HOW I WAS RECRUITED BY SNC FROM THE U.K TO WORK IN CANADA, AS A PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER – AND HOW THE TROUBLE STARTED
1. It all started in 1981 when SNC Inc (now SNC-Lavalin), based in Montreal, Quebec, advertised in a British national daily newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, on May 15th 1981, for professional engineers to work for them.
June 1983 Report para 1 HERE
Newspaper ad. - CLICK HERE
2. I applied, was interviewed in London, England by SNC Inc. representatives and immediately offered a permanent job.
One of the interviewers – Chief Mechanical Engineer, Mr. E. Schulz – told me that SNC were looking for about 120 people. He also said there was enough work to keep the company busy for 10 years, based on the oil industry boom then current, and work on such oil sands projects as Alsands and Cold Lake in the form projected at the time.
June 1983 Report para 2 HERE
3. The job offer was confirmed in writing (July 15th, 1981) a few weeks later and appeared to promise work for at least two years. June 1983 Report para 3 HERE
Job offer from SNC - CLICK HERE
4. On receipt of SNC's letter of July 27th, 1981 I applied to the Canadian High Commission in London, England for Landed Immigrant Status. Some weeks later, I had a letter from the Canadian High Commission notifying me of interviews with them and also Quebec Government representatives on November 11th, 1981: on receiving this letter, I wrote to Danielle Pagé at SNC informing her of this.
In July, 1981 I also informed my last U.K. employers - Whitbread & Co. about my plans to go to Canada because they had plans to send me to Nigeria eventually but at some indeterminate date.
June 1983 Report para 4 HERE
Professional frustration in the U.K. – but, of course, it’s nobody’s fault:-
On the other hand the situation at Whitbread was unsatisfactory for me on account of a seemingly endless succession of brewery design and construction projects failing to materialise, leading to a scenario of endless professional frustration. The cause of this was corruption in Nigeria and indecision on the part of prospective clients in Nigeria.
In addition to this I had become totally - turned off - by the general attitude in the U.K., at the time, towards professional engineers. In fact this, among other things, was the subject of a lengthy report about the problems of the engineering profession in the U.K., which appeared in 1980 – Engineering our Future: Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Engineering Profession This Committee was chaired by the late Sir Monty Finniston.
5. Following successful Canadian government interviews on November 11th 1981, I put my small town house on the market.
June 1983 Report para 6 HERE
6. By mid-February 1982 the continuing delay in approval of my Landed Immigrant Status (see para. 5 above) was making my situation in England impossible because my last employers there - not unnaturally - were becoming annoyed and impatient about my not being able to tell them when (or if) I was going, and my house sale was threatening to fall through.
Certain of my immediate superiors were also being difficult by apparently seeing to it that I had nothing to do. (This went on for 8 months, up to the time I left for Canada)
At the same time, I understood from Danielle Pagé that SNC in Montreal were trying very hard to expedite approval of my I.anded Immigrant Status. I immediately wrote to the Canadian High Commission in London pointing out the impossibility and stupidity of my situation, and visited the High Commission two days later at which time it was confirmed that the problem was still the failure of the Kuwaiti and Nigerian Governments to reply to the Canadian Government's enquiries about me, and no reply was expected until May 1982. I pointed out that replies from these two Governments might, for all practical purposes, never be forthcoming.
I had my Landed Immigrant Status a week later. I found that the 8 months of delays, caused by the usual background security checks for all prospective Landed Immigrants to Canada, were not unusual at the time. My house sale was concluded shortly before leaving for Canada.
I arrived in Montreal, Quebec, on March 31, 1982 and started work for SNC the next day.
June 1983 Report para 10 HERE
Record of Landing - CLICK HERE
Nobody - SNC, the Canadian High Commission in London, England or the Quebec government office there - advised me of the implications, benefits or potential pit-falls of applying for Landed Immigrant status as opposed to Temporary Foreign Worker status in Canada, in the context of working for SNC or anyone else and I had no reason at the time to consider any such potential pit-falls; had I been made aware of the differences and the implications, I would have applied to go to Canada to work for SNC as a Temporary Foreign Worker on a short-term contract, and then return to the U.K. when the contract was finished. As things were, I had what appeared to be a contract for at least two years’ work and there seemed at the time to be no reason to question it.
THE TROUBLE BEGINS - GENESIS OF COURT CASE AGAINST SNC FOR ILLEGAL DISMISSAL
7. I was let go on July 8th 1982 (15 weeks later), with 4 weeks severance pay in lieu of notice, because of an economic slump (now known as the - Great Recession - of the early 1980’s), caused by record-high interest rates in the U.S. which peaked at over 20% some time in 1983. June 1983 Report para 11 HERE
Termination letter - CLICK HERE
These record-high interest rates of over 20% in turn led to a collapse of Canada s then-current National Energy Plan, conceived by then-federal Energy Minister Marc Lalonde and the Liberal government of P.E.Trudeau.
NO HELP FROM ANYBODY, TO GET ANOTHER JOB
8. The following week I visited the Canada Manpower office dealing with professional people at 305 Blvd. Dorchester West, Montreal, only to be told that they could not help immigrants who had resided in Canada for less than 12 months.
June 1983 Report para 13 HERE
9. The Technical Service Council couldn't help me either. Exhibit (11). June 1983 Report para 14 HERE
INFORMATION FROM A LAWYER – WHICH LATER TURNED OUT TO BE WRONG
10. On July 23rd, 1982, I consulted a lawyer - recommended to me by a friend - concerning severance pay etc. but he told me that four weeks salary in lieu of notice was the most I could expect - unless I returned to the U.K., in which case he considered that SNC should pay for my return to the U.K., though I have nothing in writing concerning this except for a receipt and the business card of the lawyer concerned.
June 1983 Report para 15 HERE
NO UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS – BECAUSE OF A RULE NOBODY COULD BE BOTHERED TO TELL ME ABOUT
11. In September 1982, I learned that I was dis-entitled to Unemployment Insurance benefits because I had worked less than the 20 weeks needed to - qualify – as a - New Entrant - to the Canadian labour force.
June 1983 Report para 16 HERE
Record of Employment - CLICK HERE
Notice of Insufficient Insurable Weeks - CLICK HERE
(NOTE – S.I.N REMOVED FROM THESE TWO DOCUMENTS DUE TO POSSIBLE INDENTITY THEFT PROBLEM.)
In addition, I could not get Welfare – until my capital was exhausted. June 1983 Report para 16 HERE
There was no mention of this 20 week rule in any of the literature about working in Canada which I got in London, England and nor was it mentioned during my interviews with the Canadian and Quebec Immigration authorities also in London, England. Nor had SNC mentioned it during my interview with them in London, England.
YET, OBVIOUSLY, THIS RULE APPLIES TO ANYBODY COMING TO CANADA TO WORK – SO WHY DID NOBODY MENTION IT?
13. This dis‑entitlement to Unemployment Insurance Benefits, combined with the lack of available alternative similar employment as an engineer due to the recession during 1982, eventually resulted in my financial ruin, including losing all the proceeds of selling my home in England
Photo of house - CLICK HERE
SETTLEMENTS BY SNC BEHIND MY BACK – TO OTHER U.K. ENGINEERS WHO COULD GET UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS DUE TO HAVING WORKED FOR LONGER
Between September 1982 and November 1982 I discovered that SNC had been making - out of court - settlements with other engineers from England whom they had dismissed, and two in particular whom I knew personally, both of whom were able to yet Unemployment Insurance Benefits, unlike myself. One of them received an out-of-court settlement of 10 months’ salary and his contract conditions were identical to mine. I was totally shocked and disgusted by all this, and started legal action soon after hearing about it. SNC s President at the time was Camille Dagenais.
THEN SNC PRESIDENT CAMILLE DAGENAIS GETS APPOINTED TO THE ORDER OF CANADA
Subsequently, I was appalled to learn of Dagenais appointment as a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1983.
The Montreal Gazette newspaper article – Order of Canada appointments - CLICK HERE
More details of what led up to my decision to sue SNC now follow
WHY I DECIDED TO SUE SNC FOR ILLEGAL DISMISSAL
14. It will by now be obvious, since being laid off by SNC, I was forced to live on capital - the proceeds of selling my house in England, and by June 1983 (14 months after arrival in Canada) had used most of it up due to not having been able to find alternative employment.
OTHER GOINGS-ON - 1- CLICK HERE
15. In September 1982, I was informed about a colleague who had been laid off by SNC after being with them for 1 year, having been apparently brought here by them on a 2-year contract. At the time I paid little attention to it as it did not appear to correspond to my own position. June 1983 Report para 18 HERE
See also paragraph 2 above (and A JOB OFFER FROM SNC at top of this page )
16. In November, 1982, 1 was informed that SNC had given this colleague an out-of-court settlement of 10 months' salary and that his contract conditions were identical to mine. I then visited this colleague and, with his full agreement, noted all the documentary evidence which clearly showed that what I had been told was entirely correct. This colleague also recommended two more lawyers - B. Granich and I.S. Mass - to me; I.S. Mass advised him until his settlement was agreed.
June 1983 Report para 19 HERE
MEETINGS WITH LAWYERS – WHO CONTRADICT THE ONE IN PARA 4 ABOVE
17. Straight away I saw both lawyers, who both informed me that I had just as good a case as my colleague and gave me some guidance as to what settlement to ask for from SNC. The basis of my case was - and is – that SNC, by enticing me to Canada in the manner described in paragraphs 1 to 3 above, had given me totally inadequate notice.
This colleague also recommended two more lawyers - B. Granich and I.S. Mass - to me; I.S. Mass advised him until his settlement was agreed.
June 1983 Report para 20 HERE
18. Then I attempted to persuade SNC to make a satisfactory out-of-court settlement with me, but this was un-successful; as is related below. At one point I was offered $8,000 (compared with my former salary of $3,000 per month) but under the circumstances found this to be unacceptable.
This started with a meeting with Danielle Pagé at SNC on November 29th, followed by two more on December 6th and
December 13th, 1982. June 1983 Report para 21 HERE
At the first meeting I presented my case, by the second one Danielle Pagé had made representations on my behalf to SNC management but had not had a reply, finally at the last one she informed me that the best SNC could do was 4 week's severance pay plus Can. $5,000 - to cover my return to the U.K. or anything else. In the circumstances I had to tell her that this was nowhere near acceptable and would discuss it with my lawyer. Furthermore, this offer was never made in writing.
June 1983 Report para 21 HERE
COMMENTS – 1 CLICK HERE
19. I met with the law firm Worsoff, Mass and Teitelbaum in Montreal. Mr. I.S. Mass, who then took on my case and wrote to SNC on December 16th, 1982. He asked for a settlement of 18 month's salary and other entitlements by December 26th, 1982. See Exhibit (13). June 1983 Report para 22 HERE
Letter from my lawyer I.S. Mass to SNC - CLICK HERE
20. SNC immediately acknowledged my lawyer's letter and undertook to make some kind of offer shortly after that, but nothing happened. June 1983 Report para 23 HERE
21. SNC were allowed more time to reply because of the Christmas holiday period. On Friday, January 21st, 1983, however, my lawyer told me in a meeting that he had had no response to repeated telephone messages to SNC s lawyer concerning my case. We discussed the possibility of publicity and concluded that the facts were so irrefutable, the issue so simple and clear, and the implications so far-reaching that publicity might be no bad thing. In addition my lawyer had personal knowledge of many other cases like mine (one of them being my colleague's) including people who had been given satisfactory settlements out of court. He was also about to go away on business for approximately 1 week.
June 1983 Report para 24 HERE
22. On Monday, January 24th, 1983, I telephoned Danielle Pagé to up-date her on my situation. She was trying to expedite a satisfactory response by SNC s lawyer to my lawyer. June 1983 Report para 25 HERE
23. On Wednesday, January 26th, 1983, I asked Danielle Pagé for further information about what SNC's lawyer was doing –i.e. was an offer of compensation to me being drafted etc. but all she could tell me was that SNC s lawyer was "supposed to be writing this week' (to my lawyer). June 1983 Report para 26 HERE
24. On Monday, February 7th, 1983, my lawyer (now returned from his business trip) informed me that no letter concerning my case had arrived from SNC during his absence, but that SNC s lawyer had called twice. My lawyer had again tried to call SNC s lawyer that day but without success. June 1983 Report para 27 HERE
25. On Tuesday, February 8th, 1983, at 11 a.m. I called my lawyer again who told me he was giving SNC s lawyer until the end of that day in which to reply. I replied that I would try to persuade SNC s lawyer to call him at an agreed time, to settle the matter. 20 minutes later I spoke to SNC s lawyer - Raymond Favreau - myself, telling him that this business had already gone on for far too long (see paragraph 19 above), that my lawyer was in his office, and would Favreau please call him to clear this matter up. Favreau replied that he had - quote - deadlines to meet – unquote and – quote - would have to see someone in Personnel first – unquote - and would not agree to call my lawyer at any specific time. I immediately reported the details of this conversation to my lawyer, who called me back 5 minutes later with a report that Favreau had called him (i.e. immediately after I had spoken to Favreau myself) to say that SNC – quote - would make a final offer by the end of the week - unquote (i.e. by the afternoon of Friday, February 11th, 1983).
June 1983 Report para 28 HERE
26. On Monday, February 14th, 1983, my lawyer told me that nothing had happened - i.e. that Favreau had not done what he said he was going to do. June 1983 Report para 29 HERE
COMMENTS – 2 CLICK HERE
27. On Tuesday, February 15th, I telephoned Danielle Pagé, setting a time limit of 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 17th for Favreau to do something or I would instruct my lawyer on Friday morning to issue a writ. I also reminded her that SNC's conduct in this matter was not acceptable in the eyes of Canadian society in general and also the possibility of adverse publicity. June 1983 Report para 30 HERE
COMMENTS – 3 CLICK HERE
I was well aware of SNC s difficulties and their need to find ways to survive but I too had to survive. Danielle Pagé undertook to pass my message on to Favreau. I also telephoned the Chief Mechanical Engineer - Mr. E. Schulz informing him of my situation and asking him if there was anything he could do to help me settle this matter. He replied that there was not because it would make his position impossible, which I accepted, but his attitude was that quote - all it boils down to is a few dollars – unquote.
June 1983 Report para 30 HERE
OTHER GOINGS-ON -2– CLICK HERE
(This concerns suggestions about blackballing me from working in the context of a job application to Pratt & Whitney Canada, by someone at SNC who was personally known to the Pratt & Whitney engineer who interviewed me. This was also compounded by obvious inefficiency by certain people at Canada Manpower at the time (in 1983); on the other hand I had a counsellor, in the form of Mme. Marie-France Lahaye who was supportive of my plan to contact my then-federal M.P., who turned out to be none other than then then-Prime Minister P.E. Trudeau. In the circumstances I considered it imperative to contact the media, in particular CBC Radio in Montreal).