Alberta Politics
Former Alberta deputy premier and minister of employment and immigration Thomas Lukaszuk (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Former Alberta immigration minister asks federal immigration minister for investigation of UCP candidate’s alleged immigration practices

Posted on February 06, 2019, 1:08 am
6 mins

Former Alberta employment and immigration minister Thomas Lukaszuk has written federal immigration minister Ahmed Hussen urging him to open a formal investigation into serious allegations a temporary foreign worker was improperly treated by a business person who is now a United Conservative Party candidate in Calgary.

Mr. Lukaszuk, who was also Alberta’s deputy premier during the Progressive Conservative government of Alison Redford, notes in his letter to Mr. Hussen that as a former provincial employment and immigration minister he has “considerable knowledge on the subject of the Temporary Foreign Workers program and the potential for abuse under this system.”

Calgary-Falconridge UCP candidate Devinder Toor (Photo: Facebook).

Mr. Lukaszuk’s letter to Mr. Hussen references the serious allegations by Amandeep Singh Panesar, who said he arrived in Canada from Punjab in 2008 as a TFW, about Devinder Toor, the UCP candidate in the Calgary-Falconridge riding. Mr. Panesar’s sworn statement has been widely distributed on social media and to journalists.

In the sworn statement – the authenticity of which was confirmed to PressProgress by Ashok Sareen, the Calgary Commissioner of Oaths who also signed the letter – Mr. Panesar described events he said took place when he went to work at a Calgary liquor store owned by Mr. Toor in 2008. These, he said in his statutory declaration, included discovering the position he was told in India he had been hired to fill did not actually exist, being paid less than the agreed upon amount, having wages withheld, having to work seven days a week, and being asked to surrender his passport to his employer.

In conversations he had with Mr. Panesar, Mr. Lukaszuk wrote, the former TFW “told me that he raised these concerns earlier, in writing, with Alberta’s United Conservative Party leader, Jason Kenney.”

Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen (Photo: Bruce Reeve, Creative Commons).

Mr. Kenney, it must be noted, was during part of his lengthy tenure as a Conservative MP in Ottawa the federal minister of Citizenship and Immigration embroiled in a bitter national controversy about the federal TFW program and its abuse by some employers.

“Unfortunately,” Mr. Lukaszuk wrote to Mr. Hussen, “these allegations were dismissed by UCP without being forwarded for proper investigation.”

“When anyone is made aware of allegations of abuse, I would hope that they would immediately refer these concerns to the RCMP and/or the Federal Minister so that they can be thoroughly investigated,” he continued. Noting that TFWs’ financial and immigration status often makes them vulnerable, he added, “these workers deserve our protection and they are entitled to have their complaints fully investigated by the proper authorities, not by unqualified, partisan internal political panels.”

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney, a former federal minister of citizenship and immigration (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“It is unconscionable that any organization, particularly a political party led by a former minister of Citizenship and Immigration would not pass such information on to appropriate authorities,” Mr. Lukaszuk said to Mr. Hussen.

“In view of the above, I am writing you today in hopes that you will consider opening an investigation into Mr. Panesar’s serious allegations,” Mr. Lukaszuk concluded.

You have to wonder if Jason Kenney will come to rue the day he called Thomas Lukaszuk a foul-mouthed epithet in an email and then hit “reply all,” sending it to the office and political staff of all Conservative MPs in Ottawa, presumably to ensure Mr. Lukaszuk was made aware of his sentiments.

That was in 2012. Responding to a request by an aide asking if any Conservative MP would host Mr. Lukaszuk, then the deputy premier, during a visit to Ottawa, Mr. Kenney responded, misspelling the minister’s name, “I say a definite ‘no’ to Lukaszyk. I don’t think it makes sense to create a precedent to do a special caucus meeting for every visiting minister from the provincial government. Plus he is a complete and utter asshole.”

Mr. Kenney eventually apologized – after being asked three times in the House of Commons by then acting Liberal Leader Bob Rae if he would do so – but a legacy doubtless remains.

This is certainly not to suggest Mr. Lukaszuk is not sincere about the concerns for foreign working people on the path to citizenship expressed in his letter. But it’s probable Mr. Kenney’s history nevertheless lent a certain grim satisfaction to Mr. Lukaszuk’s request.

CORRECTION: Canada’s immigration minister is Ahmed Hussen, whose surname was misspelled by the author in an earlier version of this post. regrets the error, and has no one to blame but the proprietor. Thanks to the author’s sister, the smart one in the family, for pointing out the error. DJC

5 Comments to: Former Alberta immigration minister asks federal immigration minister for investigation of UCP candidate’s alleged immigration practices

  1. David

    February 6th, 2019

    Another day, another potential UCP scandal. I was wondering when the former Alberta Deputy Premier might pop up again for a grudge match with Kenney. It seems like this is it.

    However, I agree one should not dismiss Mr. Lucaszuk’s concerns because of past bad blood between him and Kenney. This matter should be looked into with an effort to get at the facts and not dismiss this or sweep it under the carpet. Serious allegations deserve a serious and real investigation.

    Mr. Kenney with the image of power he likes to portray might seem to have the advantage here, so it might seem like David vs. Goliath with Kenney being the later. However Mr. Lucaszuk is not without some strengths. First of all, there are a number of people from the previous Alberts government who for their own reasons resisted the strong arm call to jump on the UCP bandwagon. I suspect Mr. Lucaszuk knows them and will have their support. Second, Mr. Lucaszuk spent more than 4 days in Alberta in 2015, so this rematch is arguably on his home turf. Mr. Kenney does not have the advantage of throwing missives from a powerful position in Ottawa this time. I have a feeling Kenney who I think prefers offence, may be a bit unexpectedly on defence once again this time.

  2. tom in ontario

    February 6th, 2019

    “Plus he is a complete and utter asshole.” Jason needs to be reminded of the old cliche, when you point the finger at someone, three more are pointing back at you.

  3. ronmac

    February 6th, 2019

    Being paid less than agreed amount. Wages being withheld. Working seven days a week. Sounds like the Kenny has found his next labour minister.

  4. Valerie Jobson

    February 6th, 2019

    Is this a good time to bring up the defunding of Kairos, with Kenney smearing the organization? There were several reasons why the Harper government probably disliked Kairos, but I always wondered if one important motive was its support for the rights of migrant workers including TFWs.

    About the defunding:

  5. Farmer Dave

    February 7th, 2019

    Isn’t what Jason Kenney was doing paying rent for his mother (called basement rent) similar to what Derek Fildebrandt was doing with his BB and he was fired by Jason Kenney for this. Maybe Jason Kenney should fire himself over another one of his debacles.


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