The chair of a mining company under scrutiny for plans to bring Chinese workers to a B.C. coal project is calling on federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley to clarify statements she made about Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The company says those statements have become an "increasing concern" in a court hearing related to the controversy.
"The presiding Justice has indicated on more than one occasion that your statement has cast a 'cloud' over the [Labour Market Opinions], and has questioned whether your statement constitutes an 'admission' by the government of the matters at issue in the litigation," states the letter, dated November 17 and signed by HD Mining International Ltd. chairman Penggui Yan.
"It is therefore clear that your statement (made the day after this litigation was publicly reported) has unfortunately become a relevant issue in these proceedings."
A November 8 statement by Ms. Finley has come up in a court proceeding brought by two B.C. labour unions that have asked for a judicial review of federal government decisions to provide LMOs relating to about 200 mining positions in B.C.
After weeks of controversy over the pending arrival of several hundred Chinese workers at a B.C. coal project near Tumbler Ridge that is being developed by HD Mining, Ms. Finley issued a statement in which she said the government was "not satisfied with what we have learned about the process that led to permission for hundreds of foreign workers to gain jobs at the Dehua Mines subsidiary in British Columbia."
Canadian Dehua International is a shareholder of HD Mining International, which is developing the Murray River coal project near Tumbler Ridge. HD Mining has already brought nearly 20 Chinese miners to Tumbler Ridge and plans to bring an additional 60 workers to the project in December.
In the letter to Ms. Finley, HD asks several questions of the minister, including whether Ms. Finley is aware of "any error or irregularity in the processing of the LMO applications relative to the applicable law and policy."
A spokeswoman for Ms. Finley said Tuesday she was not able to comment on matters that were before the court.
Employers are required to obtain LMOs – which require employers to outline what steps they have taken to try to hire locally and to provide other information – before they can hire workers under Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker program. The unions maintain the company could have found Canadian workers for the jobs.
In court sessions that began last week, lawyers for HD Mining and the federal government have argued that the unions do not have standing to bring the case. Justice Douglas Campbell is expected to rule on that matter on Thursday.
In her November 8 statement, Ms. Finley also referred to "the requirement that applicants have skills in a foreign language," saying that requirement does not appear to be linked to a genuine job requirement. She also said Ottawa would review the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Part of the controversy around the Chinese workers involves advertisements for jobs at the mine that referred to Mandarin language skills as an asset.
In court, a lawyer representing HD Mining said the company posted many advertisements for different positions that did not include any reference to Mandarin language skills.