The Canada Border Services Agency is looking into allegations that more than two dozen foreign workers were housed in one Labrador City split-level residence, in violation of their employer’s agreement with the federal government.
Four former employees of Jungle Jim’s restaurant and Greco Pizza told CBC News that 26 foreign workers shared the home for months.
“I feel so victimized,” Arthur Lorenzo said.
“I really felt that I made the wrong move of listening and believing this couple — Miriam and Jeff Staples, who fooled a lot of Filipinos, my fellow countrymen.”
But the business owners deny the allegations, blaming disgruntled former workers for spreading false stories.
“This is a bit amazing to me, because you’re talking to people that have a gripe against Jungle Jim’s because they’ve been let go from here, and people that have been let go from Greco,” said Miriam Staples, a director of the holding company for the restaurants.
CBSA agents executed search warrants at the home and at Jungle Jim’s restaurant in November.
Staples said she and her husband Jeff have co-operated with the agency.
“No one has been charged with anything and to this point we still don’t know what it’s all about,” she said.
Allegations outlined in court documents
According to court documents obtained by CBC News, investigators are probing whether the business owners provided false information about living conditions in support of applications for labour market opinions, or LMOs.
LMOs are used to hire foreign employees in areas where there is a shortage of workers.
John Ray Vailoces, one of the temporary foreign workers, told CBC News the workers were promised rooms for $300 a month — rooms they would share with only one other person.
That didn’t happen, he alleges. “It's so crazy,” Vailoces said.
The four former employees who spoke with CBC News said there were as many as six people living in a room in the house.
They allege that a closet was converted into sleeping quarters, there was inadequate hot water or toilet facilities, and one person slept on a couch outside during the summer.
In court filings, CBSA investigators say they believe an offence was committed.
They point to documents that claim employees were housed in a 10-bedroom home, two to a room.
Former employees claim the home actually only had five bedrooms.
“The number of actual rooms present in the home” while the workers were living there is “central to the matter under investigation,” CBSA investigator Darryl Hooper noted in a document sworn before a provincial court judge.
That document — called an information to obtain a search warrant, or ITO — was obtained by CBC News.
CBSA indicated in the ITO that it was seeking evidence to determine whether the home had been remodelled after the temporary foreign workers left last year.
According to the ITO, investigators believe the business owners may have collected up to $4,200 more per month in rent than they should have.
None of the allegations have been proven in court, and no charges have been laid.