Saskatchewan·CBC Investigates

Job-for-cash immigration firm names two Saskatchewan companies as 'success cases'

An immigration company that told CBC it sells Canadian jobs to Chinese nationals seeking permanent residency seems to have unintentionally identified two Saskatchewan companies by name as “success cases.”

Awasis Child Care and Good Spirit Market deny doing business with Chinese immigration company

In the Fall of 2015, a China based website posted a series of official looking Saskatchewan government documents that appeared to be connected to Saskatchewan companies. (www.zgymzj.com)

An immigration company that told CBC it sells Canadian jobs to Chinese nationals seeking permanent residency seems to have unintentionally identified two Saskatchewan companies by name as "success cases."

Nanjing Youtai and its Canadian affiliate Wonhonta Consulting told an undercover CBC reporter they charge would-be immigrants $170,000 or more for a Canadian job, with some of that money going toward paying the Canadian employer offering the position and some paying the would-be immigrant's own wages.  

Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland says that amounts to a "fake job."

The Canadian government has created an immigration stream that allows skilled foreign nationals with a job offer from a legitimate Canadian employer to gain permanent residency.

Kurland said the scheme run by Nanjing Youtai and WonHonTa "is a recipe how to violate Canada's immigration laws." 

In a December 2015 entry on its website, Nanjing Youtai posted official looking Saskatchewan government documents that name Regina-based Awasis Child Care Co-Operative and 101163172 Saskatchewan Ltd., which operates Good Spirit Market, as "success cases." 

"Good news," the site says in Mandarin. "Two clients of our company received Saskatchewan nominations letters at the same time." 

Much of the identifying information on the documents has been redacted but in some places the names of those Saskatchewan companies remain. 

Nanjing Youtai posted six Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) documents that seem directly connected with Regina-based Awasis Child Care Co-Operative, a non-profit that runs daycares throughout the city, including at the University of Regina. 

On September 18, 2015, then Minister of Education Don Morgan and University of Regina President Vianne Timmons were on hand to celebrate the grand opening of the new Awasis child care centre on campus. According to the province, "the Ministry of Education provided $1.34 million to the Awasis Child Care Centre at the University of Regina in 2015." (University of Regina)

Nanjing Youtai also posted a single SINP document that names 101163172 Saskatchewan Ltd., which operates Good Spirit Market, a convenience store at Good Spirit Lake. Mike Fritzler of Regina owns the company.

Awasis and 101163172 Saskatchewan Ltd. both say they don't know anything about these job offers and deny having received any payment for them.

When reached by phone, Jiacheng Song, who identifies himself as a manager with Nanjing Youtai, said he doesn't know where the documents came from but he noted that his company often takes such "success cases" from the websites of other, larger firms to make Nanjing Youtai look more successful. 

Song told CBC's undercover reporter that the company placed almost 10 Chinese nationals in Saskatchewan last year. He said his company recommends Saskatchewan because it's an easy province for clients to immigrate to. 

However, in a follow-up on-the-record interview with a CBC reporter, he said much of what he had told the undercover reporter was a lie. He said his company does not sell job offers and has never done business in Saskatchewan. 

Song said that lying is "a marketing strategy in order to get clients to sign the deal."

According to Nanjing Youtai's website, the organization is located in Shangmao Century Plaza in Nanjing China. A Chinese corporate registry site says the company has between 50-100 employees. (www.skyscrapercenter.com)

Vince Lalonde, a Canadian immigration lawyer who lived in Hong Kong for years doing business with firms in Mainland China, said the immigration business there is murky. 

"There's so many pieces to the puzzle," Lalonde, who now works as a lawyer in Toronto, said. "It's easy... for anybody who's involved in this to say that it's not their responsibility — to pass that off on to somebody else who's involved in this in this process."

Not the first time

This is the second time CBC has found both Awasis and a company owned by Fritzler caught up in a questionable immigration scheme. 

In July, CBC broke the story of a Regina immigration company charged with running a fraudulent scheme that allegedly paid some Saskatchewan companies to offer fake jobs to Chinese nationals.

In December 2015, the Crown filed a series of charges against Qi Wang and Yujuan Cui, accusing the married couple of receiving payments from Chinese nationals seeking permanent residency in Canada in exchange for securing job-offer letters. Through their lawyer, the couple said they will prove their innocence at trial. 

According to a search warrant application, while searching the couple's White CIty home, Canada Border Services Agencies (CBSA) came across the names of 1,200 Chinese nationals connected to about 100 Saskatchewan companies. The cases were mostly from 2011 and 2012. 

Awasis and a company previously owned by Fritzler, Fact Computers, were on that list.

CBSA indicated Awasis had offered jobs to a handful of people.  

In a 2014 CBSA search warrant application, Awasis shows up as one of the companies allegedly offering jobs to Chinese nationals. (CBSA search warrant application)

In a 2018 letter to CBC, Awasis board chair Heather Sotelo confirmed "these individuals were provided valid job offers for positions with Awasis," adding, "at no time did Awasis receive payment from the foreign workers or from a third party to provide theses job offers." 

She said Wang and Cui are known to Awasis, as "they are the parents of a child who previously attended the Awasis daycare." 

Sotelo said "it's possible that Wang referred those applicants to Awasis," but that it would have only been on an informal and unpaid basis. 

When first reached on the phone by CBC in 2017, Awasis executive director Sheila Pelletier said she had never heard of Wang or Cui and wouldn't be able to speak about the fact she'd been called as a witness at their upcoming trial.

In a follow-up letter letter, board chair Sotelo confirmed that Pelletier has been called to testify at Wang and Cui's trial as she is primarily responsible for handling staffing issues. 

CBC recently asked Pelletier why she denied knowing Wang and Cui back in 2017. In an email she explained that CBC's call was a surprise and she said the names didn't mean anything to her "as I did not know Mr. Wang and his wife by their Chinese names."

Fritzler is also scheduled to testify and Wang and Cui's trial.

CBSA's search warrant application indicates Fritzler's company Fact Computers had been offering jobs to Chinese nationals through the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP). 

The application concluded "there were no valid jobs for the SINP applicants that had job offers from Mike Fritzler."

How did the Chinese website obtain Awasis documents?

Some of the 2015 documents posted on Nanjing Youtai's website were addressed to Awasis while others were addressed to the foreign nationals.

Awasis acknowledges at least some of them seem authentic. 

"We have no relationship to the Chinese website so we honestly cannot state how they came to hold documents that may be related to Awasis," Sotelo wrote. 

Letters sent to Awasis

On Sept. 1, 2015, SINP sent a letter to Awasis saying the company had been approved to offer an administrative assistant job to a foreign national.

On Oct. 22, 2015, it sent another letter approving Awasis to hire six foreign early childhood educators. 

This is one of six apparently official Saskatchewan government letters on Nanjing Youtai's website that appear to be linked to Awasis Child Care Co-operative in Regina. (www.zgymzj.com)

In the 2018 letter to CBC, Sotelo said, "the generic job approvals you supplied appear to match approvals that Awasis obtained for valid positions that were in demand at the time."

Sotelo confirmed that Awasis, "supported the immigration of six workers [early childhood educators] all of which are still employed with our company." Two of them were from China, she said. 

Letters sent to foreign nationals 

Nanjing Youtai also posted letters online that would have been sent directly to the foreign nationals seeking a job at Awasis. 

Sotelo said she couldn't verify if these documents are authentic because they don't belong to Awasis.

"They appear to match some of our generic job approvals but the redactions make it impossible to verify," she said. 

Nanjing Youtai posted a Nov. 27, 2015, letter which appears to have been sent to a woman with an address in China, indicating the provincial government had approved her nomination for an administrative assistant position at Awasis. A second letter grants that same woman a work permit. 

Nanjing Youtai also posted a Nov. 30, 2015, letter which appears to have been sent to a foreign national whose address is identical to the address of the Awasis daycare. The letter says her nomination for an early childhood educator position at Awasis had been approved by the provincial government. A second letter grants that same woman a work permit.

Shorty after CBC brought these documents and this particular website page to the attention of Awasis, that page was deleted from Nanjing Youtai's website

Awasis offers explanation

CBC asked Awasis how Nanjing Youtai could have gotten its hands on all of those documents, given some were sent directly to Awasis while others were sent to two different foreign nationals. 

"The Chinese website would have had to obtain those documents from a source other than Awasis," Sotelo said.

Awasis says it has hired some foreign nationals to help with its Regina-based daycares. (CBC)
 

She offered a possible explanation. 

"The generic job approvals [addressed directly to Awasis] are generally provided to foreign worker candidates during our job offer process. It is very possible a third party could have obtained the generic job approvals once it left our control," Sotelo said. 

Awasis said it has been the subject of four separate investigations, all of which indicated the organization follows all the rules:

  1. Awasis conducted an internal review which, "determined that Awasis was operating in compliance with federal and provincial immigration laws."
  2. On Jan. 27, 2017, the provincial government launched a review, "given the contract Mr. [Qi] Wang had with Awasis."
  3. On Aug. 27, 2017 the federal government launched a random review of a specific immigration file from 2017 and 2018. Awasis says it concluded the organization was in compliance with the rules. 
  4. On May 2, 2019, the provincial government launched a random inspection looking at the organization's use of foreign workers going back to May 2018. Awasis said that review concluded the organization was in compliance. 

CBC asked Awasis if any of these investigations considered the timeframe when the 2015 letters were written. Awasis said the January 2017 provincial review looked at 2015 and concluded Awasis "was in good standing with the provincial regulator."

However, in an email from the province, an official said "the Chinese website was not known to the Government of Saskatchewan when the provincial review of Awasis was undertaken in 2017." 

The province also said, "the provincial review of Awasis concluded that there was no confirmed connection involving the employer (Awasis) in the allegations related to the CBSA investigation."

The official says the government audits 400 employers every year to make sure they comply with the rules. 

Sotelo concluded her letter by saying Awasis is saddened that "its name appears to have been used by a third-party in an improper manner without our knowledge, participation or consent."

A convenience store job offer 

Good Spirit Market, a convenience store owned by Mike Fritzler, also shows up in a document posted on Nanjing Youtai's website. 

Mike Fritzler owns Good Spirit Market.

On Nov. 24, 2015, the SINP sent a letter to Fritzler's numbered company, which runs the store, at its Canora address.

The generic job approval confirmation notified the company that it had been approved to offer a $22/hr retail store supervisor position to a foreign national. 

When reached by phone, Fritzler said he didn't know anything about this letter, even though it was sent to his company's address. 

He said the only way he can explain it is it must have something to do with Qi Wang because, Fritzler said, Wang is the only immigration consultant he's ever worked with. 

CBC reached out to Wang through his lawyer to request an interview or comment about Fritzler's claim. Aaron Fox said it's not appropriate to comment now given the pending trial. 

It's expected that on Friday, a trial date will be set in this case. 

Fritzler said he regrets the relationship with Wang. 

"He promised the world to me and tried to bring in some new people and it just went sideways from the start," Fritzler said.

How did Nanjing Youtai get the Good Spirit letter?

Fritzler suggested Wang might have searched Saskatchewan's corporate registry to find other companies Fritzler owned. 

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to open an ISC [Information Services Corporation] account, type in someone's name and pull up every company they own. You can do that. You could see every company I own." 

According to CBSA's search warrant, Mike Fritzler was surprised to learn Qi Wang issued 21 job offers to Chinese nationals when they had agreed on just 9. (LinkedIn)

When told it's not possible to search the registry by company owner, Fritzler conceded that at some point he might have mentioned his convenience store to Wang. 

"If you would have asked me 'Do we have any other businesses?' it would be easy for me to say 'Yeah sure. Good Spirit Market is one of my other businesses," he said. 

Asked if it was possible he had told Wang he was looking for workers, Fritzler conceded it was.

"We could have been having coffee or e-mail or something else. I could have easily said I'm always looking for staff out there too," Fritzler said. 

However, he was quick to point out that, "I never once signed anything or did anything for him or anything else." 

About the Author

Geoff Leo

Senior Investigative Journalist

Geoff Leo has been a reporter for CBC News in Saskatchewan since 2001. His work as an investigative journalist and documentary producer has earned numerous national and regional awards.