Company ordered to repair over-crowded employee residences

An inspection by Kingston Fire & Rescue found that this bungalow on Crossfield Ave was being used to house up to 26 people at a time.

A company that brought employees to Kingston from China to work on the construction of a new production plant, and housed dozens of its workers in five cramped single-family homes, was ordered by the Ontario Fire Safety Commission to make repairs to address serious life-safety infractions at its properties.

B.C.-based Realgoal Technology Inc. owns and operates five residential buildings in the city of Kingston. Realgoal, and its sister company UPACK, provides its employees with room and board as part of their employment as workers at a local factory under construction.

In June and July of 2019, Kingston Fire & Rescue inspectors conducted an inspection of the company’s properties, finding that the five houses, originally built as single-family homes, were being used to provide accommodations for a total of up to 88 people.

Reports from the Kingston Fire & Rescue inspections describe the following living conditions at the five properties:

367 Ellesmere Ave was originally built as a two-storey single home with four bedrooms, but was being used to provide accommodations for 23 persons, with shared cooking operations and shared washrooms. The basement contained 10 beds and the second floor area contained 13 beds. The kitchen contained cooking operations consisting of multiple appliances fueled by a single unsecured 100lb propane cylinder that was kept inside the kitchen area. This kitchen was used to provide daily meals to approximately 42 people residing at the multiple properties. Two additional propane cylinders were stored, unsecured, in the garage, approximately two metres from the designated smoking area for the residents and other workers residing at the other properties.  

1100 Crossfield Ave, a property originally built as a two-bedroom single-family bungalow, contained accommodations for approximately 26 persons with a shared kitchen and shared washrooms. The basement contained 18 beds on nine bunk beds, and the main floor area contained eight beds.

389 Cooke Cres, another building originally constructed as a one-storey single residential with two bedrooms, was being used to provide accommodations for 16 persons, with a shared kitchen and shared washrooms. The basement contained nine beds and the main floor area contained seven beds.

A two-storey residential dwelling at 1209 Crossfield Ave containing three bedrooms was being used to provide accommodations for nine persons, with a shared kitchen and shared washrooms. The basement contained one bed, the main floor area contained two beds, and the second floor contained six beds with one additional mattress in an upstairs bedroom.

A three-bedroom property at 1409 Crossfield Ave was being used to provide accommodations for 14 persons with a shared kitchen and shared washrooms. Eight beds were located in the three bedrooms on the second floor, six beds were located on the ground floor, and six additional bed frames were located in the garage. The basement contained sleeping accommodations for one person.

The fire inspections found that the basement windows at these properties did not meet the minimum size for egress required by the Ontario Building Code, and that the basements contained sleeping accommodations but lacked adequate means of egress. The single exit stairways leading from the basements to the ground floors were not properly fire-separated from the remainder of the building, and the stairs lacked fire-rated doors with self-closing devices. The properties were found to have no emergency lighting units or exit signs in the corridors and exit stairways of the properties, and no fire alarm systems were installed in the buildings. The buildings also did not have approved fire safety plans.

“The Commission is satisfied that (the Fire Inspector) was correct to conclude that there were serious fire safety concerns raised by the conditions,” said the Fire Safety Commission in its written decision. “(The Inspector) also noted that in many of the sleeping areas…there were mattresses lined up on the floor with no space between them.  The Inspector described that a mattress is a significant combustible, because a small burn (from a cigarette butt for example) can smolder for several hours before the mattress ultimately ignites.”

The written decision also notes that “…given the number of people sleeping in various locations throughout the house, there was a serious risk that in the event of a fire, it would be difficult for emergency responders to safely locate and remove all the residents.  The living arrangements and the scarcity of exits pose a serious risk to those living in the homes, as well as to emergency responders who may be required to attempt a rescue in the event of fire.”

Realgoal appealed the orders that resulted from Kingston Fire & Rescue’s inspections. However, following a hearing on November 20 2019, Kingston Fire & Rescue’s findings and requirements were largely upheld by the Ontario Fire Safety Commission, with some amendments. The Commission’s decision was released on February 24, 2020. The company was given between 45 days and four months to correct each of the deficiencies. Realgoal’s counsel noted at the hearing that it had already complied with a number of the orders and was working towards compliance with the outstanding items.

Editor’s note: this article has been updated to include the dates of the OFSCO’s hearing and release of its decision.

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33 thoughts on “Company ordered to repair over-crowded employee residences

  • March 28, 2020 at 7:33 pm
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    Third world practices!So many Kingstonians are out of work and companies are allowed to bring foreign people to do jobs that Canadian citizens are qualified to do? In this Covid 19 context wouldn’t be wise that local politicians and Kingston Economic Development Corporation make sure that local jobs are for local people?

    • March 29, 2020 at 1:02 pm
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      So tell us; all you dumb bureaucrats, if you allow up to 7 dozen people to live in these ugly and crowded conditions, and now during a pandemic, are these workers “expendable” or they just Chinese workers and therefore they don’t count as human beings. What Federal or provincial program allows for this insanity.

  • March 28, 2020 at 8:08 pm
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    WTF thats insane and with social distancing these houses should be shut down?? never mind just fire hazards what about health hazards , they should re accommodate these ppl in an apartment complex not houses …wake up Kingston ???? wow

    • March 29, 2020 at 3:12 pm
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      Where…the housing situation in Kingston is strained at best…there’s no where to put them …they should not have been brought over anyway if general labour is their only skill. Are they permanent residents…temp workers or are they legal at all?

  • March 28, 2020 at 9:19 pm
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    Given the significant number of uneplyed local tradesmen and labourers in the Kingston region, Why are they allowed to import construction workers?

    • March 29, 2020 at 3:10 pm
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      They lied complain to the fedreal dept that deals with this or contact a local union for skilled trades and have thom complain this is illegal.

  • March 28, 2020 at 10:57 pm
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    Maybe who ever did the report on this should have went to Immigration Canada and ask if these people had a work permit to work in Canada? Who owned these houses and why did they get off so lightly?This news story leaves way to many questions unanswered. This is a serious occurrence making Kingston look like a 3rd World country. The unions of Kingston maybe should have picketed this plant. This is very weird.

  • March 28, 2020 at 11:08 pm
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    This article lacks key information. These employees are working on building the enormous Feihe Canada Royal Milk plant on resource road. It has been under construction for quite some time now, so these employees aren’t new to Kingston. I’m surprised they have been living in such horrific conditions for such a long time.

  • March 29, 2020 at 4:19 am
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    THIS IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING! WHY IS THIS NOT BEING LOOKED INTO?????

  • March 29, 2020 at 6:24 am
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    I understand the concern about bringing in workers from elsewhere, when we have qualified people locally. The issue to me is the utter lack of any sort of humane treatment. 26 people in a single family home?! These are humans, not livestock.

  • March 29, 2020 at 8:15 am
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    They complain about third world practices , this is just as bad if not worse.
    Right now when we are coping with this coronavirus and these people packed
    in like sardines , where is the social distance??? Also bringing people from china
    where this virus supposedly starts , “questionable”.
    I have seen houses that had been rented to Chinese , and only10 in the house ,
    it had to be gutted after 6months , and all furniture had to thrown in the garbage.
    I have never in my life seen such a mess.
    We have many builders here in Canada looking for work , why not hire them ? no
    they want to bring in cheap labour. Shame on them.

  • March 29, 2020 at 8:19 am
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    I find it sad that after reading about dangerous the conditions these vulnerable workers had to endure the comments are “why are they here?”
    Where is your empathy?

  • March 29, 2020 at 8:51 am
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    Propane cylinder inside is cause to charge someone with dangerous handling of Propane. It that cylinders relief had opened and there was a source of ignition not many inside of the structures would survive or for that matter others in the area of the home. Where was TSSA when they investigated and found this.
    Need some training for these inspector from what I’m reading.

  • March 29, 2020 at 8:54 am
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    Of course Kingston, like any other small city welcome any new industry. The construction of said industries , weather from abroad or Canadian based, should be offered to Canadians first . It’s not that we should be against any foreign workers , but there is a lot of people out of work here . But most of all, when we do have folks here from other countries, that we absolutely apply decent wages, fair and safe accommodations , and proper healthcare while they are working in this country. It only makes sense in a country as progressive as Canada

  • March 29, 2020 at 9:36 am
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    This is ridiculous, thank you Kingston FR but why are they given the burden of dealing with this alone? Are there not a whole bunch of city bylaws perhaps being broken as well? God knows if a typical Kingstonian so much as parks with one tire on their own lawn they get a warning (true story) but this company can fix up a few things and continue on!! Wow

  • March 29, 2020 at 10:14 am
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    Shameful. Was this not the project that KEDCO went on a boodoggle trip to China for? And what about the 200 jobs touted by our Mayor at the time? And did the owners of the plant get a tax break from the City for locating their project here? Just saying.

  • March 29, 2020 at 10:56 am
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    This a prime example of what occurs when you have a globalist for prime minister. The conservatives aren’t much better. This is how the wealthy keep everyone down by giving our jobs to foreigners who work for less. Of course the money the workers make here will purchase a lot more when they return home. There is no shortage of skilled workers in Canada. They want a decent wage because it is so expensive to live here

  • March 29, 2020 at 11:22 am
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    Do people realize that Kingston’s new prison farms will be supplying that factory exporting to China? Under international trade law, Canada is prohibited from using prison labour to serve international markets, yet our government is prepared to ignore that law to let prisoners feed this mega-business which has demonstrated such little regard for human rights and civic standards. How much are we willing to sell out for the sake of this multi-million dollar foreign investment in Kingston?

  • March 29, 2020 at 11:29 am
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    A foreign government – and make no mistake, all Chinese companies make no move without the approval of the government, comes into town flouts our zoning & labour laws and our elected officials do nothing but welcome them with open arms – remember that trip to China at taxpayers expense. 88 people living in 5 single family homes! The company responsible for this should have been given a large fine and an enforceable order to vacate all premises within a week. Another question – did they have a City of Kingston business permit for operating a hotel/boarding house, did they pay city business taxes? Did thy have building permits for all the modifications that were made? Our mayor is so busy patting himself on the back and chasing awards that the quality of life issues for residents are being ignored.

  • March 29, 2020 at 12:01 pm
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    Not sure why my comment keeps getting deleted but these workers are from the huge milk plant being built on Resource Road. This isn’t a new project, it’s been under construction for over a year and please Kingstonist stop deleting my post!

    • March 30, 2020 at 4:23 pm
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      Hi Ryan, we haven’t deleted any of your comments, to our knowledge. Each comment on our site is manually approved and, because we are a very small team, there is sometimes a delay in approving comments. Thanks for your patience.

  • March 29, 2020 at 1:14 pm
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    Thanks for writing this public interest story – the same thing is happening at 1 Strathcona Cres, Kingston. Workers are in during the week and go home on weekends. This practice needs to be suspended immediately.

  • March 29, 2020 at 1:20 pm
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    If the company is bringing in people to build it, you can damned sure bet it will do the same to staff it !
    We don’t need this type of business persons who endorse this in our city , or any other city in our
    country.
    Shame on them and shame on us for allowing this to happen.

  • March 29, 2020 at 3:19 pm
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    Why is this situation not being regulated as one is to assume that these workers are here on work permits ??? No Canadians capable of doing the work ?

  • March 29, 2020 at 5:25 pm
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    This story isn’t about the workers!! Or where they’re from! It is about an EMPLOYER who is forcing these HUMAN BEINGS to live in unsanitary, crowded, unsafe conditions. If these were locals I’m betting money NONE of you would complain except about the horrendous conditions these people are forced to live in~but no. Let’s be Kingstonians and immediately go to your usual bigoted, prejudiced bs.

    • March 29, 2020 at 9:31 pm
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      The fact that there is unemployed Canadians who need jobs isn’t racism. Maybe some of the comments might be prejudicial and bigoted but not all.

  • March 30, 2020 at 2:55 pm
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    Well that’s interesting – I posted comments yesterday and it appears that the “moderators” deemed it too ??what?? It had no racist comments, but it did come down hard on our elected officials . I guess that is what caused them not to print as I do not see my post here.

    • March 30, 2020 at 4:19 pm
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      Hi Shirley, all comments are manually approved by our very small team. During times like this, and especially over the course of a weekend, there may be a delay in comment approval. Thanks for your patience as we worked to review each one.

  • March 31, 2020 at 9:09 am
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    So glad attention has finally been drawn to this huge, ongoing problem. We have friends who’ve lived beside one of these overcrowded homes for 1½ years who are frustrated beyond words. What this unconscionable BC landlord, Realgoal Technology, has done is just wrong on so many levels. It’s unfair to the ensnared factory workers, and also to the families who live near these over-crowded, uncared-for homes. Is Realgoal buying up more homes in our neighbourhood to turn into high density dwellings? Will this practice escalate when the monolithic factory located at Centennial and Resource Dr eventually opens for production? It sounds in the Kingstonist article like it’s all quite legal as long as these residential homes are retrofitted to meet the fire safety code. Twenty-six adults in one residential home?! We should all be contacting the mayor and our councillors to look at this more closely. Please Kingstonist, delve deeper.

  • April 2, 2020 at 2:12 am
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    Good job done by Kingston Fire & Rescue inspectors conducted an inspection of the company’s properties, finding that the five houses, originally built as single-family homes, were being used to provide accommodations for a total of up to 88 people.

  • April 17, 2020 at 12:49 pm
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    One of the houses on Halifax Drive that was occupied by the workers was repossessed by the bank (notice was posted on the door.)

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