Vancouver to Become Canada’s Third Sanctuary City?

Gregor Robertson, Mayor of Vancouver, has committed to Vancouver’s future as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.

Cities that have declared themselves to be “sanctuary cities” have committed to providing municipal services to undocumented immigrants without reporting their lack of legal status to Canadian immigration.

In cities without sanctuary policies, undocumented immigrants are unable to use services without the fear of being deported. While the inability to use some public services, like libraries and public transit, is merely an inconvenience, the lack of access to essential services like healthcare or the inability to report crime to the police are dangerous and leave these individuals living in fear.

In sanctuary cities, immigrants are only able to use municipal services without risking deportation, as the city policies would not apply to services under provincial or federal jurisdiction. This means that undocumented immigrants would still be unable to access services like welfare and housing assistance that do not fall under the city’s control.

Vancouver’s Mayor, Gregor Robertson, has acted on the recommendation of a working group to continue to explore the process of becoming a sanctuary city, officially endorsing the idea. Of Vancouver’s transition to sanctuary city status, Robertson said that “Vancouver is committed to fostering an open, welcoming and safe environment for people of all backgrounds, and our diversity is fundamental to our city’s success.” While this commitment is an important step forward for the undocumented immigrants in Vancouver, thought to number in the thousands, the idea will not be fully fleshed out or implemented unless Robertson’s party wins re-election in November’s municipal election.

Vancouver becoming a sanctuary city would require a great deal of cooperation with other city services, as the police department, school board, and other services would all need to be on board with the decision and willing to participate.

If Vancouver does become a sanctuary city, it will follow in the footsteps of a number of American and Canadian cities that have adopted similar policies. Toronto became the first Canadian sanctuary city in February of 2013, followed by Hamilton in February of 2014. Vancouver would be the third Canadian sanctuary city.

The Canadian sanctuary city movement was modelled after a similar movement in the United States that includes a cities of all sizes. New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago are among the American cities deemed sanctuary cities.

Canada’s federal government has not been supportive of the sanctuary city movement thus far, as it is counter-productive to the government’s immigration enforcement goal. Responding to the movement, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said that the “government is proud of our record and we will not support efforts by any city council in Canada to offer sanctuary to individuals facing deportation.”

FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.

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