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Former B.C. Mountie fined for hiring foreign nanny without work permit

The District of Squamish is seen in this photo from shutterstock.com. The District of Squamish is seen in this photo from shutterstock.com.
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A former Mountie who pleaded guilty to illegally employing a foreign national without a work permit has been ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and have no contact with her former nanny for two years.

Randi Ellen White changed her plea to guilty on the ninth day of testimony at her trial on the matter, according to a sentencing decision issued Thursday and posted online Friday.

The charge stemmed from White and her husband's employment of an American woman identified in the sentencing only as "Ms. C," due to a publication ban.

Ms. C lived and worked in the White household from February 2019 through April 2020, according to B.C. Supreme Court Justice W. Paul Riley's sentencing decision.

During that time, the decision indicates, she was paid $1,000 a month to look after the family's children – then one and two years old, respectively – when their parents weren't home. She was also actively applying for a work permit that would have allowed her to do the work legally, though her applications were ultimately unsuccessful.

Ms. C's background and circumstances

The parties came to know each other through a Craigslist ad, according to the sentencing decision.

Legally deaf since birth, Ms. C left her abusive husband in the summer of 2018 and was looking for opportunities to start her life over. The decision indicates she had been living in Seattle and working as a teacher at an American Sign Language preschool, but felt abandoned by the local deaf community and unsafe in the city after ending her relationship.

Ms. C posted the Craigslist ad in September 2018, advertising that she was "seeking family in search of bilingual live-in nanny," according to the decision.

White's second maternity leave from the Squamish RCMP detachment was scheduled to end in March 2019, and around the time Ms. C posted the ad, she and her husband were looking into child-care arrangements for her return to work.

White reached out to Ms. C about the possibility of bringing her to Squamish as a live-in nanny. The Mountie told the court she had previously been in an abusive relationship herself, and she "sympathized with Ms. C's predicament."

After a visit to Squamish by Ms. C, the parties agreed to proceed with the nanny arrangement. Riley's decision indicates the Whites conducted a labour market impact assessment to support Ms. C's work permit application.

By February 2019, however, it was apparent that the necessary approvals would not be in place in time for Ms. C to start working for the Whites legally, according to the decision.

"Despite this, both parties moved ahead with the plan for Ms. C to relocate to Squamish," the decision reads. "Both sides had their motivations for proceeding despite the fact that the regulatory approval process had not yet been obtained."

"From Ms. C’s perspective, she did not feel supported, safe, or happy in Seattle and was eager to relocate and make a fresh start in Squamish. Also, by early 2019 Ms. C had no job and had limited funds. From Ms. White’s perspective, she needed a nanny in place when she returned to work in March 2019. However, in her testimony at sentencing Ms. White maintained that her primary reason to proceed with Ms. C moving into the White residence before the necessary regulatory approval was in place was because of her interest in helping Ms. C, whom Ms. White knew to be a vulnerable person in a precarious situation."

Situation was 'exploitative'

White and Ms. C had differing accounts of the latter's hours and responsibilities while she was living and working in the White household.

Riley made several findings of fact in the case, largely adopting White's account of what Ms. C was expected to do and how often she was expected to work.

According to the decision, Ms. C's first work permit application was rejected in July 2019, with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada informing her that, among other things, she had submitted a form intended for use by people residing outside Canada, when she was already living in the country.

A second application was denied in November 2019, with IRCC writing that Ms. C did not qualify as a person eligible to apply for a work permit from within Canada.

Throughout this time, the decision notes, Ms. C was living in the White household and providing child care. She made two "border hops" in which she returned to the United States for a few days in order to renew her six-month visitor's visa upon returning to Canada.

According to the decision, White sought to limit the possibility that Ms. C could be classified as an employee by minimizing her hours and the tasks she was asked to do. She also sought to avoid paying Ms. C as an employee, instead asking her what her monthly expenses were and providing a $1,000 cash payment each month to cover them.

Riley concluded that, although White's intent was to avoid treating Ms. C as an employee, the Mountie was clearly employing her.

"While Ms. White’s motives might have involved a mix of altruism (in trying to help out Ms. C) and pragmatism (in trying to limit the legal exposure of the Whites for employing a foreign national without proper regulatory approval), the effect of this arrangement was exploitative," the decision reads.

"Ms. C was working as a live-in nanny, and was not paid properly for her work. It is not clear what her hours were, and also there were no proper payroll deductions and remittances. Among other things, Ms. C did not have the benefit of WCB protections or EI protections that are supposed to be in place for an employee."

'Literally no risk of re-offence'

In considering the appropriate sentence for White, Riley rejected both the defence's characterization of her offence as simply a "lack of due diligence" and the prosecution's claim that it was White's intention from the outset to "run an immigration scam."

Rather, the judge concluded that White's conduct was "intentional," in the sense that she knew Ms. C was not authorized to work in Canada, but asked her to do so anyway.

"Initially, Ms. White made a genuine effort to comply with the immigration rules by commissioning, paying for, and submitting an LMIA application," the decision reads. "Ms. White’s mistake was in acting precipitously, by allowing Ms. C to take up residence with the Whites, and having Ms. C take care of the White children, before the regulatory approval process was complete."

Riley found White's conduct to be motivated by "a mix of altruistic concern" and "pragmatic self-interest," and concluded that – although exploitative – it was fundamentally different from most other cases involving the same charge.

"This was not a case of an offender deliberately violating Canada’s immigration law, and deliberately or knowingly exploiting a foreign national, for entirely selfish motives like profit or financial gain," the decision reads.

"The most that can be said is that Ms. White’s interest in helping out Ms. C happened to coincide with her own child care needs. Ms. White broke the law, but I would not characterize her conduct as predatory or intentionally exploitative."

Since her arrest on the immigration charge, White has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and retired from the RCMP on disability. She is now a retired, stay-at-home mother, who has no need for a nanny, Riley's decision explains, concluding there is "literally no risk of re-offence."

Partly for this reason, the judge declined to order White to serve any probation, instead imposing a fine within the range requested by White's attorneys and ordering the no-contact peace bond. 

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