Some Lake Louise contract workers prepare to leave Canada, investigation continues

·3 min read
The Banff Springs Hotel is one of the hotels where workers were employed. (Dave Rae/CBC - image credit)
The Banff Springs Hotel is one of the hotels where workers were employed. (Dave Rae/CBC - image credit)

More than a dozen foreign workers employed through a third-party agency arrived at a Canada Border Services Agency office Monday, for appointments with border officials.

The group in Calgary today are among more than a hundred foreign workers employed in Lake Louise, Banff, and Jasper through a third-party temp agency.

Last week, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) found they were working in the country without the proper documentation and have been investigating this as part of an ongoing investigation under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Criminal Code of Canada.

Waiting most of the morning in a hallway at Calgary's Harry Hays building, the hospitality workers checked in with officials and awaited answers. A Spanish-speaking interpreter hired by CBSA sat by ready to step in if any of the workers needed help or translations.

An immigration advocate from the Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic in Red Deer was in Calgary helping workers understand their rights. They are working with a network of groups in the immigration sector to support any housing needs and transportation needs.

"It's a fluid situation. It's changing every time I get more information," said executive director Kathy Parsons, who was communicating with the immigration advocate all day.

'This is unheard of'

Parsons has not been able to pinpoint how many people are ultimately part of this investigation. But so far, the volume of workers being investigated is unprecedented, she believes.

"No, not this volume of people. No. I've never seen or heard of anything like this. This is kind of extreme ... this is unheard of."

Workers CBC News spoke to say they signed declarations that they had arrived in Canada as visitors, but worked without the proper documents. Some hospitality workers have agreed to board flights back to Mexico on their own dime.

Parsons said some have chosen to appeal removal orders, but she's unsure how many.

Some of the contract employees who say they worked for a temp agency, called One Team, have agreed to speak. CBC News has agreed to withhold their names because of the ongoing investigation they are involved in.

"In Lake Louise, they called us like family ... it's kind of sad to say goodbye to this family, and friends," one of the workers said Monday.

A number employees CBC News spoke to said they travelled to Canada from Mexico as tourists, or to visit family here. Then, online over Facebook, they found a post advertising a summer job opportunity.

Employees surprised

They were flown to Alberta, often from Toronto, and started working in the hospitality sector in Lake Louise.

Then, on July 12, the employees were surprised when they were taken for one-on-one interviews, first with police officers who had a translator with them, and then with CBSA.

"We feel, what? What is happening — shocked, feel scared, a lot of things," one worker said Monday.

CBSA did not have any updates on this investigation and referred CBC to previous statements.

"As this is an ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time," said Rebecca Purdy.

In a statement sent Saturday, Anastasia Martin-Stilwell with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts said it was determined that 31 contract workers at the Chateau Lake Louise unknowingly had improper employment documentation to work in Canada.

Martin-Stilwell said Fairmont also cancelled 105 One Team contracts across three of its Alberta-based hotels at the advice of RCMP, CBSA and internal lawyers.

"The contract workers were employed, and paid, by a third-party staffing provider, One Team," read Martin-Stilwell's statement.

"One Team was contracted to be responsible for guaranteeing all appropriate documentation for individuals, complying with all applicable laws and representing that all workers provided to the hotels would be properly hired and have the ability to legally work in Canada."

CBC News has made several attempts to contact One Team over the phone and email, but has not yet had a response.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting