When refugee applicants come to Canada, there is often an assumption that Canada is a safer place than their home countries. But if you have a precarious migration status or no status at all, and you fear being turned over to the immigration authorities, life here is not safe at all.
Transit, health care, and community based social services workers could all be directed by their employers to demand proof of migration status, and even turn people over to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Sometimes workers are misled into thinking that contacting CBSA is helpful, when in fact it can have irreparable damage to an individual or family. In fact, workers are not obliged to collaborate with the CBSA if they are not presented with a valid warrant.
Sanctuary City Vancouver is part of a growing global movement to provide access to services, based on need, not migration status. The group is spreading the word throughout the Lower Mainland, hoping to educate British Columbians on the importance of providing services to the people who most need them.
Early this year, the BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) was proud to endorse the Sanctuary City Principles for Vancouver:
- Access to basic and essential services will be determined by need and not migration status: Services such as education, health services, food security, dignified housing, public transit, public safety, legal aid, and municipal services are meant for everyone regardless of status.
- Access without fear: The fear of debt, deportation, and/or death should not limit people’s access to services. We recognize that the responsibility of enforcing immigration law falls onto Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) alone, and is NOT the responsibility of service providers, health care workers, other police agencies, transit security nor the municipal government.
As part of the plan to integrate the principles into the work of the BCGEU, the Education Department will be initiating a pilot where Sanctuary City workshops will be integrated into our education plan for some of our members who work with the public. "Letting our members know they don't have to check a client's migration status is an important step toward providing a safe space for care," said Andrea Duncan, vice president of community social services. "We are starting with our workers who deal with the most vulnerable populations, and depending on the pilot, we will expand to other components."