The Supreme Court of British Columbia has certified a class-action lawsuit against Mac's Convenience Stores and three immigration consultants alleged to have collected thousands of dollars from foreign workers who were promised jobs that didn't exist.
A written decision posted Tuesday says the case involves employment contracts for work at Mac's stores in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories under Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
The decision says four representative plaintiffs paid up to $8,500, only to arrive in Canada to learn there were no jobs at Mac's, they couldn't work elsewhere and their money would not be returned, the decision says.
The plaintiffs represent about 450 workers, including Prakash Basyal, a Nepalese man who was recruited at a job fair in Dubai.
Mr. Basyal says in an affidavit that he met immigration consultant Kuldeep Bansal at a recruitment fair in the summer of 2012 and was told he'd be guaranteed a job in Canada if he paid $8,000.
Mr. Bansal arranged for him to be interviewed in Dubai by a Mac's representative in November, 2012, and again in February, 2013, by phone, Mr. Basyal says in the document, adding he signed an employment contract a month later to work at a Mac's store for two years at a wage of $11.40 an hour.
Overseas Immigration Services, Overseas Career and Consulting Services and Trident Immigration Services are named as defendants in the lawsuit, and the decision says they are related companies controlled by Mr. Bansal, whose sister is the sole director of Trident.
The class-action designation allows the hearing to go forward as a single case, but the allegations have not been tested in court. Lawyers for Mac's and the consulting firms declined comment.
The written ruling from Justice Arne Silverman says a class-action lawsuit, not individual trials, is the most practical means of resolving the issues.
"It will involve less judicial resources, will provide access to justice to potential plaintiffs, will promote behaviour modification, and it will do all of those things with much more efficiency than will the possibility of numerous small claims trials."
Mr. Basyal's affidavit says he arrived in Vancouver and received a permit allowing him to work at a Mac's store in Edmonton.
"In or around May 2014, Mr. Bansal told me that there was no work for me as a cashier at the Mac's store in Edmonton," Mr. Basyal says in the affidavit. "He told me that he would send me to work on a farm for a few months. I refused."
As a temporary foreign worker, Mr. Basyal was not authorized to work elsewhere. He ended up working at a bottle depot in Calgary, where he was picked up by Canada Border Services Agency for working illegally, the document says.
"I felt humiliated and fearful when the CBSA officers detained me because I had never been placed in handcuffs or arrested before and had no idea what was going to happen to me," Mr. Basyal says in the affidavit.
He was never given a job at Mac's in accordance with the terms of my employment contract, it says.
"After arriving in Canada, I was anxious and scared when I discovered that I had come all the way to Canada after quitting my job in Abu Dhabi to find that there was no job for me. My pride was wounded and I was very worried about what my parents, friends and others back home would think when they found out."
Mr. Basyal and the other plaintiffs are alleging breach of contract involving promised jobs, recruitment fees and payment of airline tickets and accommodation; negligent representation; fraudulent misrepresentation and conspiracy; as well as other allegations.
Susanna Quail, a lawyer for Mr. Basyal and the other plaintiffs, said they were "distraught" when they discovered they had no jobs.
"They're out all this money, they get to Canada and they don't know anyone," she said in an interview on Tuesday.
"They get here and they're housed with five people to a hotel room or 12 people in a basement suite, some people without any furnishings or heat."