By Gerald V. Paul
When St. Vincent born George Williams decided to come in from the cold, he walked into Maxwell Meighen Homeless Shelter for help.
He was undocumented and gay.
The shelter did not asked for any immigration papers but helped him filed a refugee claim – having fled St. Vincent to avoid persecution as a gay man – he was accepted and became a permanent resident last year!
Continued good news: the City’s community development and recreation committee has come up with a plan to transform Toronto into a “sanctuary city,” ensuring that non-status residents can turn to the city services without fear that they‘ll be turned in for detention or deportation.
The motion calls for the training of front-line staff and managers to ensure that undocumented residents won’t be asked about their immigration status when accessing services – calling police in an emergency, for example – and establishing a complaints protocol and public education strategy to inform Torontonians of the sanctuary policy.
Toronto City Council voted on the “ access without fear” motion on Thursday and passed it, becoming the first Canadian “sanctuary city”.
Twenty-six other cities in the USA, including New York, have already declared themselves sanctuary cities.
The motion does not suggest that the new policy would contain any benefits for city government, only for the undocumented residents themselves.
“The undocumented live here, work here and pay taxes here. They are part of the community. They also need services and support. Government services should not be tied to immigration status,” said Karin Baqi of the Solidarity City Networ, an umbrella group behind the campaign.