VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Canada Border Services has made multiple arrests in an immigration raid at Hastings Racecourse.
NEWS 1130 has learned over a dozen people have been taken away in handcuffs Monday morning.
A manager at the track has told NEWS 1130 the arrests involved contract workers, not Hastings staff.
Sara, who works at the racecourse, says more than 20 Canada border officers went to the back of the track near the horse stables with a list of more than 20 names and photos. She watched as four colleagues, who are from Mexico and working at the stables as groomers, were taken away in handcuffs.
Just off phone with co-worker of 4 men taken away in handcuffs this morning @HastingsRaces. Sara tells @NEWS1130 they are all from #Mexico and she believes they have proper paperwork to be in #Canada. She says watching #CBSA agents move in was "de-humanizing." @NEWS1130
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) August 20, 2019
She said it was confusing, dehumanizing, and shocking.
“Where the frustration is coming from is how the people were treated,” she says. “A lot of the trainers believe that because these people obtained licenses, that they had a right to be here and a right to work here (….) and how the people that were being obtained or treated, was like they were dirt. they were not people. It was very dehumanizing to watch.”
She believes most of the people arrested are from Mexico, and that they have the proper paperwork to work in Canada.
“It was embarrassing. Just as a citizen of Canada and as a person that works back here, it was embarrassing to watch. I felt horrible for them,” she says.
Union representing racetrack workers calls raid ‘shameful and disgraceful’
MoveUP President David Black says members are shaken up and disturbed by Monday’s raid, calling the workers taken into custody part of the union’s “extended family.”
Black says in a statement that immigration officers targeted all Spanish speaking workers.
“Particularly disturbing are the reports that all racialized workers, even those who were not ultimately escorted away, were harassed by the officials conducting the raid,” he says in a statement. “These are individuals who are no different than we are. They want to build a good life, contribute to our society and economy, and support their families. To see them put on public display in a fashion designed to humiliate is absolutely shameful and disgraceful.”
Raid related to immigration
CBSA confirmed in an email statement the arrests were related to immigration.
“While the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) does not give details about ongoing investigations, we can confirm the CBSA was conducting investigations related to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act at the Hastings Race Course in Vancouver today.
“The CBSA conducts enforcement actions when it is believed that a contravention of the Customs Act or the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act has occurred. As the investigation is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to provide any further details at this time.”
Investigation sparked by unrelated complaint about government employee
The investigation of a government employee with the provincial agency in charge of policing the gaming industry prompted this week’s raid at Hastings Racecourse.
“Following a complaint received by the Attorney General in October 2018, the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch (GPEB) immediately launched an investigation. GPEB uncovered information through its investigation that led to the referral of the matter to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) for assistance,” says a ministry spokesperson. “CBSA subsequently led and directed enforcement action at Hastings Racecourse.”
Staff with Attorney General David Eby’s office have confirmed they’re working with the Canada Border Services Agency to secure the “integrity” of licensing and registration at the racecourse in Vancouver.
They say this stems from a complaint filed in October about a worker with the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, who no longer has access to any G-PEB offices or government systems.
This week's raid @HastingsRaces in #Vancouver, which resulted in arrests of several contract workers from #Mexico, not just immigration issue. Staff with Attorney General's office confirm investigation stems from complaint filed about a #GPEB employee in October. @NEWS1130
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) August 23, 2019
– With files from Martin MacMahon