BRITISH COLUMBIA

New Westminster construction company charged with hiring illegal workers

12/06/2013 02:36 EST | Updated 02/05/2014 05:59 EST
NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. - A Metro Vancouver construction company and its owners are accused of employing six foreign nationals without a permit.

The Canada Border Services Agency alleges John and Constantina Psarrakis hired six people to work as labourers for Nektarios Stripping Construction Ltd.

The agency said the workers were hired to strip construction forms from cement at various work sites around the Vancouver area.

The CBSA said the couple was due to make a first court appearance Jan. 8.

But when reached by phone at the company's office, the couple's son, Peter Psarrakis, said neither of his parents knew anything about the charges.

"They're not actually getting charged. My mom is right here in front of me, my dad just pulled up in the driveway."

Psarrakis said the family doesn't know anything about the allegations, or which workers the CBSA claims are involved.

"That's what I don't understand, I'm going to have to call a lawyer, because you're not the first person who has called."

Psarrakis said many of the company's workers are First Nations.

CBSA spokeswoman Faith St. John wouldn't comment on the details of the case, including the nationality of the workers, because the allegations were before the court.

St. John said there was no indication the group was poorly treated, just that the workers were employed illegally.

Figures provided by the CBSA show that since the agency started investigating such employer-related cases in 2006, there have been fewer than 20 convictions.

Most of the fines passed out for a conviction range from $1,000 to $6,000, although a Montreal employer was fined $40,000 earlier this year for a conviction of employing foreign nationals.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association raised privacy concerns earlier this year when border officials took a film crew on the raid of a Vancouver construction site and arrested a number people alleged to be working in the country illegally.

The crew had been gathering footage for the television franchise "Border Security," which airs on Global and the National Geographic Channel.