Labour advocacy groups are calling on B.C.’s attorney general to respect the rights of workers taken away during an immigration raid at Hastings Racecourse last month.
The groups sent a letter, which was issued Labour Day, saying the writers are “horrified that several of our neighbours, comrades, and fellow workers and residents are unable to celebrate this day with us” after the raid.
The racecourse raid came in the early hours of Aug. 19, when number of people employed and supervised by various horse owners and trainers were escorted off the site.
Last week, Attorney General David Eby said raid came after a whistleblower reached out to his office last October with concerns about what was happening at the racecourse on multiple issues, including people working without permits. The issue was passed to the Canadian Border Security Agency in January, he added.
The letter was addressed to Eby, Premier John Horgan, the federal ministers for immigration and public security, Vancouver-Hastings MLA Shane Simpson and East MP Jenny Kwan. As of Sunday morning, it had 132 signatories including the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, No One Is Illegal-Vancouver and Sanctuary Health.
The writers said around 26 workers from Mexico were detained in the raid.
“These workers are being punished with exclusion orders for the alleged corruption of an employee of the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch who may have provided fake documents in exchange for benefits and cash,” the letter said. “Many of the workers have been coming to Canada for a few years and believed they had the necessary legal authorization.”
A gaming inspector at the racecourse has been suspended with pay as a result of the raid and all licences issued at Hastings Racecourse will be reviewed.
Eby said he felt for the workers caught in the middle.
“That’s one of the reasons I was so concerned about these allegations… that there may have been a provincial employee involved in exploiting these very vulnerable people,” he said.
The letter called on federal and provincial governments to protect the workers through work permits, resident permits and to allow them to reenter Canada to work.
A demonstration in support of the workers is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday at the main gate of the PNE.