Skip to content

Lady Justice: Falling between the cracks


The Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce is having its next Business After Hours (free networking event) at the new Social Impact Hub downtown on Tuesday. That is the building just west of City Hall. Amazing tenants are there or coming and the goal is to share assets such as training opportunities, support services (eg IT), etc.for greater impact. Our social profit enterprises are essential employers and service providers preserving and evolving our ways of life.

Black History Month so far has been a divided adventure this year. It started with the new African Caribbean Centre of Central Alberta’s (ACCoCA) private screening of The Color Purple at Galaxy Cinemas. This movie is based on the Broadway version and is phenomenal. Unfortunately, as usual, I did not check ahead and did not see the Oprah original, so I had no tissue at hand to sop up the tears. I get caught every few years in that scenario, undermining my “Iron Lady” status (dear reader, it is impolite to chuckle at my self-identity). This well-attended event was a fundraiser and friend-raiser.

Not even two years in existence and ACCoCA is fulfilling an essential need. Not to mention the downtown inaugural Afro-Caribbean Festival last summer (August 17-18 this year, save the date). Red Deer is putting itself on the cultural map.

That private screening was a highlight, including providing me and many community members awards for our allyship.

Next the lowlight. Not as many tears, but a heavy heart.

Back story. Cameroon, on the African continent, like Canada, has French and English as its official languages and has a similar-sized population. Unlike Canada, the majority of speakers are French. A local Red Deer business took the opportunity to sign up 24 Cameroonians and encouraged them to get closed work permits from Immigration Canada to get a new start in our community. They left behind their jobs and families for the promise that is Canada. That takes a courageous spirit.

Processes are slow and it took a few months to start. The labour jobs that Canadians won’t take, they will. No pain, no gain. They are highly educated, but in Canada, you often have to start at the bottom, so to speak. Listen to the stories of immigrants now at the highest levels who started at the bottom (or their parents did).

Well, barely two months pass and the head office from out east directs temporary layoffs, no guarantee of a return. Union cannot do anything about this, apparently. So new country, new everything, and no job and no ability to get a new job as it is a closed work permit.

ACCoCA and its fearless leader and team jump in. Levels of government provide their non-financial support. Red Deer’s reputation as a place for business is important as are our newest workers. Immigration Canada has been appealed to in order to provide open work permits. Hopefully that will happen soon. Now, they just need jobs in an industry. Industry needs hard workers.

We lawyers have a saying, justice delayed is justice denied. Delay in anything, especially at government levels, even outside the courts, can result in justice being denied. It results in people falling through the cracks.

The interesting point to highlight to potential employers is that these individuals are exempt from the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) requirement as they are all native French speakers. This Black History Month, consider if your worker needs might be met by contacting ACCoCA. We can all help fill those cracks and benefit as a result.

Donna Purcell, K.C., (aka Lady Justice) is a Central Alberta lawyer and Chief Innovation Officer with Donna Purcell QC Law. If you have legal questions, contact