British Columbia

Immigration consulting firms need to be better regulated, says NDP MP

Jenny Kwan said federal government needs to do more to protect temporary foreign workers from being duped by unscrupulous immigration consulting firms.

Jenny Kwan said federal government needs to do more to protect temporary foreign workers from being duped

NDP MP forVancouver East and critic for Multiculturalism, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship says the new migrant worker regulation doesn't go far enough. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

NDP MP Jenny Kwan is calling on the federal government to do more to protect temporary foreign workers from "unscrupulous" immigration consultant firms. 

"Some people paid money to a consultant and ultimately came to Canada, only to be left on the sidewalk to no job that was promised to them, no residence and no support," said Kwan, the critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. 

She wants the government to take over the currently self-regulated industry. 

Her calls for change come after a class action lawsuit was filed in B.C. Supreme Court and certified in September. 

In the lawsuit, foreign workers allege they paid thousands of dollars to secure non-existent jobs at Mac's convenience stores in Western Canada. 

The four workers named in the suit allege they paid as much as $8,500 each in illegal fees to Surrey-based immigration consultant firms; Overseas Immigration Services Inc., Overseas Career and Consulting Services Ltd. and/or Trident Immigration Services Ltd.

Under Canada's temporary foreign worker program, immigration consultants are not permitted to charge fees for job placement and any recruitment costs must be paid by the employer. 

Hundreds of temporary foreign workers have launched a class action lawsuit against Mac's Convenience Stores. (Alimentation Couche-Tard)

Sri Lankan-native, Amila Perera is one of the migrant workers covered by by the lawsuit. 

He said he left a job in Dubai, sold his furniture, his wife's jewelry and borrowed money to be able to come work in Canada. 

But he alleges when he arrived, there was no work. 

He was told to wait for a position to become available. In the meantime, he claims he was left to live in a basement suite in Surrey with three other workers. 

"It was the worst basement I've ever seen," he said, alleging it was dirty with no room to sleep. 

Sri Lankan-native Amila Perera is one of the migrant workers that alleges he paid his 'life savings' to come work in Canada but was left high and dry. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

After a couple of weeks, he said, he was sent to Kitimat, B.C., to work as a cashier. But he claims the hours of work he was given were slowly reduced and he was left with little money and could not afford basic necessities. 

The father of two said he risked everything in hopes of one day providing a better life and education for his children. 

He hasn't seen them for four years.  

"It's really a stressful life," he said. 

The lawyers for the migrant workers allege there could be over 450 people who had similar experiences when they were recruited by the consultants in Dubai. 

'Why is that we allow this to happen?'

"Why is it that we allow this to happen?" said Kwan. 

The Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said it cannot comment on a court action, but it does have resources available on its website to help applicants avoid becoming victims of fraud. 

It also said that immigration consulting firms must be a member of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC), a self-regulating body. 

"The ICCRC, in my view has done, frankly, a really poor job," said Kwan. 

Kwan is also calling on the government to better fund the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), so it is better equipped to carry out investigations in a timely manner.