Foreign Workers Allege Exploitation and Broken Promises in Canada

Temporary foreign workers sort and grade cherries at the Jealous Fruits plant near Kelowna, B.C., on August 19, 2014. Canada has seen an increased demand for temporary foreign workers amid record jobs numbers. John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

A group of foreign workers, embroiled in a legal battle against a Quebec-based recruitment company, are now accusing the Canadian federal government of failing to fulfill its promise to assist them with work permits, deepening their plight in Canada.

According to The Canadian Press, these workers allege they were misled into coming to Canada under false pretenses by Trésor, a Quebec recruitment firm. They claim Trésor falsely informed them that it was legal to work in Canada without a permit during a probationary period. This misleading information is now the basis of a proposed class-action lawsuit involving both Trésor and Newrest, an aviation catering company where these workers were placed.

Octavio Zambrano, representing the affected workers, expressed his dismay, stating that the Immigration Department, contrary to its earlier assurances, informed them last week that their work permits would not be fast-tracked. This setback has left the group in a precarious situation, as they struggle to cope with the lack of financial resources.

Mexican and Guatemalan workers pick strawberries at the Faucher strawberry farm on Aug. 24, 2021, in Pont Rouge, Que. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

“The situation is dire,” Zambrano said. “We’re owed three weeks of back pay. We’re running out of money for basic necessities like food and rent in Canada, and we can’t even afford plane tickets to return home.”

The legal complications have further intensified, with Newrest filing a lawsuit against Trésor. Newrest, in an emailed statement, claimed ignorance regarding the workers’ lack of permits, distancing itself from the recruitment firm’s alleged misrepresentations.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Marc Miller declined to comment on the situation, citing privacy legislation.