Vancouver looks at becoming ‘sanctuary city’

March 30, 2016

By Matt Robison, Vancouver Sun |

Vancouver residents fearing detention or deportation will be free to access municipal services without concern of being reported, if city councillors approve the idea next week.

Under the proposed policy, city staff would not ask for or provide information on the immigration status of residents to other public institutions or governments unless required by law.

The policy would only apply to services provided by the city, including fire and rescue or community services, utilities and public works, and information services like 3-1-1. But it would not apply to civic services provided by police, parks and libraries, which are all governed by individual boards, cautioned a report prepared for council.

Residents covered by the policy could include individuals such as temporary foreign workers whose work permits have expired, immigrants who have left their spouse in the event of a sponsorship breakdown, refugees whose claims have been denied, and students who have overstayed their permits, according to the report.

Mayor Gregor Robertson and councillor Geoff Meggs created a working group in 2014 to explore the idea of declaring Vancouver a “sanctuary city,” but that term was later turfed because it could lead some to wrongly think encounters with any agency active in the city would not lead to immigration trouble.

The cities of Toronto and Hamilton also have policies intended to provide services to undocumented immigrants, according to the report. The federal government has jurisdiction over immigration issues in the province.

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