POLITICS

Alberta company owned by priest fined for exploiting foreign workers

10/09/2012 09:53 EDT | Updated 12/09/2012 05:12 EST

An Alberta company, Kihew Energy Services Ltd., was fined $215,000 after pleading guilty earlier this month to breaching the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in what police have called 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.

Individual charges were withdrawn against Father John Lipinski, 43, of St. Paul, Alta., his wife, Angela, 42, and Calvin Steinhauer, 38, of Goodfish Lake, Alta.

The agreed statement of facts in the case said Steinhaur and John Lipinski are the "sole shareholders and directors with Steinhaur being president and holding 51 per cent of the issued shares and Lipinski being vice-president and holding 49 per cent of the issued shares. "

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.

The agreed statement of facts said once the foreign workers were recruited by Kihew, Paul Myshaniuk, on behalf of Lakeland College, sent letters to Canada Immigration accepting the foreign workers as students. The workers were allowed into the country on student visas and Kihew forwarded the $215,000 to Lakeland.

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.

"Note to Readers: This is a clarified story. Aspects clarified include that an earlier version did not specify that John Lipinski held 49 per cent of issued shares of Kihew Energy Services Ltd."