EDMONTON – An Alberta company owned by an Orthodox priest has been fined $215,000 for bringing in foreign welders and machinists from Europe and exploiting them for profit.
Kihew Energy Services Ltd. pleaded guilty Tuesday to breaching the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in what police are calling a human trafficking case.
The fine is to be paid to northern Alberta’s Lakeland College, which the court said was unknowingly utilized by Kihew in the commission of the offence.
The guilty plea came in exchange for withdrawing individual charges against the owners of Kihew, including Father John Lipinski, 43, of St. Paul, Alta., his wife, Angela, 42, and Calvin Steinhauer, 38, of Goodfish Lake, Alta.
The investigation found that Kihew placed ads in a Polish newspaper and on a website to recruit European welders and machinists to come to work in Canada.
An arrangement was made between Kihew and a college employee, who has since been fired, to pass the workers off as students training in welding and English as a second language.
The first group of 60 foreign workers arrived in December, 2005.
A few of them attended some ESL classes but none attended the welding classes they were required to under their student visas.
The court found that Kihew contracted out the foreign workers to several businesses at a high hourly rate of pay but the workers themselves made very little.
Court was told Kihew made about one million dollars through the scheme.
RCMP Sgt. Patrick Webb said at the time the workers were promised they could legally work in Canada and after six months bring their families here.
He said they signed work contracts stating that they could be fined $25,000 and deported if they didn’t follow the rules.
“They were also told, very explicitly, not to discuss their wages or the arrangements of how they came to be in Canada,” Webb said. “They didn’t speak and read English so they were going on what they had been told. It was simply a case of being exploited.”
Lipinski has been releived of his duties at parishes in St. Paul and Bonnyville by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada.