British Columbia

Hastings Racecourse workers ordered out of the country

Seven workers who were arrested during a Canada Border Services Agency raid at Vancouver's Hastings Racecourse on Monday have been ordered out of the country after Immigration and Refuge Board of Canada hearings.

Seven workers were arrested by border officials during a raid on Monday

Seven Hastings Racecourse workers have been ordered out of the country, after hearings at the Immigration and Refuge Board of Canada found them to be foreign nationals working without permits. (Tristen.Pelton/Flickr)

Seven workers who were arrested during a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) raid at Vancouver's Hastings Racecourse on Monday have been ordered out of the country, after Immigration and Refuge Board of Canada hearings.

In each of the individual hearings held Wednesday, the workers were found to be foreign nationals, working in Canada without a permit.

In the course of the hearings, it was revealed that an investigation is underway into the possibility that an employee of the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch falsified racetrack licence documents for the workers.

It was alleged that someone working for the branch altered or falsified licences paid for by the arrested workers, in order for them work at the racetrack.

In all seven cases, the workers have been given expulsion orders and released from CBSA detention. Some were released on bonds, while others who had no family in Canada were released on conditions, including daily check-ins with the CBSA office in downtown Vancouver.

Jose Gonzalez Vazquez was the final worker to have a hearing on Wednesday. He sat at a table next to a duty counsel wearing a red Nike T-shirt, jeans and Crocs.

Gonzalez Vazquez listened to the proceedings through an interpreter.

Through his lawyer, he admitted to being a foreign national without a work permit in Canada. He confirmed he was paid $75 a day to work as a groomer at the stables, living in the workers' quarters onsite.

The workers were living in quarters onsite at the Hastings Racecourse, seen here from McGill St. (Google Streetview)

Gonzalez Vazquez arrived in Canada on April 4, and began work at Hastings later that month. His lawyer said he believed he was allowed to work at the track after purchasing a licence.

His lawyer said her client would happily return to his home country of Mexico, and was even willing to pay for his own flight.

Gonzalez Vazquez was ordered released from detention with conditions and led away in handcuffs by contracted security guards.

All seven men are from Mexico and are being sent back there.

Advocate says men believed their work was legal

Byron Cruz is with a migrant rights group, Sanctuary Health Collective, which has been in touch with the families of some of the arrested workers. 

He said the seven men believed they were allowed to work, because they'd paid hundreds of dollars for licences.

"People were under the impression that they were working with the licence and they had licence to work at the race track. Someone provided that licence to them," said Cruz, who added that they should now be given the opportunity to apply for open work permits. 

The workers will be ordered out of Canada for one year, at which point they may be able to return.


With files from Mugoli Samba

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About the Author

Rafferty Baker is CBC Vancouver's mobile journalist. Follow him @raffertybaker