Workers escorted away during Border Services probe at Vancouver horse track

VANCOUVER — Several people were removed form a Vancouver horse racing track this week as part of an investigation by the Canada Border Services Agency.

Border services agents arrived at the park, owned by Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, at about 6 a.m. Monday, said a news release from the Hastings Racecourse.

A number of people employed and supervised by various horse owners and trainers were escorted off the site, and none of those who were removed is affiliated with or employed by Great Canadian, the release said.

David Milburn, president of the Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association of B.C., said a well-organized group of people wearing black jackets descended on the racetrack and handcuffed people. The group included officers with border services and the B.C. Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, Milburn said.

“They appear to be knowing who they were going for, so they weren’t just walking up and questioning people,” he said.

“They had their targets … and they went about putting their targets in handcuffs. It was a roundup.”

A statement from the border services agency said it was conducting investigations at the track related to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The Canadian Border Services Agency says it conducts enforcement actions when it is believed that a contravention of the Customs Act or the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act has occurred.

The statement says it would be inappropriate to provide further information while the investigation is underway. It didn’t say if the people remain in custody.

Milburn said the arrests took place on a busy training day and they were disruptive.

“It was the type of roundup or raid that was reminiscent of something out of ICE that you see in the (United) States, not here,” he said.

Those arrested were the “foreign-worker variety of individuals,” he said, adding they didn’t arrest any of the regulars who had worked there for years.

Trainers can’t hire unlicenced help, let alone people not allowed to work in Canada, he said.

“If someone has done something illegal, we are opposed. But the members rely on Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch for the licencing, so trainers have done nothing wrong,” Milburn said.

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