Montreal councillors vote in favour of sanctuary city status
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, February 20, 2017 10:41AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 20, 2017 6:08PM EST
Montreal city council has passed a motion that could turn the city into a safe haven for people without legal immigration status or documentation, in a decision that comes amid the growing number of asylum-seekers crossing the border from the U.S. into Canada.
Montreal will join Vancouver, Toronto, London, Ont., and Hamilton, Ont. in adopting a formal policy to ensure undocumented immigrants have access to municipal services such as city-funded shelters, housing and food banks.
The motion was put forward by Mayor Denis Coderre, who formerly served as Canada’s immigration minister.
“I think that we have to have a door instead of a wall,” Coderre told CTV’s Power Play after the vote.
Earlier on Monday, Coderre said he empathizes with the plight of those who have left their homes abroad in the hopes of finding safety and security in Quebec. He says he wants to provide broader access to “health care, housing, and integration.”
“You have a lot of these people who are victims. They have been victims of terrorist acts. They have been kicked out of their country or went out because of their situation, sexual orientation, (as) political refugees,” he said before the motion passed on Monday. “I think we should straighten up that situation and find a way to address the undocumented.”
South of the border, U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order barring travel by citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, as well as his temporary halt of the country’s refugee program, has stoked fears that further immigration restrictions are on the horizon.
The U.S. travel ban is not presently in effect, however, after it was suspended by a Seattle judge. The suspension was later upheld by an appeal court. The Trump administration is in the midst of revising the policy. A draft copy is reported to target the same seven countries named in the original order.
Earlier this month, the RCMP released information indicating that Quebec, among all provinces, is seeing the largest increase in asylum seekers.
RCMP Cpl. Camille Habel said Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia have all experienced an increase in recent months, “but the largest increase has been seen in Quebec.”
The number of refugee claimants in Quebec hit 593 in December, up from 74 in Dec. 2014, according to the Canadian Border Services Agency which says there were 452 in January.
Advocacy group Solidarity Across Borders has already labelled Montreal’s proposal insufficient. The organization wants to see border agents barred from the city.
“The City of Montreal needs to get beyond easy symbolism, and undertake tangible measures to ensure non-cooperation with the Canada Border Services Agency to end deportations and ensure access without fear by undocumented migrants to all essential services, including health care, education, and housing,” said Stacey Gomez, an organizer with the group.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, social justice activist Jaggi Singh called for an end to cooperation between Montreal police and border authorities.
“We can share dozens of stories where a police intervention, often for very minor things like a traffic accident or wrong turn, or a random check even, results in people being deported,” he said.
Singh also took aim at Coderre’s record as immigration minister, saying he is in part responsible for the struggles refugees face in Montreal.
“He knows very well that this is purely symbolic. He should stop playing cheap politics with this issue. There are very real things he has the power to do.”
With a report from CTV Montreal