Food Island Supermarket, which opened just three weeks ago is located at Wonderland and Oxford streets in London. Two employees of the supermarket were involved in a stabbing at two homes on Beaverbrook Avenue nearby on Tuesday Jan 15. 2013. MIKE HENSEN/The London Free Press/QMI AGENCY

London stabbing thrusts Asian grocery stores under spotlight
By Kate Dubinski, Kelly Pedro, The London Free Press 
Wednesday, January 16, 2013 9:55:50 EST PM

Food Island Supermarket, which opened just three weeks ago is located at Wonderland and Oxford streets in London. Two employees of the supermarket were involved in a stabbing at two homes on Beaverbrook Avenue nearby on Tuesday Jan 15. 2013. MIKE HENSEN/The London Free Press/QMI AGENCY

It sticks out like a sore thumb — more than a dozen people packed into a house built for a single family in a quiet London suburb.

Next door, there’s another just like it.

But the portrait that’s slowly emerging behind the two London houses — of Chinese workers brought to Canada to work in Asian supermarkets, living in cramped conditions — is being painted in several London neighbourhoods.

It was a stabbing Tuesday that thrust the two Beaverbrook Ave. houses under the spotlight.

One man was left fighting for life in hospital with neck wounds, still in critical condition Wednesday. Another is charged.

Police aren’t saying whether the 23-year-old victim and the man charged, Yang Zhang, 21, are Canadians or foreign nationals.

But it’s clear both houses — newer three- and four-bedroom properties that hit the market in the mid-$300,000 range — are filled with workers for the newly-opened Food Island Supermarket at Oxford St. and Wonderland Rd., several blocks away.

The Free Press was told by a woman who answered the door at 1703 Beaverbrook both the victim and the charged man live there, and that both arrived about a month ago from Toronto. She said she didn’t know what led to the stabbing, but other roommates had told her the two were drunk.

Big-city Canada is accustomed to stories of temporary foreign workers brought to this country to work as domestics or labourers, sometimes only to find out once here they’re forced into much worse — like the sex trade — and indebted to those who sponsored them, unable to get away.

London police — they’ve wrapped their probe — say there’s no suggestion human trafficking is the case here.

But what’s different for London is the below-radar world of Asian food stores staffed by workers, many from Asia, put up by their employers.

The Food Island Supermarket isn’t alone.

An employee of another Asian grocery store opening in London, Superking Supermarket at Westmount Shopping Centre, confirmed it will employ temporary foreign workers from China.

They’re already in Toronto, waiting to work, the staffer said.

The United Supermarket on Adelaide St., which has been open for two years, also puts its employees up in a home near the store, sources said.

Other Asian supermarkets bring temporary foreign workers to Canada and give them room and board for a portion of their pay, which is often low — perfectly legal under the federal program that imports workers for jobs Canadians don’t want.

“A low-paying job in Canada is a high-paying job in China, especially if you come from a poor village,” said Shih-Fen Chen, an international business professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University.

“Historically, immigrants have come to North America to take the low-paying jobs people here don’t want.”

Next door to 1703 Beaverbrook is 1709, a similar-sized house. A man who answered the door there when The Free Press knocked said he doesn’t speak English and closed the door.

It’s unclear whether Food Island employees are temporary foreign workers or or why so many are living in two homes, but neighbours say both are packed with employees of the food store.

Public records show one house is owned by a numbered Ontario company that shares the same address as the food store, and the other by a person with a Mississauga address whose name also appears as an administrator for the numbered company.

Neighbhours have said both homes were recently heavily renovated.

Coming from villages to Canada where they may not know the languages or laws, things can be tough for Chinese workers in Canada, said Chen.

“If you look at Asian culture in general — they are humble, they do not complain, particularly in a country where they don’t speak the language,” he said.

Why don’t more employers who rely on such help hire people already in Canada?

“They do and they complain,” he said. “People who are here legally might quit or are fired because they complain too much about working conditions.”

There are regulations to make sure workers aren’t exploited, but often no enough resources are spent on enforcement, Chen said.

Many families take out loans for foreign workers to go to Canada, adding pressure on the workers here, said Sister Sue Wilson of the London Area Coalition of Assisting Trafficked Persons.

Since Canadian law ties work permits for temporary foreign workers to employers, those workers can’t just walk away from a job, she added.

It’s possible to get a new work permit, but that can take up to six months, said Wilson, and migrant workers can’t survive that long without one.

Working and living conditions are very different in China, making it more palatable if a company offers to house many workers in a single-family home.

“They might come from a place where they don’t have running water, no electricity, no indoor toilet. Here, they have all that and heat in the winter. It’s acceptable,” Chen said.

“Even if you’re making $7 an hour, that’s a lot compared to what you can make in China.”

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Article posted in Asian community, Chinafication, Communities, Cultural ghetto/ Segregation, Ethnic/Religious/Racial solidarity, Habits/Customs/Traditions/Foreign militancy brought by immigrants, Immigration, Multiculturalism
  • cecilhenry

    Go back to China. There are 1.3 billion Chinese in China, why should they be allowed to also gain a better life in someone else’s nation?

    This is ethnic displacement of white Canadians in their own country by policy,

    That’s genocide.

    Send this to your politicians. I have.

    • Canadian Born

      Why are there 2 sets of rules? If this was a white Canadian hiring only white Canadians this would be taken to the human rights commision and yet this is being allowed at this store that they are hiring only chinese people. With a government that has no backbone what can one expect!!! Until Canadians say enough is enough this will continue!! What Canada needs is a political leader that will stand up for the Canadians that have fought hard for this country and say we want Canada back and make the changes that would put the country back on the right track before it is really too late!! This has to be the choice of the Canadian people. After all what are we paying one of the highest taxes in the world for? Is it to support newcomers or the Canadians already here?

      • FourFooted_Messiah

        I actually saw one of those fruitbats in a newspaper comment section indicate he actually believed the phrase “universal health care” meant anyone in the universe had a right to access it (or, at least, anyone on the planet).

        This is the kind of treasonous drivel that’s been slipped through the cracks. We were told that our social services were for us …. until they could get multiculturalism, political corretness and mass immigration together to make it for foreigners.

        We were sold a King of Kensignton multiculturalism, and got Balkanization – the selling out of our country to foreign interests, while throwing heritage Caandians under the bus, and telling us to like it or be loathed.

    • lotus

      How about you get out of Canada? What right do you have to claim this country as your own you should study Canadian History before you say that. The white Canadians in their own country by policy..you mean the land you stole from the natives? Also, you should research what genocide means. Genocide is when an entire group gets wiped out by violent means and an intent to destroy.. and you shouldn’t be the one to say who gets a better life where and how.. these people are not stealing your jobs they are doing the jobs that the “white Canadians” don’t want to do..that are too lazy to do. Well, if you don;t want it somebody else will take it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/bluepaper.frame BluePaper Frame

        … this country was built by “lazy” whites… This is the country where “hardworking” other races die to come and live… wondering why arn’t their countries that attractive? Since they are sooo hardworking people…

      • FourFooted_Messiah

        We stole nothing from the Natives, foolish one. You’re thinking of Americans.

        Ever stop to think what all those treaties really are? They’re rental agreements. Natives get taxpayer money etc because it’s RENTAL FEES, basically. We’re responsible for all the improvements and maintenance on the land, in exchange for having the run of things.

        So. Are the Chinese and East Indians going to chip in their share? They don’t seem to have a problem coming here and occupying the “stolen land”, so what makes them any better?

        And I don’t see them offering us whites any treaties for all the hard work we did building stuff here.

      • Hentgen

        This is not a matter of doing “the jobs white Canadians” don’t want to do. Go to any other major grocery store in London and you’ll see Canadians of all races working there.

        You want to talk about research? Ever heard of exploitation?

        This is a matter of a company exploiting foreign worker laws. They import people who are ignorant of their rights, pay them minimum wage and then claw all of it back by charging outrageous rents to live in appalling conditions and work in substandard working environments.

        This hurts companies that play by the rules and provide good working conditions to their employers, since places that exploit foreigners can undercut them on price. This hurts the poor in this country, since they can’t compete with foreign workers who work basically for room and board, and they just have to rely on the welfare system instead of a job. And that hurts the wealthy consumers who can take advantage of the lower prices, but have to pay taxes to support those put out of work. Finally, it hurts the foreign workers themselves, who are lured with promises of a better life and good pay, and instead are forced to live in cramped conditions and often are tricked into debt.

        No one wins here but the no good, lying cheaters who are abusing the system for their own profit. There is absolutely no good reason to need foreign workers in an economically depressed city like London. There are plenty of people willing to work, just for a wage and under working conditions due to them under THE LAW.

  • FourFooted_Messiah

    Our country is being taken from us beneath our feet, and nothing is done.

    We need a revolution against the traitors and their immigrant friends.

    Notice how the article mostly just whines about how “hard” it is for immigrants who are taking our jobs from us? Pathetic and sick. Revolution now.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bluepaper.frame BluePaper Frame

      Stupid enough to humiliate ourselves.

      Today I noticed, with endless disgust, frozen vegetables imported from… China.

      It is not enough that the Chinese are everywhere, now I have to see their writing on food in… non-Chinese shops.

      I am boycotting any type of food imported from China (or, pay attention, ROC, which is Republic of China). And everybody should do it.

      Buying Chinese food is like punching our farmers in their faces.