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B.C. official investigated for licences issued to workers arrested at Hastings Racecourse

WATCH: An advocate for migrant workers who were arrested at Hastings Racecourse says the action was an issue of paperwork fraud. Catherine Urquhart reports.

The arrest of multiple workers at Hastings Racecourse on Monday stemmed from an internal investigation into the B.C. official who issued them their credentials, immigration hearings for some of the workers heard Wednesday.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) arrested up to 25 people who work in the backstretch of the East Vancouver racetrack. About 15 were later released.

The CBSA said the early morning raid was related to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

WATCH: (Aug. 20) CBSA makes multiple arrests at Hastings Racecourse

CBSA makes multiple arrests at Hastings Racecourse
CBSA makes multiple arrests at Hastings Racecourse

On Wednesday, seven of the workers who remained in custody were given mandatory 48-hour review hearings.

Evidence presented revealed an internal investigation within the province’s gaming policy and enforcement branch (GPEB), which is responsible for issuing licences to racetrack workers.

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The hearings heard GPEB was looking into one of its own investigators, who they believe facilitated racetrack licences without proper work authorization.

READ MORE: CBSA makes multiple arrests at Hastings Racecourse

Representatives of the workers say they paid for those licences, believing it was the proper process to get both a licence to work at the racetrack and work authorization in Canada.

All seven workers who had hearings Wednesday, most of whom are from Mexico, agreed to voluntarily leave the country and pay for their own flights back home.

The workers were also given accommodations at the racetrack, so without a licence or a place to live, representatives said they had little choice but to leave.

READ MORE: Man sentenced to 20 months in jail for role in B.C.’s largest immigration fraud case

“We hope to give these workers more information about open work permits and the legal resources available to them,” said Byron Cruz, who works with migrant rights group Sanctuary Health and attended the hearings.

“The most affected people in this situation are the workers. So what’s going to happen now?”

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The investigator has not been named. Global News has reached out to the GPEB for comment.

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WATCH: (June 11, 2018) Penticton businessman under CBSA microscope

Penticton businessman under CBSA microscope
Penticton businessman under CBSA microscope

Under provincial law, foreign workers who are employed in certain jobs at racetracks in B.C. must apply for a valid licence.

The application form for the licence requires the worker to state whether they are a Canadian citizen and what their immigration status is.

Those who say they are not a Canadian citizen are required to submit work permit or landed immigrant documents, the form states.

READ MORE: ‘No charges have been laid’: Singla family issues statement after CBSA raid

In a statement issued Tuesday, the B.C. Federation of Labour (BCFED) said it was “appalled to hear reports of the way the workers and their allies were treated during the raid.”

“Exploitation of migrant workers with and without documentation is rampant in B.C., which is why the Federation remains strong in its demand that B.C. become a Sanctuary Province to ensure that all workers are treated with dignity and respect,” president Laird Cronk said.

BCFED said they had no further comment on the issue.

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