Brokers pressured immigrants to take unhelpful mentorships: lawyer
Last updated at 6:30 AM on 20/10/07
Middlemen pressured Nova Scotian immigrants to let them arrange pricey business “mentorships” that had nothing to do with their field of expertise, immigration lawyer Lee Cohen said yesterday.
Under a now-defunct part of the Nova Scotia's provincial nominee program, immigrants paid $130,000 to enter the province. In return, they were supposed to gain valuable work experience during a six-month internship with a local company.
Many of those immigrants were left in limbo when they arrived in Canada. The province made little effort to match them with a mentor firm, Cohen said.
Several immigrants called Cohen saying they were being pressured by brokers to take jobs they didn't want, or face deportation.
“The brokers were alleging if the match wasn't made quickly, permanent residency status could be withdrawn,” he said. “It had become quite sordid.”
Neither the province nor the federal government was actually demanding immigrants find mentorships in a hurry. But the newcomers didn't know that.
The nominee program allowed businesses to make $100,000 for mentoring an immigrant. In return, they had to pay the immigrant $20,000 for six months' work. The brokers contacted local businesses and offered to arrange that windfall in return for a piece of the action.
“I heard fees ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 to simply make the match,” Cohen said.
The matches were sometimes incongruous with the immigrants' careers. Cohen said he knows one immigrant with a medical background who was offered a mentorship in a flower shop. In another case, a cook was offered work as a printer.
Cohen said he met with immigration officials last spring to express concern. He learned the brokers were operating without government approval or oversight.
The Office of Immigration offered last week to return up to $60 million in fees to 600 immigrants if they no longer want mentorships. They must live in Nova Scotia for 12 months to collect.
None of the 203 immigrants who already entered or completed a mentorship can get any money back, even if they were pressured to take a job outside their field.
Immigration Minister Carolyn Bolivar-Getson said Thursday she will not investigate the program to see if there was any wrongdoing.
Cohen said the Office of Immigration has done a lot to improve a flawed program it inherited from another department. Recent moves to attract international university graduates and family business workers should stimulate immigration.