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The Federal Court of Canada has sided with the MTD-affiliated Seafarers Union of Canada in finding the Canadian government illegally permitted foreign crews to do the work of Canadian mariners aboard ships within Canada’s territorial waters in violation of that nation’s cabotage laws. As a result of the July 14 decision, the court ordered that the work permits be set aside.

“This is a big win for our members,” proclaimed SIU of Canada President James Given.

“It is outrageous that temporary foreign workers are being granted work permits to crew these oil tankers, while qualified Canadian seafarers are unemployed, The SIU will keep fighting until these flag-of-convenience vessels shipping in Canadian waters are crewed by Canadian seafarers,” added Given, who serves as the MTD Eastern Area Executive Board Member.

(Under Canadian cabotage and immigration laws, Canadian mariners are supposed to crew foreign-flag vessels navigating Canadian domestic waters unless the company can prove no such workers are available.)

The SIU of Canada filed more than 40 lawsuits in September 2015 alleging the Canadian government had been issuing work permits to foreign crews aboard hundreds of foreign ships sailing in Canadian waters while Canadian mariners sat on the docks unemployed. The union produced evidence that the foreign workers were making as little as $2 an hour. Earlier this month, the SIU of Canada filed an additional 13 suits.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) saluted the work of the SIU of Canada to expose the fraud perpetrated against the Canadian mariners.

“The investigative work of the union has forced an admission from the Canadian government that at least 11 work permits have been illegally issued – and this may be just the tip of the iceberg,” noted ITF Seafarers Section Chair David Heindel, who also serves as the Secretary-Treasurer for the Seafarers International Union of North America.

Heindel went on to say, “What the SIU of Canada has uncovered looks very much like the illegal and systematic granting of permits to the crews of hundreds of foreign-flag ships working Canadian waters, despite the availability of Canadian seafarers to serve on them.”

ITF President Paddy Crumlin stated, “The Federal Court of Canada has caught the government out either actively undermining or colluding in the undermining of Canadian national law. That law is designed to ensure that the country retains and treasures its naval capability and the employment of citizens and the support of their communities.

“We believe that the people of Canada understand the need for maritime cabotage and all that it brings to their country. The ITF and all our unions applaud the work done by the SIU of Canada to defend it and expose this wrongdoing,” continued Crumlin, who also heads the Maritime Union of Australia which has been fighting attacks by its government on that nation’s cabotage laws.