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NEWS: Toronto declares itself a ‘sanctuary city’, rejects Harper agenda

Supporters of Toronto as a sanctuary city celebrate the 37-3 win. Photo by Richard Lautens/ Toronto Star.While the Harper government is shamelessly making it harder for people to seek asylum in Canada, and sees only ‘savings’ in reduced spending on social, education and health benefits from the resulting plummet in the number of refugees, the City of Toronto has taken a different approach.

The Toronto Star reports, “Toronto has made history by affirming itself as a ‘sanctuary city’, the first Canadian city with a formal policy allowing undocumented migrants to access services regardless of immigration status. On Thursday, City Council passed the motion by a vote of 37 to 3 that also requires training all city staff and managers to ensure Toronto’s estimated 200,000 non-status residents can access its services without fear of being turned over to border enforcement officers for detention and deportation.”

“(Toronto City) Council also voted to ask Ottawa to establish an amnesty program for undocumented migrants and the province to review its policies to ensure their access to health care, emergency services and community housing.”

“This is a historic moment because we are saying we are a sanctuary city and that anyone who is in the City of Toronto will be able to access all the services the city offers, be it in the areas of health, in the area of parks, in the area of library, in the area of health and safety,” said councilor Joe Mihevc. …However, Mihevc pointed out the new city policy will not address barriers faced by non-status residents for services under the provincial or federal jurisdictions such as housing, income security, welfare and labour protection.”

36 US cities (including Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia) and 3 states (Oregon, Maine, Vermont) have declared themselves sanctuaries for non-status migrants.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated, “The Harper government has changed Canada’s refugee determination system in a way that creates a two-tier system of refugee protection, which is vulnerable to political whims, rather than ensuring a fair and independent decision-making process. Bill C-31 gives the immigration minister enormous powers to imprison refugee claimants, to deny refugees the ability to reunite with family members and to strip them of secure legal status. The bill does not take into account the realities of the most vulnerable, such as survivors of torture and sexual violence, and blatantly violates the UN Refugee Convention and other international rights instruments. The law denies refugee claimants from specific countries (some of which have records of systemic human rights violations) from appealing a negative decision. Furthermore, cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program have deprived claimants of basic and emergency health care, a move that front-line health care workers call cruel and inhumane.”

For more, please read:
NEWS: Company fined for deaths, but use of ‘foreign’ workers explodes under Harper
NEWS: Harper’s refugee policy puts children in jail
UPDATE: Harper prioritizes ‘free trade’ with Europe over refugee rights
NEWS: Showdown between sanctuary movement and Harper government looms
NEWS: Manitoba to counter Harper cuts to health care for refugees

Photo: Supporters of Toronto as a sanctuary city celebrate the 37-3 win. Photo by Richard Lautens/ Toronto Star.