In response to unjust federal immigration policies, and after years of advocacy by grassroots community health workers and organizers, several Canadian municipalities have adopted Sanctuary City policies. At OneCity, we believe it is time for Vancouver to become a Sanctuary City.
The City of Vancouver has passed its Access Without Fear policy, a policy intended to provide safe access to city services for those with precarious immigration status, in April 2016. In May 2018, Sanctuary Health Vancouver audited the implementation of Access Without Fear policies at the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Parks and Recreation, and Vancouver Public Library. While Sanctuary Health acknowledges that they have “encountered great champions within the Vancouver Public Library and the Vancouver Parks Board,” it is a damning audit. We need to do more to protect vulnerable people. Embracing the tremendous efforts of Sanctuary Health and organizers across the country, OneCity will advocate for a Sanctuary City, based on the following principles and policies.
OneCity's Plan for a Sanctuary City in Vancouver:
- Ensure all residents can access municipal services, based on their need, rather than their immigration status. All persons should be able to access municipal services without the fear of being deported.
- Ensure that the Vancouver Police Department align with the Sanctuary City principles, including ceasing collaboration with the Canada Border Services Agency to create real access without fear.
- Commit to funding implementation and communication of the Access Without Fear Policy.
Commit resources to train city staff in the guidelines of the Sanctuary City policy, especially the importance of confidentiality and the right of all residents to access service. Develop these training materials and sessions in consultation with affected communities.
- Implement a Sanctuary Schools Policy at the Vancouver School Board.
- Ensure city-funded shelters and services/programs are truly accessible to all and that they can be accessed without fear of the disclosure of immigration status.
The Vancouver School Board declined to support the Access Without Fear policy, believing it already had supports and processes in place for immigrant children and families, regardless of immigration status. OneCity is working for a Sanctuary Schools Policy to further address the needs of students and families within the school system.