Last week, I received a call from a person I consider “reliable,” informing me that a recent immigrant to PEI told him that he was able to get his federal Permanent Canadian Residency status thanks to the PEI government, through a quite elaborate scheme orchestrated by some PEI Immigration consultants and their companies.  What my source heard shocked him, and although skeptical, was able to verify it was true after speaking with an Island Immigration Intermediary.  Here’s how the scheme works.

An Island business (I wasn’t informed which one) was paid $30,000 by an Island Immigration Agent (I wasn’t informed which Island Intermediary) to simply offer him a job and pretend he was working for his company if ever questioned. Then the immigrant provided the Intermediary with $170,000 to cover the costs of the job, including his own salary, his employee contributions and taxes, as well as all the employer’s deductions and costs.

I thought this was pretty-far out there to be honest, but I trusted my source enough to pass this information on to a reputable local journalist.

Then on Sunday, (September 16, 2019) I received an email from my initial source with a link to a CBC article and a note saying: “This is what I’m talking about.”

After reading that investigative report, there is now absolutely no doubt in my mind that what I was told about another corrupt PNP scam operating in PEI is sadly true.

CBC Reporter Geoff Leo broke the story on Saturday (September 15, 2019) titled: “Toronto immigration firm charges $170K for fake Canadian job,” Geoff Leorevealing shocking details about how immigration consultants are using exactly the same approach as was explained to me last week to scam PR status out of the government.  I trust you will take the time to read this important article in its entirety, but for the purpose of this blog article, I want to highlight a few details that connect directly to Atlantic Canada and PEI.

Geoff Leo’s Investigation of PNP Immigration Fraud

Posing as a wealthy foreign national seeking permanent residency in Canada – and with the help of a translator – Mr. Leo established a relationship with a Toronto-based immigration consulting company, WonHonTa Consulting Inc., and eventually received a job offer proposal costing $170,000 for a bogus job, an amount explained as needed to cover the “Canadian employer’s fee, the paper trail, and their own wage.”

The owner of WonHonTa suggested either Saskatchewan or Atlantic provinces for the provincial nominee application:

Song recommended the undercover journalist consider either Saskatchewan or Atlantic Canada because the qualification requirements are low and the wait times are short. He said it’s $180,000 for a job in Saskatchewan or $170,000 for the Atlantic provinces.

The reporter was told that WonHonTa had placed more thanIf you don't work a dozen people in Atlantic Canada in the previous year, saying his company had a “…national network of head hunters who help recruit willing employers,” some of which he claimed were government immigration officials.

The following information in the CBC article grabbed my attention:

Erica Stanley, an immigration consultant in Charlottetown, told CBC she’s been flooded with calls from foreign nationals looking for an employment offer. “So, just the volume of phone calls is ridiculous. And my inbox is full of website inquiries,” Stanley said. “They’re like, ‘Well, we’re willing to pay.’ I said, ‘Oh I’m sure you are but it’s illegal to do that.’ ‘Oh, but everybody’s doing it.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s nice, then you can find someone else who can do it.'”

I know Erica very well. When I was the Executive Director of the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada from 2000-2010, Erica was the Coordinator of our Community Outreach Program for most of that time, before she left to work with international students at UPEI.  She later moved into the immigration consultant business (Mazu Consortium Ltd) and is currently one of the 12 intermediaries authorized to submit PNP nominations to the PEI government.

Below is a list of the twelve (12) immigration companies or “intermediaries,” but first a bit of background – up until recently, there were only seven (7) intermediaries:

Seven Intermediaries

On June 28/17, under the former Liberal government, Executive Council authorized Island Investment Development Inc. (IIDI) to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to expand and designate up to 10 Island agents for a five-year term. In the end, 12 companies were granted “intermediary” status.

For reasons I’m not privy to, HP Consultants was dropped from the initial seven (Henry Philips currently has a lawsuit against the PEI government regarding this matter) and six new companies were added to the original list. The current intermediaries are as follows:

12 companies

I have full confidence that Ms. Stanley would never be involved in such an unethical and illegal scam, and her quick assessment that what she is continually being solicited to do by would-be immigrants is “illegal,” – and her candid discussion with Geoff Leo about that solicitation – bears that out.

However, there are eleven other companies feeding PNP nominations to the PEI government, and it would appear one or more of them are involved in this PNP corruption.  I was told by my source that there is such a shortage of skilled construction workers that the Intermediaries are choosing occupations in this sector to expedite processing times and avoid scrutiny.

Little is apparently being done to follow-up on worker applicants by Canadian Immigration officials – both federal and provincial – but the statistics with those audits and reviews that have occurred should definitely have raised enough red flags for government to take action to put an end to this corrupt practice, at both federal and provincial levels:

“21 of the 33 files chosen for review found the applicants were not working for the employer or had never worked for the employer.” 

It is important to understand that there are actually several different PNP programs or “streams” under which workers can come to PEI and become Permanent Canadian Residents:  the one that allows this particular scheme to operate in PEI is called the “Atlantic Immigration Pilot”.

The Atlantic Immigration Pilot

This federal program was launched in March 2017 in all four Atlantic provinces, and has just recently been extended for another 2 years, so it’s really no longer a “pilot” project. It is an employer-driven program that facilitates the hiring of foreign workers. All principal applicants arriving in Canada under the pilot program must have a job offer from a designated employer.

How many designated businesses for the Atlantic Immigration Pilot exist in PEI?

A CBC article published October, 2018 stated that: “More than 200 companies on P.E.I. are now designated to apply to hire foreign nationals under the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program (AIPP).”  The PEI government needs to make public an updated list of those designated companies, and I suspect there will now be many more companies on the list.

It would be interesting  to see exactly how many of the total number of designated businesses are “newly registered companies”and bona fide businesses, and how many are doing little or no business beyond offering bogus jobs to wealthy foreigners so they can become Permanent Residents of Canada, and receiving extremely lucrative sums for doing essentially no work. 

Immediate PEI Government Action Required

As you can see from the most recent Annual Report of Island Investment Development Inc., there are really only about 4-5 hundred Atlantic Immigration Pilot files that would need to be investigated.

Immigration stats PEI

And by “investigate,” I mean sending someone to the workplace (multiple times if necessary) to discover whether the person is actually working for the company as stated on the paperwork –  which we can assume will all be in perfect order, and “technically” meeting all the terms and conditions stipulated for the program.  As the Immigration consultant told Geoff Leo:

“For Immigration Canada, they are understaffed,” Liu said. “The massive size of the country makes it impossible to pull resources for site visits just to find out if you are actually working at this company.” However, in the unlikely event that an immigration official makes an unexpected site visit to see if the foreign national is at work, Liu said the employer would say the worker was out of the office on business.

A less comprehensive and extensive investigation requiring fewer resources and time would look at just those files in the Atlantic Pilot Program processed since the PNP-Investor Program was shut down in September, 2018, as a result of fraud concerns (See: “Citing concerns, P.E.I. shutting down PNP’s immigrant entrepreneur program“).

I suspect that it was at the time that the PNP Investor stream ended that creative thinking caps were dawned to come up with a new way to keep already lined-up Investor clients happy and the big bucks flowing.

The Atlantic Immigration Pilot allotment for PEI in 2018 was 220 people – a provincial annual allotment which Jamie Aiken, the executive director of P.E.I.’s Office of Immigration reported would easily be filled – so an initial investigation should focus on Atlantic Immigration Pilot files processed in the last quarter of 2018, and the first three quarters of 2019 (likely a couple of hundred people). A thorough examination of those cases would tell the tale on whether the people receiving immediate Permanent Resident status thanks to the PEI government’s nominations are actually “at the job”.

If the statistics cited in the CBC Investigation article by Geoff Leo are accurate, Atlantic Canada – and PEI – are clearly infected with this latest PNP malignancy.

The King government needs to immediately reassure Islanders that this matter will be properly dealt with by announcing some form of investigation or inquiry by an objective agent with a credible degree of independence (perhaps the RCMP) to determine the extent to which this egregious and fraudulent scheme reported by Mr. Leo is operating in PEI.