Revelations that the investigation into an inspector at B.C.’s gaming policy and enforcement branch began last fall is raising troubling questions about the timing of Monday’s immigration raids at Hastings Racecourse.
In an emailed statement late Thursday, an official with B.C. Ministry of Attorney General said the investigation began in October after a complaint was made to the ministry, which includes the gaming enforcement branch. It said the branch immediately began an internal investigation and, after uncovering some information, took the matter to the federal government’s Canada Border Services Agency for assistance.
It was border services that then led the investigation and raided the race track.
Deportation hearings conducted by adjudicators with the Immigration and Refugee Board on Wednesday were told that many of the workers scooped up by border services had paid between $600 and $1,000 to a gaming enforcement branch inspector who is “under investigation” and were apparently promised the proper documentation to work in Canada.
The majority of those Mexican workers had come to Canada and claimed to have received the B.C. licences, required to work at race tracks, from the inspector under investigation around the time racing season began in April of 2019, or later. To get the licences, they are supposed to be required to show proof, such as a work permit, that they are allowed to work in Canada.
At least one B.C. licence was given to a worker in June, nine months after the Attorney General’s office said the investigation began.
David Milburn, a lawyer, horse owner-trainer and president of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association of B.C., is asking questions.
“I want to know what (border services) and (gaming enforcement) knew, when they knew it and if they knowingly allowed this rogue agent to give these licences,” he said.
Milburn has criticized the “aggressive tactics” used by border services officers and the manner in which the workers were arrested. “Those young people were allowed to be in Canada. While they may have committed a violation of the Immigration Act, they were taken down like gang members.”
CBSA has not replied to any questions posed by Postmedia about the arrests, the timing or nature of their investigation, or the identity of the inspector under investigation.
Thursday’s statement from the Attorney General spokesperson said border services “led and directed enforcement action at Hastings Racecourse.”
The statement also said the gaming enforcement branch has “taken steps to secure the integrity of licensing and registration at Hastings Racecourse.”
Milburn doesn’t buy it.
“They’ve taken steps to ensure the integrity of licensing?” he said. “Where were these steps to protect the integrity of licensing during the investigation in March, April and as late as June when some of these licences were issued and caused these young persons to be arrested, be held in custody and now sent back to Mexico.”