N.S. sued over immigrant program
A businessman originally from the United Kingdom has launched a lawsuit against the Nova Scotia government over a failed nominee program that was supposed to pair new immigrants with on-the-job training.
The proposed class-action suit was filed Monday on behalf of Peter King, who moved to Halifax from Middlesex in April 2006 after paying $130,500 to participate in the program's now-defunct economic stream.
The statement of claim alleges King, who ran a limousine and chauffeur business in the U.K., applied unsuccessfully for a number of jobs with mentor companies approved by the province until June 2006, when he accepted a position in Kelowna, B.C.
The provincial government has refunded immigrants who met certain requirements, including those who lived in Nova Scotia for 12 consecutive months. But King didn't meet the criteria.
His lawyer, Peter Driscoll, said the requirements for the refund were unfair.
"What the province says is: 'Oh no, you've left the province because we couldn't provide you with a suitable employer and now we get to keep your money,"' said Driscoll, who's based in Halifax.
The suit alleges the province breached its contract with King by failing to provide suitable employers and management positions. It also alleges the province misappropriated trust moneys and breached King's rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including his mobility rights.
The allegations in the statement of claim have not been proven in court.
Of the $130,500 in fees King shelled out to participate in the program, $100,000 was paid to the province in trust. That money was to be paid to the mentor company, which would then give some of it back to King as part of his salary.
King is seeking the $100,000 plus interest paid in trust and unspecified damages.
Nova Scotia Immigration Minister Ramona Jennex said provincial lawyers were reviewing legal documents and declined to comment further on the case.
The nominee program started in 2003 under the former Progressive Conservative government and was operated by Cornwallis Financial Corp., a private Halifax firm.
The Tories assumed responsibility in 2006 and stopped accepting applications for the program's economic stream after problems started to emerge.
Some of the 800 immigrants who paid into the program in exchange for middle-management job placements complained they didn't get the training they were promised.
No plans to change eligibility
Len Goucher, the former Tory immigration minister, defended the residency requirement for refunds last year, saying the government was trying to "level the playing field" for those who "stuck it out" in Nova Scotia.
NDP member Leonard Preyra, who was opposition immigration critic at the time, urged the province to consider refunds on a case-by-case basis for those who came to Nova Scotia in good faith but had to leave to find work.
The refund program has since ended.
Jennex said the NDP government doesn't plan to revisit the refund program's eligibility.
"The eligibility criteria was put forth and has not changed and we will not be changing it," she said. "The mandate has passed for that."
Driscoll estimates there could be as many as 200 others who would be eligible to take part in a class-action.
In a 32-page report tabled in October 2008, the province's auditor general found a series of problems with the nominee program, including examples of "inappropriate payments" and allegations that a lawyer took fees from immigrants without their knowledge and without providing a service.