, co-CEO says

TWU grad will pursue complaint despite questions about company

Bethany Paquette, a self-described “proud Christian” and graduate of Trinity Western University, has filed a human rights complaint against Amaruk Wilderness Corp. Credit: Facebook

The co-CEO of a company at the centre of a human rights complaint insists that Amaruk Wilderness Corp is a legitimate business and that he is the victim of an unfair media campaign.

Trinity Western University graduate Bethany Paquette filed a human rights complaint Sept 30 alleging that Amaruk rejected her for a job, following a heated email exchange, because she’s Christian and attended a Christian university.

Christopher Fragassi-Bjørnsen says the emails were an exchange of opinion, not discrimination. He says the media are now trying to discredit him and Amaruk.

CBC News reported Oct 10 that more job applicants had come forward after Paquette’s story aired, claiming they, too, had received rejection emails from Amaruk Wilderness. Futile efforts to reach the company’s co-CEO left them questioning whether the business or jobs actually exist.

Fragassi-Bjørnsen tells Xtra that all employees listed on the company website are real but says they will not speak with the media.

“Every single person who works with this company has signed a non-disclosure agreement,” he explains. “In order for them to talk or say anything, they need my approval, and they won’t get it. The media has turned a ridiculous exchange of opinion into something out of proportion, and they are trying to destroy my life in the process. I think one person’s life is enough.”

Fragassi-Bjørnsen says he intends to sue CBC News, Sun TV and the National Post. “People are claiming and alleging without looking at any factual information, and they are basing things on I don’t know what,” he alleges. “All the licences and registration and all the documents point to the fact that the company is real, yet everyone has ignored that.” 

Fragassi-Bjørnsen directed Xtra to a page on Amaruk’s website that includes links to the company’s various licences and registrations, including a licence to operate guided backpacking tours in Pacific Rim National Park, an outfitter licence for Kluane National Park and Reserve, a Yukon wilderness tourism licence, trademark information and certificates of incorporation for Canada, British Columbia, Yukon and Ontario.

“If you look at that page, you can see that I have a security clearance with the federal government,” he adds. “If I was a scam artist, obviously I wouldn’t have a security clearance with the federal government. Continually harassing me over nothing is going to have catastrophic effect.”

Amaruk also lists the Canadian Red Cross as one of its training partners, but Fragassi-Bjørnsen says that relationship was terminated Oct 14.

“Amaruk Wilderness Corp applied to become a Red Cross training partner in 2012 and has been delivering Red Cross advanced and basic wilderness first-aid courses since March 2012,” a spokesperson for the Red Cross tells Xtra. “In view of the information that has come to light, the Canadian Red Cross has ended its agreement with Amaruk Wilderness Corp as a training partner and provider of first-aid training services to the public.”

Xtra also learned that Fragassi-Bjørnsen is listed as an emergency contact for the consulate general of France in Vancouver, under the name Christophe Fragassi, but he declined to comment on a “position for a foreign government.”

A spokesperson for the consulate confirms that Fragassi is on their list of contacts but says the position is a volunteer role open to anybody who is willing to help to assist French citizens in the event of a major disaster, such as an earthquake or plane crash.

“There’s no legal link between them and the consulate,” the spokesperson explains. “It’s a moral duty to assist the consulate on a best-effort basis. They just have to try their best to assist the consulate in these matters. It’s really hard to find emergency contacts because there are no particular qualifications. It’s more like being a friend and wanting to help in the event of a major emergency, but they are never called on as it never happens.”

Paquette’s lawyer, Geoffrey Trotter, says his client’s complaint will proceed regardless, since Amaruk is legally registered in British Columbia and Christopher Fragassi is listed on the corporate registration.

“Neither he nor the company have denied sending the emails to Bethany, which were published by the CBC on Tuesday,” reads an Oct 10 press release from Trotter. “Whether or not some of the emails were sent under pseudonyms, or whether or not Mr Fragassi has exaggerated the size or capabilities of his company, both the company and Mr Fragassi himself will need to answer to the Human Rights Tribunal for their discriminatory decision. The true author of the ‘Olaf Amundsen’ emails will also need to answer for their harassing language. The fact that Mr Fragassi appears to be a BC resident will simply make it easier to enforce an anti-discrimination order from the Human Rights Tribunal.”