Support is growing in the community to make Victoria a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants in Canada.
Last week, Victoria Coun. Jeremy Loveday facilitated a public forum with community groups and residents about the benefits and potential barriers of Victoria becoming Canada’s next sanctuary city, behind Hamilton, Ont.
In a sanctuary city, municipal employees don’t enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about an individual’s immigration status or reporting them to the Canada Border Services Agency.
More than 130 people attended the first discussion at city hall, including members from the Intercultural Association of Greater Victoria, the Greater Victoria Public Library, the school board and Victoria police, many of whom were in favour of the idea.
“A lot of this discussion is new in Victoria, but it has been picking up steam quickly,” said Loveday, adding there was another discussion a few days later on the same topic.
“This issue of sanctuary cities is a way to look at our local community and see what we can do here, not for people who are coming from other countries, but people who have already come from other countries and are already in our community and may not be able to access the same services that their neighbours are able to.”
The idea of a sanctuary city benefits people who have had their paperwork lapse or people coming to the country applying for refugee status, rather than new refugees being brought into Canada who already have documentation and a permanent resident status.
“The motivation and intent is to provide some safeguards for people who are here and their documentation has gone out of date and that can happen for a whole number of reasons,” said David Lau, executive director of the Victoria Immigration and Refugee Centre. “They could not be good with paperwork or they’re in a situation where they’re unable to have their documentation updated.”
However, there were questions during the meeting about how the idea could be properly implemented across various jurisdictions, especially across all 13 municipalities in the Capital Regional District.
The next steps are to compile the information collected during the meeting and do a debrief with members of the community.