Good morning! Wendy Cox here in Vancouver.
Investigative reporter Kathy Tomlinson spend months earlier this year looking into immigration consultants who preyed on international students willing to pay for a shot at permanent residency in Canada, even if it meant paying huge sums of cash to dubious consultants who sometimes didn’t come through as promised.
Her work on labour trafficking has prompted Ottawa to expand a program aimed at protecting foreign workers.
The outpouring of reaction Kathy received during her work pushed her to turn her attention to the trucking industry. Several people she had spoken to told her young people were paying for jobs as truck drivers without realizing what the job entailed and the dangers they would be exposed to: perilous working conditions, low pay, little training and the potential to wreak carnage on Canada’s often-difficult highways.
The results of her investigation were published Saturday. Her story opens with the desperation one young Indian immigrant felt as he realized his new job navigating a semi-trailer through treacherous mountain passes could eventually lead to his death and the death of others.
Mahan Singh came from Amritsar, in northwestern India. He’d never experienced ice or snow. He gave $10,000 in cash to a Surrey, B.C., trucking company to get hired – charging job applicants for a position is against the law.
As Kathy discovered, Surrey is the centre of an entrenched, lucrative and dangerous immigration scheme that is exploiting newcomers and putting lives at risk across the country.
Kathy chronicled the heartbreaking story of Gypsy Hunking, who lost her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend when they were killed when a new trucker on a temporary work permit drove his loaded flatbed through a red light and hit their car. He was 23 with only a year’s driving experience.
Ms. Hunking’s quest for justice ended in frustration: British Columbia would not tell her which carrier the driver was working for, nor would the transportation ministry reveal even whether there was a post-crash investigation into the carrier. Despite the two deaths, the driver walked away with a $3,000 fine for careless driving and a one-year licence suspension.
Since the story ran, Kathy has been inundated with more calls from people with concerns about British Columbia’s trucking industry and the rules that guide it. Two years ago, Ontario brought in mandatory training for anyone applying for a truck drivers’ licence. The Prairie provinces did the same after the tragedy that killed 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team.
But B.C. remains an outlier. It is consulting with industry on the parameters of new rules.
This past weekend, the federal department responsible for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program promised to investigate the allegations of abuse Kathy uncovered. B.C.’s minister of transportation said she has ordered an immediate review of trucking safety standards.
Also this week, Carrie Tait in Alberta reported the government there is working to mitigate unintended consequences following its move to tighten trucking regulations.
The provincial government is moving to help the farming and school bus industry by easing the stricter training and licensing requirements brought in after the Humboldt Broncos crash.
The Globe and Mail has previously reported that the province is considering whether to implement a two-tier system with different rules for the agricultural industry, which argues its workers should be treated differently than commercial long-haul truckers.
The government has now decided to permanently exempt some newly licensed Class 1 and Class 2 drivers who work on farms or drive school buses, in part, the Transportation Minister says, to deal with a backlog in the licensing system.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.
Around the West
INDIGENOUS BUSINESS: A major conference in Vancouver this week will bring together Indigenous entrepreneurs. The three-day World Indigenous Business Forum, held annually since 2009, aims to discuss a range of issues affecting Indigenous businesses while connecting them with customers, investors and suppliers. Reporter Wendy Stueck spoke to one of the participants, Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, about the “blended bottom line,” which takes into account not just profits but also environmental and social factors.
JASON KENNEY: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney used his weekend trip to Ontario, where he went to campaign for the federal Conservatives, to take aim at the immigration system. Mr. Kenney, a former immigration minister, told a room of Chinese-Canadian supporters on Sunday that the Liberals have blown “huge holes” in the process and that it’s time to bring fairness back to the system.
E-SCOOTERS: British Columbia is clearing the way for e-scooters, electric unicycles and other new types of electric-assisted personal transportation. The proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act will clarify how – and where – emerging personal transportation devices are to be used. It will allow pilot projects in communities to evaluate new types of vehicles, or to test new approaches to licensing, driver training or enforcement mechanisms. Calgary and Edmonton became the first cities to pilot commercial e-scooter rentals, and the results have been mixed.
B.C. GREENS: Andrew Weaver plans to step down as leader of the B.C. Greens next year, leaving a party he propelled into the halls of power after striking a deal to prop up the province’s NDP minority government. Mr. Weaver made the announcement after a health scare with a condition called labyrinthitis. Here’s a look at labyrinthitis, which is an inner-ear disorder.
CARIBOU: A First Nation in British Columbia is accusing the provincial government of failing to protect dwindling caribou herds in the Chilcotin region, and it’s taking matters into its own hands. The Tsilhqot’in National Government has announced its own herd management plan, which will including asking snowmobilers and logging contractors to stay out of certain areas in the Chilcotin region, an area west of Williams Lake in the B.C. Interior.
PRIEST TRIAL: A civil trial over allegations that a Catholic priest repeatedly assaulted a B.C. woman in the 1970s opened this week in a Vancouver courtroom. The case began with a focus on whether the church can also be part of the lawsuit.
OIL SANDS: The largest pension fund in Norway has removed four Canadian energy companies from its investment list as it limits its exposure to the Alberta oil sands.
Jeffrey Jones on the Alberta Energy Regulator: “It’s an ideal time for Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party government to turn the page on the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) after a period of scandal and blunder that has shaken the industry’s and the public’s confidence in it. It will now be up to both constituencies to determine whether the government strikes a balance between running a regulator that does not bog down responsible oil and gas and making sure a multibillion-dollar problem of underfunded environmental liability is dealt with. ”
Adrienne Tanner on Vancouver’s rental housing debate: “This protest effectively robs middle-class renters of places to live and does nothing to alleviate poverty, stop gentrification or increase affordable-housing stock for low-income people.”
Gary Mason on the federal election debate: “No, this debate was truly one for the ages and not in a good way. The rules need to change. The leaders need to grow up. We all need to demand better.”