THOMPSON, Man. - The owner of a gas bar in northern Manitoba has been fined $12,000 for illegally hiring foreign workers who paid a recruiter thousands of dollars for low-paying jobs in Canada, then were kicked out.

Adnan Chaudhary, the owner of the Shell station in Thompson, pleaded guilty last week to misrepresentation and illegally hiring the temporary foreign workers.

Antonio Laroya, Arnisito Gaviola and Ermie Zotomayor were dubbed the “Three Amigos” by supporters in Manitoba’s Filipino community.

The middle-aged men were laid off from jobs in Alberta and offered work at the gas bar in northern Manitoba.

Their employer was supposed to update their work permits but didn’t, and the men were arrested and lost the source of income their families back home depended on.

An advocate for foreign workers in Manitoba says the fine likely won’t send a message to other employers who rely on cheap foreign labour.

“I don’t think $12,000 dollars is much of a deterrent,” said Diwa Marcelino, who befriended the Filipinos in Winnipeg.

“The savings incentive is so high, that’s why employers bend the rules,” said Marcelino, who is with Migrante Canada. “It’s all about the bottom line.”

Between 2002 and 2008, the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada rose by 148 per cent, to 251,235 from 101,259, a study by the Institute for Research on Public Policy found.

“The fines and likelihood of prosecution is so insignificant, it’s a no-brainer decision for those employers and corporations who have the stomach to exploit migrant workers,” said Marcelino.

The charges against the Thompson gas bar owner resulted from a criminal investigation by the Canada Border Services Agency.

“Violations of Canada’s immigrations laws undermine the integrity of the border and our immigration program,” said Sean Best, CBSA spokesman in Winnipeg.

Border Services works with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to lay charges when there is sufficient evidence to support convictions for deliberate or wilful violations of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, he said.

The Three Amigos said their boss duped them by promising to ensure their work permits were updated. They soon learned their work permits had expired and their boss was the subject of a criminal investigation.

The three were charged with working illegally. They appeared before an Immigration and Refugee Board Tribunal and ordered to leave Canada. Regardless of whether their employer was at fault, they were responsible for making sure their work permits hadn’t expired, the board ruled.

The three men are trying to get their money back from the Toronto recruiter they paid to find them work in Canada, said Marcelino.

In 2007, they got low-paying service jobs in Alberta but were laid off. Now, after being disallowed from entering Canada for one year, the Three Amigos are once again applying for temporary work here, said Marcelino.

(Winnipeg Free Press)

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