One of Canada’s most well-known Rocky Mountain hotels, the Chateau Lake Louise, is reeling after a border services agency found 31 members of the hotel’s staff unknowingly had “improper employment documentation” and ordered the workers out of the country.
Border officials travelled to Banff National Park last week as part of an investigation into staffing operations at the historic hotel, which has sat on the shores of the iconic glacial waters of Lake Louise for more than a century.
There, they interviewed 32 contract workers who had been hired by a third-party staffing company and concluded that all but one had improper documentation, including work permits and visas, according to a statement from a spokesperson for Fairmont Hotel and Resorts, which operates the Chateau.
The workers were provided and paid by third-party organization One Team, a staffing strategy used to address shortages, hotel spokesperson Anastasia Martin-Stilwell said. The company had 105 workers supplied by the same company at their three luxury mountain hotels: the Chateau in Lake Louise, the Banff Springs and the Jasper Park Lodge. The Star has reached out to One Team for comment.
Fairmont said it has ended the contract with the company, meaning an “immediate end” to those workers’ shifts, regardless of their immigration paperwork.
Those affected worked in the housekeeping, stewarding, culinary and residence divisions and the hotel spokesperson said it is working diligently to minimize any impact on guests.
The move has been a blow to the individuals affected, many of whom were from Mexico and are now out of a job. According to an unaffected staffer, many were unaware of the paperwork issues and were given little notice that they were going to have to leave.
The hotel said they have offered the workers food and lodging for up to 10 days, transport to Edmonton or Calgary and was “connecting them with services that can support them in this transitory period.”
According to CBSA and their own lawyers, the hotel is not able to provide them with financial compensation, Martin-Stilwell said.
“We are continuing to work cooperatively with CBSA and the RCMP and are conducting an internal audit of all our affiliated hotels across Canada to ensure appropriate employment documentation of contract workers.”
A spokesperson for the Canadian Border Services Agency, or CBSA, said this was an ongoing investigation, and that it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the exact nature of the immigration issues and whether the affected people had any ability to correct the problem.
The incident comes as hotels and operators in tourism hotspots such as the Canadian Rockies struggle to scale up for the first summer season in two years relatively unhampered by pandemic protections.
In April, local paper the Rocky Mountain Outlook reported that the tourist-dependent area in and around Banff was facing a roughly 30 per cent labour shortage; a drought caused by slower processing times of applications of temporary foreign workers and fewer workers from Eastern Canada. Foreign workers typically make up about a third of the local labour pool, the paper said.
The day following the visit from border services, the general manager of the hotel, Tracy Lowe, sent an email to all remaining staff saying that management was “managing a situation” involving their third-party staffing provider. The hotel subsequently stopped accepting dining reservations from people not staying on site.
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