The Council of Canadians at a protest on February 3 calling on Winnipeg City Council to support sanctuary city designation.
The Council of Canadians supports the Sanctuary City movement.
The Canadian Press reports, “Montreal city council passed a motion Monday [February 20] making it the latest Canadian jurisdiction to declare itself a ‘sanctuary city’ for non-status immigrants. The designation means undocumented refugees will have full access to local services regardless of their situation.”
The article highlights, “Available services would include access to municipal programs and buildings, including libraries and recreation centres, while [Montreal mayor Denis] Coderre said he wants to discuss major issues such as health, housing and education with provincial and federal authorities.”
The London Free Press further explains, “Without proper identification or status, migrants can be denied city services, such as library use, recreation, shelters and public health programs. Fear of being discovered and reported to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) can keep non-status migrants from asking for services.”
It then notes, “A sanctuary city creates a general policy often called don’t ask, don’t tell that prohibits bureaucrats from asking for citizenship proof and other forms of identification before providing service, and prevents them from sharing information about migrant status with other agencies.”
The Canadian Press article adds that Toronto (in February 2013), Hamilton (in February 2014) and London (in January 2017) are already sanctuary cities and that Ottawa, Saskatoon and Regina are considering similar motions. Earlier this month, our Winnipeg chapter called on their city council to declare Winnipeg a sanctuary city.
But there are concerns that these designations don’t go far enough.
The article notes, “Jaggi Singh, a spokesperson for Solidarity Across Borders, said that Montreal should at least ensure that police and transit officials will not collaborate with Canada Border Services Agency and hand over undocumented migrants. Singh said there are countless instances where an arrest on a minor infraction can lead to deportation.”
In early 2015, the Council of Canadians supported the Transportation not Deportation campaign in Vancouver. That campaign stated that the public transit system should not be a border checkpoint. As a result of public pressure, Vancouver Transit Police agreed to terminate their agreement with the CBSA, that officers must receive permission from a Watch Commander to contact the CBSA, and that they would not detain people for contraventions of immigration law.
It has also been suggested that ‘sanctuary provinces’ are an important next step given many services, such as health care, affordable housing and policing, are overseen by the provincial government. Some hope that more sanctuary cities will create the political pressure to make sanctuary provinces a more widely-held demand.
The Council of Canadians recognizes that unequal economic relations, resource exploitation, so-called ‘free trade’ deals, and climate change create the conditions which contribute to the migration of people, and that migrants face unjust treatment crossing militarized borders as they flee these circumstances. They face further discrimination as undocumented residents in ‘First World’ countries that often bear responsibility for the conditions that force migration. In an era with no restrictions on the flow of global capital, we question the restrictions placed on the movement of people.