Canadian parts supplier Magna International Inc. says it will “contest vigorously” a $400 million class-action lawsuit accusing it and three other companies of human trafficking.

The claim, filed in February in the Ontario Superior Court, seeks $100 million from each of Magna and three other companies.

In Magna’s case, according to the statement of claim, a representative plaintiff, identified only as A.B., as well as an unspecified number of class-action members, were recruited by an agency in Mexico, named as San Jose, and then hired by Magna in January.

A.B. was then connected with another defendant, which the lawsuit names only as John Doe, who encouraged A.B. to apply for a tourist visa, not a work permit, with the promise of gainful employment in Ontario. A.B. was hired as an assembly worker at a Magna owned or controlled facility. A.B.’s identity is obscured to protect A.B. as well as family in Mexico, the statement of claim says.

“A.B. was paid $13 per hour by Magna, below the minimum wage set in Ontario under the Employment Standards Act (ESA),” the claim reads. The claim further alleges A.B. was denied wages during training, “also in contravention of the ESA.”

The lawsuit alleges A.B. and other class members often worked seven days a week with no overtime pay and were denied vacation time and health benefits during their employment with Magna.

“Magna chose to illegally recruit and hire foreign workers and violate the ESA because it would allow them to maximize their profits,” reads the statement of claim. Toronto law firm Diamond and Diamond issued a news release March 31 announcing the lawsuit.

The same day, Magna issued a statement denying the charges.

‘Easily identifiable mistakes’ in suit

“Their claims are without merit, and we will contest them vigorously,” the Magna statement says. “In fact, this claim is riddled with multiple factual errors, misidentified parties and easily identifiable mistakes.”

Magna’s statement says the company has “been proactively and voluntarily supporting the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and other applicable authorities in their efforts to identify abuses related to illegal migrant labour practices in Ontario.”

“As part of this effort, we have been assured by CBSA that Magna is not under investigation.”

The Canada Border Services Agency would neither confirm the existence of such an investigation nor Magna’s claim of absolution.

“Human trafficking is a reprehensible crime, and we are proud to represent the brave victims in this lawsuit,” Sandra Zisckind, Diamond and Diamond managing partner, said in a news release. “Our goal is to ensure that these corporations are held accountable for their actions and that justice is served for the survivors of this horrific crime.”

Magna’s statement suggests it might not stop at simply defending against the accusation.

“We are currently exploring any and all options to defend against these incorrect assertions, including potential claims against Diamond and Diamond for their irresponsible statements in the media release,” the Magna statement says.

Magna International describes itself as a mobility technology company and employs more than 168,000 staff in 343 manufacturing and 88 product development centers in 29 countries.

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