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RCMP, CBSA investigating contract foreign workers employment status at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

A Canada Border Services Agency and RCMP investigation at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise will see 31 contract foreign workers employed through a staffing agency required to leave Canada.

LAKE LOUISE – A Canada Border Services Agency and RCMP investigation at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise will see 31 contract workers employed through a third-party staffing agency be required to leave Canada.

The July 12 investigation had Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and RCMP investigate 32 contract workers, with all but one deemed to have improper employment documentation to work in Canada.

Three contract workers spoke with the Outlook on condition they were granted anonymity due to the ongoing investigation they’re now part of.

One person in his 20s said he came from Mexico in the spring after finding an online posting and contacted One Team, a staffing agency now under CBSA and RCMP investigation.

“We don’t know if we have to pay to go home and we don’t know when we have to go home,” the man said. “I just came here to work in the mountains, but it’s a nightmare now.”

One woman, also from Mexico, said she came to Alberta, moved into employee housing and began working in Lake Louise.

They each said employees were taken individually for interviews with police – who had a translator – and CBSA.

“We were told everything was OK,” the woman said through a fellow contract worker acting as a translator. “I obey laws and I wouldn’t break Canadian laws. … I was terrified.”

The three workers said they were told they didn’t have the correct work documentation to be employed in Canada. They said police and CBSA confiscated passports and identification, but were told it would be temporary.

Attempts to reach One Team since July 16 have been unsuccessful.

Anastasia Martin-Stilwell, the regional director of public relations for Fairmont Hotels and Resorts for Canada’s western mountain region, said the workers were hired One Team.

“The contract workers were employed, and paid, by a third-party staffing provider, One Team. Hotels use third-party staffing agencies to assist with challenges related to labour shortages,” she said in an email.

Martin-Stilwell added that after consulting with CBSA, RCMP and internal legal counsel, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts ended all contracts with One Team. There were 105 One Team contract workers at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Fairmont Banff Springs and Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.

“We are very disappointed in the operations of One Team and their negligence in their hiring practices. The decisions made by One Team have real, consequential effects on their contract workers,” she said. “We recognize this is an incredibly challenging time for all those involved. As such, we are working diligently to identify opportunities to support the impacted contract workers to the best of our ability.”

She noted for workers who have legal work documentation, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts are working on a “case-by-case basis to identify potential employment opportunities at out hotels.”

Shortly after the July 12 investigation, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise restaurants and bars are available only to hotel guests due to staffing shortages.

Subsequent questions to Fairmont Hotels and Resorts on how it and One Team began a working relationship and if Fairmont Hotels and Resorts human resources department reviewed the employment documentation have yet to be answered. The Outlook will update the story when a response is provided.

Rebecca Purdy, a senior spokesperson for CBSA, said since it’s an ongoing investigation further comment wouldn’t be available.

She declined to comment if other locations were part of the investigation and what countries the impacted workers were from due to the investigation continuing.

She confirmed the investigation was part of an Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and Criminal Code of Canada investigation.

“When we become aware of situations where there is possible violation of these acts, we investigate and take the appropriate action as mandated by Canadian law,” Purdy said in an email. “We welcome tips and encourage the public to advise us of any suspicious activity.

“Individuals who violate Canada’s immigration laws are subject to serious consequences, including criminal charges, court fines, probation, imprisonment and a criminal record.”

Purdy noted if a person is working in Canada without a valid work permit, CBSA can use “appropriate enforcement action, which may include issuance of a removal order.”

“The agency has a legal obligation to remove all foreign nationals found to be inadmissible to Canada under the IRPA. … The removal of individuals who have no legal right to stay in Canada is necessary to maintain the integrity of Canada’s immigration program,” she said.

“Everyone ordered to be removed from Canada is entitled to due process before the law and removal orders may be subject to various levels of appeal.”

CBSA and RCMP officers completed individual interviews with each worker, Martin-Stilwell said, adding the impacted contracted workers were employed in housekeeping, stewarding, culinary and residence departments.

Wanda Bogdane, the executive director of Banff and Lake Louise Hospitality Association (BLLHA), said they were unsure of the details and only recently made aware of the investigation.

She said has no relationship with One Team, which is not located in the Bow Valley, and are working to better understand the situation.

“BLLHA has had some early discussions with local service providers to try to better understand the situation, but given the negligence was on the part of One Team and we have no contact with them, as you can imagine, there’s still much to learn still,” she said.

Martin-Stilwell said Fairmont Hotels and Resorts are working to help the impacted contract workers with accommodations and food for up to 10 days, free transportation to Calgary or Edmonton and putting them in-touch with support services.

However, under guidance of CBSA, RCMP and legal counsel, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts are not allowed to give financial compensation, she said.

“We are continuing to work cooperatively with CBSA and the RCMP and are conducting an internal audit of all our affiliated hotels across Canada to ensure appropriate employment document of contract workers,” she said.