The Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU) has filed a lawsuit against the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) for granting temporary work permits to foreign maritime workers in Canadian waters.

The actions by SIU come in response to work permits for foreign workers aboard the Sparto, an oil tanker sailing under the flag of Cyprus.

Since beginning this year, the Sparto was permitted ten times to ship crude oil on the St Lawrence Seaway and Gulf of St Lawrence between the provinces and Montreal, the SIU said.

"The Federal Government continues to misuse their authority to grant temporary work permits to foreign workers, while passing over Canadian sailors who are ready to work."

Work permits were issued to 16 foreign workers on the Sparto against the law that stipulates using foreign workers if no qualified Canadian workers are available.

SIU president Jim Given said: "The Government of Canada has allowed foreign workers to take 2,100 jobs from qualified Canadian maritime workers.

"The Federal Government continues to misuse their authority to grant temporary work permits to foreign workers, while passing over Canadian sailors who are ready to work."

The lawsuit seeks termination of those work permits in compliance with Canadian immigration law requirements.

Approximately 4,000 temporary foreign work permits were granted since 2013 for domestic shipping, leaving around 25% of Canadian maritime workers unemployed.

Given said: "The Government of Canada is willfully ignoring the law and giving up on qualified, ready-to-work Canadian workers."

According to reports, the Amalthea foreign vessel that operates between Canadian ports with foreign workers pays as little as C$2 ($1.51) per hour.