Unions file contempt application over Chinese miners case in BC

BC’s Building Trades unions announced today that they will be forced to file a contempt of court application against federal Human Resources and Skills Development Canada Minister Diane Finley after Chinese coal company HD Mining refused to produce court-ordered documents.

Charles Gordon, lawyer for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115 and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union Local 1611, said that because HD Mining is refusing to produce Temporary Foreign Workers documents the court ordered turned over to the unions and a government lawyer says it has no power to force compliance, the unions have no choice but to file a contempt of court application against Finley.

“We will be bringing a motion of contempt against the Minister,” Gordon told Justice Douglas Campbell and Justice Michael Manson in federal court. “We are having the minister served right now – we have no choice.”

The unions are attempting to obtain a judicial review of HD Mining’s permit for 200 Temporary Foreign Workers from China to begin development of a coal mine near Tumbler Ridge in northern BC, arguing that qualified Canadian workers were not considered.  HD Mining has 300 Canadian applications, ut has hired none of them yet.

Documents previously obtained through a court hearing clearly showed HD Mining’s application to import Temporary Foreign Workers for its Murray River Mine near Tumbler Ridge has checked off under “Section 60 – Language Requirements” under the Oral portion “Other” and states:

“The Chinese workers will speak Chinese in a team environment and will receive English language training as per the attached TFW transition Plan.”

“We say the Minister clearly has the ability to enforce this order – she must – or the integrity of the Temporary Foreign Workers program is at risk,” Gordon said, noting that Finley will be served with a copy of the court order as soon as possible and then the union will file its contempt application.  A “show cause” court hearing is scheduled for January 9 to determine if the contempt motion will be heard.  If so, Finley would be compelled to testify.

“We have to resort to a contempt of court application against a federal cabinet minister because the government says it has no power to obey a court order demanding HD Mining disclose documents it used to allow 200 Chinese miners to come to Canada as Temporary Foreign Workers,” IUOE Local 115 Business Manager Brian Cochrane said. 

“How ridiculous can this get?  Who is in charge here – the government or HD Mining?”

BC Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair says it’s clear that the entire Temporary Foreign Worker Program needs a full review.

“This court hearing is showing that the way companies are bringing Temporary Foreign Workers to Canada is completely out of control,” Sinclair said.  “To hear a government lawyer state in court that the Minister has no legal grounds to force production of HD Mining records proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt.  Those are the records the government would need to see to verify HD Mining’s claim there were no qualified Canadians for the jobs.”

Mark Olsen, Business Manager for the Construction and Specialized Workers Union Local 1618, said the whole case has already shown that Canadian workers’ interests are not being protected.

“Temporary Foreign Workers are being used to replace qualified Canadian workers in very large numbers and without any adequate controls on the process – that’s simply wrong and we expect a judicial review will show just how wrong it is in the HD Mining case,” Olsen said.

Some of the Chinese miners are already in BC, with more scheduled to arrive soon.

The Temporary Foreign Worker program was also sharply criticized this month after Chinese workers complained that unscrupulous employers were demanding a fee for the opportunity to work in Canada.


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