Montreal votes to become a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants
Published Monday, February 20, 2017 10:05AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, June 7, 2017 10:46AM EDT
The mayor has successfully led a drive to declare Montreal a sanctuary city.
The declaration was adopted unanimously by Montreal city council on Monday afternoon.
It will ensure people without status or documentation will not be reported to federal authorities when they receive city services - and they will have access to those services, including city-funded shelters, housing and food banks.
The motion was put forward by Mayor Denis Coderre, who formerly served as Canada’s immigration minister.
“We can straighten up that situation and find a way to address the undocumented,” said Coderre.
Coderre said he thinks it's time for Montreal to offer more.
“(We can provide) health care, housing, integration. A lot of these people are victims. They’ve been victims of terrorist acts, they’ve been kicked out of their country or left because of their situation – from sexual orientation to political refugees,” he said. “Some of them have been here six, seven, eight years.”
"We have the capacity to provide services under our own juristriction so when we are talking about housing when we are talking about basic service we will be able to do that."
Advocacy group Solidarity Across Borders is skeptical of the motion, saying declaring Montreal a sanctuary city is not sufficient.
“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, in a statement.
The group is lobbying to go beyond ‘sanctuary city’ and make Montreal a ‘solidarity city,’ which includes non-collaboration with Montreal police on this issue. The group alleges Montreal police “arrest and hand over undocumented migrants over to the CBSA.”
Solidarity Across Borders wants to see border agents barred from the city, said organizer Jaggi Singh.
“The motion that the city of Montreal is putting forward today is limited, it’s symbolic; it’s not creating a real sanctuary city. The basis for a real sanctuary city is to ensure that there is no collaboration between the Montreal police and the Canadian Border Services Agency. We can share with you dozens and dozens of stories with a police intervention, often for very minor things, like a traffic accident or a wrong turn or even a random check, results in people being deported,” said Singh.
With the vote in favour, Montreal joins Vancouver, Toronto, and Hamilton and London, Ont.
Earlier this month, the RCMP released information that Quebec is dealing with Canada's largest increase in the number of asylum seekers.
The decision comes as U.S. President Donald Trump has issued a crackdown on illegal immigrants, pushing many to cross into Canada illegally as asylum seekers.
The U.S. travel ban is not presently in effect, however, after it was suspended by a Seattle judge and later upheld by an appeal court. The Trump administration said it is revising the policy, but a draft copy is reportedly targeting the same seven countries named in the original order.