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Kenney calls for federal investigation into 'recruitment fees' for temporary foreign workers

OTTAWA — Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Wednesday he will call for an investigation by the Canada Border Services Agency into allegations that a B.C. businessman charged thousands of dollars to Chinese nationals who wanted to work at one of his two fast-food franchises.

Kenney also urged the B.C. government to toughen provincial legislation, which provides for a maximum fine of just $500 under the Employment Standards Act for employers who illegally charge fees in exchange for jobs.

Opposition critics, meanwhile, called on the federal and B.C. governments to launch a broader investigation into alleged abuses of Ottawa’s controversial Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program.

Allegations that Kenney is asking be investigated were based on formal written complaints to the B.C. government by two young Chinese men who claimed they were improperly charged thousands of dollars to get jobs. Their claims were supported by documentation and transcripts of taped conversations involving businessman Jian “David” Gu and Gu’s wife.

Gu, who operates Robin’s Donuts-2-4-1 Pizza franchises in Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson, has denied wrongdoing in a brief interview — claiming he’s been “set up” — but has refused to answer detailed questions.

“I will certainly refer this to the Criminal Investigations Branch of the Canada Border Services Agency,” Kenney told The Vancouver Sun.

Kenney, like many who are closely following the rapid growth of the TFW program that accepted permits for a record 190,842 workers last year, said he has heard reports of jobs-for-cash TFW schemes.

The minister said if anyone is found to have acted as an unauthorized immigration agent, he or she could be in violation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which includes fines of up to $100,000 and jail terms of up to two years.

(Gu is not registered under the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council, which was established by Kenney last year to try to put a lid on illegal or unethical activity involving immigration consultants.)

The minister also said any evidence that anyone who has coached someone to violate federal legislation could be guilty of fraud under the Criminal Code.

Kenney also joined the chorus of critics who say the B.C. government’s sanctions for illegally charging workers for jobs — now set at $500 for the first offence and a maximum $10,000 for a third offence — is far too low.

“The sanction appears to be quite modest in British Columbia,” he said. “I would encourage them to consider in the future increasing the fine to send a strong message” to anyone who might be considering exploiting people seeking to come to Canada.

The B.C. government, which wouldn’t comment Wednesday on the matter, has confirmed that, as earlier reported, there have been four complaints filed against Gu with the B.C. Employment Standards Branch. One has been resolved without a finding of fault, and the other three are active.

While the government doesn’t disclose details of complaints, The Vancouver Sun learned that two of those complaints were filed by Jiajun Wu and Hongda Hu, both 22 and currently living in China.

Both were in Canada on student visas earlier this year and sought employment as temporary foreign workers at Gu’s Dawson Creek franchise.

Gu was allegedly paid $3,000 in both cases up front, but both young men say they walked away from the arrangements after being asked for an additional payment of around $20,000 each.

Both men included in their complaints transcripts of taped conversations with Gu and Gu’s wife. A Mandarin-speaking reporter with The Vancouver Sun listened to the recordings and before publication confirmed the accuracy of the quotes used in The Sun’s story Wednesday.

The B.C. Employment Standards Act doesn’t let an employer “request, share or receive, directly or indirectly,” a fee from a prospective employee.

B.C. New Democratic Party immigration critic Jinny Sims urged both the federal and B.C. governments to investigate not just the allegations against Gu, but to reconsider the entire TFW program.

That program has been in the spotlight following reports that northeast B.C. coal companies plan to exclusively use Chinese temporary workers as underground workers in four proposed coal mines. Federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley has already announced a review of the TFW program in light of the coal mine controversy, which includes allegations that workers are being charged hefty fees to work there.

Sims, who has also heard numerous allegations of widespread abuse, said the issue brings back memories of the government-sanctioned charges against Chinese migrant workers in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

“We just finished apologizing for the Chinese ‘head tax’ and the Japanese internment,” said the MP for Newton-North Delta. “Let’s not have policies today which our children and grandchildren will be apologizing for down the road.”

She said the government supports bringing in skilled workers when necessary, but fast-food outlets in remote communities should be offering better compensation packages to Canadian workers rather than relying on cheap foreign labour.

Both Sims and the provincial NDP labour critic, Shane Simpson, agreed with Kenney that the provincial government needs tougher sanctions.

“It obviously isn’t any kind of disincentive at all,” said Simpson, who also wants a wholesale review of how the federal and B.C. governments regulate the TFW program. “You need to have a consequence (for violating the law). Five hundred dollars isn’t a consequence.”


Edward Lehman 雷曼法学博士
Managing Director 董事长

LEHMAN, LEE & XU China Lawyers
Founder of LehmanBrown

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