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Film Company Accused Of Foreign Worker Fraud, Extortion




CBC News

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Huffington Post British Columbia

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An Iranian couple are going public about how a B.C. business charged them $15,000 to come to Canada — a violation of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program rules — for jobs that turned out to be non-existent.

“We came for job. But they didn't give us,” said Sareh Aminian, who said her husband was only given one day’s paid work. “It makes me crazy.”

The couple entered Canada in March 2013, under contracts with Parvaz Film Corporation originally signed in 2011 and 2012.

Company owner Sherry Soltani and her husband, Majid Mahichi, run a photo studio in Maple Ridge, B.C. They also broadcast cable TV shows in Farsi for the local Persian community.

“After you get this situation, you pay $15,000 and after that … where is my money? Where is my job? I always ask — when can I start my job?” said Aminian’s husband, Payam Bakht.

“I am telling you, I got very, very bad depression. We don't have anybody here. No relative here, no friends here.”

Aminian and Bakht also said that once they were in Canada, Parvaz Film told them that if they paid an additional $1,200 per month to the company in cash, it would remit false payroll taxes to government, so the couple could pretend Bakht was working — and stay in Canada.

“We didn't have job, we had to pay tax, and if we didn't pay tax we had to leave Canada,” said Aminian. “We have to pay $1,200 each month, without any work and without any salary.”

Instead of paying the "tax" to the employer, they cut off all contact and went to an immigration lawyer, who filed a successful refugee claim on their behalf, based partly on evidence from the money-for-jobs scheme.

Serious allegations reported

“Once they got here they were surprised to find not only is there no work for them to do — no salary — but they had to pay the employer even more in order to keep their worker status,” said lawyer Mojdeh Shahriari. “It’s like extortion, really.”

Shahriari alleges the company defrauded the government by giving false information in order to get a positive Labour Market Opinion (permission to hire foreign workers).

“This is a criminal allegation. It remains to be proved. However, it warrants a criminal investigation,” said Shahriari.

Shahriari was worried other workers would be exploited. She reported the case with substantial documentation to the criminal investigations branch of the Canada Border Services Agency, nine months ago.

She can’t understand why the company hasn’t faced any consequences.

“I have been shocked in my practice with a lot of things — but this is extremely shocking to me and disturbing … because the proof was so clearly provided to [CBSA],” she said.

Parvaz Film was advertising jobs for Farsi-speaking applicants as recently as last month, which suggests the company still has permission to hire foreign workers.

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Economic sectors

Occupations in art, culture, recreation and sport - general

Content types

Documented cases of abuse

Target groups

Public awareness

Geographical focuses

British Columbia