BC Building Trades unions win disclosure of Chinese coal miner documents

Yesterday, BC Building Trades unions won in Federal Court against Human Resources and Skills Development Canada Minister Diane Finley. For details on the case please see the press release below.

BC Building Trades unions win in Federal Court as judge orders federal Cabinet Minister Diane Finley to “further consider the scope and nature of her compliance” with a court order to compel disclosure of Chinese coal miner documents requested by union for judicial review of Temporary Foreign Worker. Federal Court finds that Minister has the power to suspend Labour Market Opinions for non-production.

 

Vancouver – BC’s Building Trades unions won another major victory today when Federal Court Justice Michael Manson ordered Cabinet Minister Diane Finley to “further consider the scope and nature of her compliance” with a court order to compel disclosure documents requested by union for a judicial review of Temporary Foreign Worker permits granted to HD Mining to bring Chinese coal miners to BC.

 

Manson’s ruling also dismissed a federal Department of Justice motion to set aside a previous court order to produce documents sought by the unions in the case and gave Finley, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada Minister, a deadline of January 21 if “further demands or actions to compel are to be made” by her to force HD Mining to produce documents that include the resumes of 300 Canadians who applied for coal mining jobs in Tumbler Ridge but were all rejected.

 

Manson also agreed with union legal counsel arguments that Finley does indeed have the power as minister to compel document production and to suspend Labour Market Opinions used to grant the Temporary Foreign Worker permits in the event that HD Mining or any other company refuses to produce documents ordered by a court.

 

While Manson’s ruling says Finley has “discretion” as Minister in considering how to force HD Mining to comply with the previous court order, says union lawyer Charles Gordon, the judge also says that Finley’s failure to push for disclosure “may draw an “adverse inference” by another judge who will hear the unions’ judicial review application.

 

“We are extremely pleased with Justice Manson’s decision because it should strongly encourage the Minister to ensure that HD Mining discloses the resumes of 300 Canadians who applied for coal mining jobs in Tumbler Ridge but were all rejected, leading to the government issuing Temporary Foreign Worker permits for the Chinese coal miners,” says Charles Gordon. “It is clear that if that doesn’t happen, it will be held against the Minister in the Court’s consideration of our application to overturn the LMOs issued.”

 

Brian Cochrane, Business Manager of the IUOE Local 115, one of the two Building Trades unions that have brought the legal action, said the decision is welcome but ironic.

 

“It’s a very strange situation that two unions have to go to Federal Court to prove that the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada actually has the power to run her own ministry and enforce its regulations,” Cochrane said.  “The fact that this case is setting precedents about the ability of the government to properly monitor and regulate the Temporary Foreign Worker program is evidence itself that this needs a full review immediately.”

 

Mark Olsen, Business Manager for the Construction and Specialized Workers Union Local 1611 – the other Building Trades union in the case, said that while the legal process has been frustratingly long the results will likely have a lasting impact on the Temporary Foreign Worker program in Canada.

 

“Amazingly, no one has challenged the basics of a program that brings 180,000 Temporary Foreign Worker to Canada each year and asked for assurances that rules are followed to protect Canadian workers,” Olsen said.  “This case is changing all that.”

 

Gordon said that a union contempt of court application filed against Finley after her ministry refused to force HD Mining to obey a Federal Court order is still in abeyance but that he hopes the unions do not have to reactivate it at a future date.

 

“Our contempt application was a last resort to force compliance with a Federal Court order and we hope that with the new ruling Minister Finley and her officials will demand HD Mining disclose documents that the Court ruled we have a right to see to make our application for judicial review,” Gordon said.

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