Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Priest guilty of foreign worker scam

CBC is reporting that two Albertans have pleaded guilty to illegally bringing approximately 60 temporary foreign workers into Canada.  This case dates back to 2004 and includes an Orthodox priest, his wife and a college employee (which sounds like the start of a bad joke…).

Basically, a group of Polish tradesmen (most of whom don’t speak English) were recruited to come to Canada by a company co-owned by a (then) St. Paul Orthodox Priest. The workers thought they were coming to work but arrived on student visas, allegedly to attend Lakeland College for ESL and welding training. Instead, they were put to work. By skimming their pay, the employer made over $1m in less than two years (one source suggests the company profits $1m in six months).

After getting busted in 2006, the employer eventually pleaded guilty with a fine of $215k (so less than 20% of the profit from the scam). The fine went to Lakeland College. It appears that a former employee of Lakeland College facilitated the scam by issuing letters to support the visa application. So, in effect, the College is profiting from its former employee’s wrongdoing.

It is unclear from the story if the workers ever got their proper pay. A 2011 CBC story reported the workers were suing the priest and his company for $5.5m. It also reported: 
The workers were forced to sign a contract which stipulated that, if breached, would result in a fine of $25,000 and/or deportation from Canada, said police. They were also allegedly instructed to not to discuss their wages or the arrangements of how they came to be in Canada.
CBC also reported:
Lipinski is countersuing the workers for $10 million, accusing them of concocting a conspiracy in order to be allowed to stay in Canada and besmirching the reputation of his company in the process.
It is not clear the status of either suit. Interestingly, the RCMP notes that this is the first conviction under the Immigration Refuge Protection Act in Alberta but that “”we're seeing this more and more in Alberta."

-- Bob Barnetson


  1. An interesting follow-on piece by Paula Simons on the province's lack of enforcement of the Employment Standards Code in this case:

  2. Another interesting follow-on piece: