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St. Paul's Ukrainian Orthodox priest, John Lipinski, has been on a leave of absence since June, 2011.
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Kihew Energy Services fined $215,000

Local company admits to foreign worker scheme

Oct 12, 2012 11:00 am | Janani Whitfield

A company partly owned by a Ukrainian Orthodox priest has been fined $215,000, after admitting to exploiting Polish foreign workers.

On Oct. 9, Kihew Energy Services Ltd. entered a plea agreement, acknowledging that it had violated Section 117 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which forbids anyone to aid or abet a person to enter Canada without a proper visa.

All charges were dropped against the owners and directors of the company, Father John Lipinski, who served St. Paul's Ukrainian Orthodox church for several years, and his business partner Calvin Steinhauer. Lipinski's wife Angela was originally charged as well.

The company was sentenced to pay $215,000 to Lakeland College for the college to set up translation and training programs for future temporary foreign workers within the next two years.

Caroline Yewchin, president of the Bonnyville and District Ukrainian Orthodox Parish Council, called the turn of events "unfortunate."

"I think many of us feel bad," she said of the congregation's reaction to the news. "It has been indeed an unfortunate situation." However, she said Lipinski had made "positive impacts" in the years he had worked in St. Paul, including working with youth and bringing the parish churches together.

He has been on a leave of absence from the position since June 2011, when charges were first laid against the Lipinskis and Steinhauer, including charges of organizing entry to Canada by threat, deception or fraud under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act as well as a criminal charge under the proceeds of crime section.

In Lipinski's absence, the local church has been assigned a priest who comes in from Edmonton to conduct services, said Yewchin. In the midst of this news, she said the focus is on the church's congregation. "What we need to do is focus on keeping our church family strong and charting a course for our future."

According to the agreed upon statement of facts presented in Edmonton court on Tuesday, Kihew Energy Services, which was started up in 2004, recruited Polish welders and machinists to come and work in Canada. But instead of coming on work visas, the company obtained student visas for the workers through Paul Myshaniuk, with Lakeland College, who sent letters to Canada Immigration accepting the foreign workers as students. In return, Kihew gave $215,000 to Lakeland College. Myshaniuk, who was acting without the knowledge of the college, was later fired.

Some of the workers chose to take ESL classes, but none of the foreign workers attended the college for welding classes as indicated on their student visas; instead, according to the statement, Kihew contracted them out to several businesses, charging them out for $24/hour, while paying the workers between $10 and 12 an hour. Workers received no compensation for overtime and no deductions were taken for pensions or employment insurance. According to the statement of facts, Kihew profited by about $20 per hour per worker, and more through overtime rates.

A director for Canada Immigration in Edmonton received information about these workers and interviewed them on Sept. 30, 2006. "None of them were aware that they were working in Canada illegally," the statement of facts states.

The case marks the first conviction under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in Alberta.

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