Quebec Labour Ministry raids Montreal-area workplaces alleged to be using black market labour

Six raids were conducted Tuesday in the Montreal area, Quebec's Labour Ministry confirmed, as part of an investigation into a job placement agency allegedly exploiting vulnerable workers.

Six raids carried out Tuesday as part of investigation into temp agency's treatment of vulnerable workers

In March, CBC News reported on the case of a Haitian asylum seeker who was seriously injured in a workplace accident after he says he was recruited by a temp agency in Montreal despite not having a work permit. (Verity Stevenson/CBC)

Six raids were conducted Tuesday in the Montreal area as part of a Quebec Labour Ministry investigation into a job placement agency allegedly exploiting vulnerable workers.

A job placement agency has been essentially running a black market labour ring, the ministry said in a news release.

It alleges the agency's operators are hiring workers who don't know their rights, including the right to a minimum wage and to protection in the event of illness or job loss.

The ministry said it would not comment any further on the continuing investigation.

"For right now, we'll let the authorities do their work," Quebec Labour Minister Dominique Vien told reporters this afternoon.

Paulo's story

In an exclusive report last March, CBC News told the story of a Haitian asylum seeker who said he was recruited by a temporary job placement agency in Montreal last October.

Paulo, whose name was changed to protect his identity, said the agency gave him another person's identity because he didn't have a work permit when he was first hired.

Three weeks after he began working, he suffered a serious injury to his hand in an accident at a meat-processing plant.

Paulo later filed a claim with Quebec's workplace health and safety board (CNESST) to get compensation for the loss of his ability to work and some of his medical costs.

'Tip of the iceberg'

The ministry would not confirm whether Tuesday's raids had anything to do with CBC's reporting.

However, Frantz André, an advocate for asylum seekers who has been helping Paulo with his case, said the link is clear.

"I have no doubt that there is surely a link between what happened this morning and the fact that we brought Paulo's case into the public eye," he told CBC News.

André said he and Paulo met investigators from three different government agencies in the wake of the CBC report.

He said the raids were a "huge" step in the right direction to address the exploitation of vulnerable people.

"This is something huge — and I think we have, once and for all, to tackle this," he said.

Frantz André, an advocate for asylum seekers in Montreal, said he believes there's a link between the reporting on Paulo's case and the workplace raids. (CBC)

Michel Pilon, a former labour lawyer who advocates for immigrant workers, also said he's glad the ministry is looking into the issue. 

"To me, Paulo's case is very, very clearly just one [of many]," Pilon said.

It's just "the tip of the iceberg."