China-linked tech company approved by Ottawa to offer immigrant visas stops paying workers

By Amy Chen

A Vancouver-based tech company with links to China and designated by Ottawa as one of the business incubators under the Start-up Business Visa pilot program has not paid its North American employees since May, according to the workers who have taken to social media to air their grievances.

The employees of Istuary Innovation Group posted the following message through Vancouver-based recruiter Jamie Hoy[1]

The CEO, Ethan Sun, established the company in Vancouver in 2013. Within 4 years, he was able to secure sufficient funding to expand it to a company with 1800+ employees globally, who were working in 20+ offices across North American in China.

In June, Mr. Sun claimed that we are encountering a cashflow shortage because he is working on a reverse acquisition in China. Upon completion of the deal, he would be able to pay us. Initially, he promised that July 31 was the payday. It did not happen.

Since August 31, we have not heard from the CEO nor the CFO, leaving many of us jobless, at the mercy of EI. Disgruntled, we are on a quest to address this issue to the media and government.

This case is far more complicated than a regular labour dispute because it involves subject matters such as hi-tech immigrant workers, foreign capital flowing into the country and Canadian government support for tech companies.

The Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration designated Istuary Idea Labs Inc, part of the Istuary Group, as a designated incubator for the startup visa program on August 19, 2017[2]

Corporate filings show that Istuary Group comapnies have received more than $10 million dollars from investors in the US and Canada[3][4]

Yian (Ethan) Sun of Burnaby, BC is listed as the President and the CEO.

Ethan Sun received his bachelor’s degree in computer science at Peking University in 1996, and worked for China Telecom in Beijing for the next four years, first as a software designer, then as a project manager before moving to Canada in 2000, according to an article about the CEO in China Daily[5]

While Istuary Venture Capital seems to have organized investment forums targeting investors from China, we were not able to find any products or solutions offered by Istuary Innovation Labs or Istuary Idea Labs.

We were not able to reach Ethan Sun on any of the Vancouver numbers listed on Istuary’s corporate records.

[Cover photo: Ting Ma (Istuary China, VP of Marketing), Prime Minister Trudeau, and Ethan Sun pose for a photo at the CCBC Annual Meeting]

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