Sushi restaurant owner convicted of illegally employing foreign workers

Workers without work permits were paid less than others; appeal court overturns conditional discharge for $15,000 fine
By Sergio Karas
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 11/27/2013

The Manitoba Court of Appeal has levied a substantial fine against a sushi restaurant owner who had received a conditional discharge and probation after pleading guilty to one count of illegal employment of six foreign nationals at his sushi restaurant, contrary to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). With this decision, the court has sent a strong warning to employers across the country against employing foreign workers without obtaining the appropriate work permits.

The accused, Jung Won Choi, 57, owned a sushi restaurant in Winnipeg. As a result of an investigation conducted by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), it was discovered that several South Korean nationals were employed without the appropriate work permits in 2008 and 2009, and were being paid lower wages than other employees of the restaurant. Choi pleaded guilty to one count under the IRPA, which prohibits the employment of a foreign national in a capacity in which she is not authorized to be employed.

At trial, the Crown sought a conviction and substantial fine under the IRPA, which allows a fine of up to $50,000 or imprisonment for up to two years — or both — for such an offence. There is no minimum penalty set out.