Today Sat Sun
It is forecast to be Clear at 11:00 PM EDT on August 01, 2014
Clear
24°/16°
It is forecast to be Partly Cloudy at 11:00 PM EDT on August 02, 2014
Partly Cloudy
24°/18°
It is forecast to be Chance of a Thunderstorm at 11:00 PM EDT on August 03, 2014
Chance of a Thunderstorm
24°/17°

60 Comments

news

City to Explore “Access Without Fear” Policy for Undocumented Residents

Toronto will consider becoming a sanctuary city.

130221 Solidarity City 01

Members of the Solidarity City Network show support for undocumented workers at city council. Photo courtesy of Solidarity City Network.

Toronto City Council has decided, after a fraught debate yesterday, to learn how it can remove barriers undocumented workers face when trying to access municipal services, and become what’s sometimes called a “sanctuary city.”

By a vote of 37-3, they’ve asked staff to compile a set of recommendations that would “ensur[e] access to services without fear to immigrants without full status or without full status documents.” If councillors endorse that report when they get it later this year, they will be formally deciding that residents should have access to municipal services regardless of their immigration status. Council also voted to ask the federal government to create a regularization program for people without status.

In practice, most municipal programs and services already guarantee undocumented residents access without having to disclose their immigration status. You can, for instance, obtain a library card by showing proof of name and address—a utility bill counts—and access many other services without being asked for documentation. However, the City has no formal policy to protect undocumented residents, which means that right now many Torontonians without status refrain from using services available to them—food banks, police services, schools, shelters, recreation services—because they fear that when they hit those formal points of contact with the government they’ll risk detention or deportation by federal border officials.

In their background report on the issue [PDF] City staff cited research showing that undocumented residents “suffer from high levels of anxiety, depression, chronic stress, and stress related physical illnesses.” Parents fear sending their children to school, and those who need medical or public health services endanger themselves to remain underground.

Dozens of members of the Solidarity City Network, a collective of residents advocating for regularization of undocumented people, celebrated the decision inside the council chambers. “I think it’s a great show of what community organizing can do,” said Tzazna Miranda, a spokesperson from the network. “The only way we’re going to get changes is if our communities are standing strong and keep councillors to what they promised today.”

Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s) called the sanctuary city decision “a historic moment.” During the debate, many councillors from across the political spectrum gave emotional speeches, citing their own families’ immigration stories and arguing that Toronto is a city shaped by the strength of its immigrant communities—and that, importantly, except for First Nations residents we all were immigrants at one point.

Mihevc suggested the vote makes protections for undocumented residents official City policy, though things aren’t quite that far along—council will still need to vote to accept the recommendations once they’ve been presented. Those recommendations will include more specific guidelines for increasing access, and a plan for training front-line City workers to ensure access policies are publicized and followed.

Poor staff training can blunt efforts to make services accessible to all residents. A 2010 study conducted by Social Planning Toronto revealed that even though provincial rules guarantee access to education regardless of status, Toronto Catholic District School Board staff regularly asked for documentation or denied admission to residents they thought were undocumented.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East) is one of the most vocal opponents of the sanctuary city policy. Yesterday he condemned “illegal immigrants” for failing to maintain legal status and proposed that council assist the federal government in removing undocumented people from the city. “They should be removed, we should not encourage them, we should not help them, we should not facilitate them,” Minnan-Wong said during debate. “They are an insult to every immigrant who played by the rules to get into this country.”

Any municipal access without fear policies will still have to respect existing provincial and federal laws. For example, people without status are restricted from accessing provincial welfare and disability support programs, as well as federal employment insurance benefits (even when these are administered by the City).

undocumented worker rates

Data from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 2012, as presented in a report by the City of Toronto.

People in Toronto usually become undocumented after entering the country legally, then staying when their temporary work permits or student visas expire. The federal government has steadily increased the nation’s supply of temporary migrants in recent years, and they now arrive to Toronto in greater numbers than permanent residents do. Other residents become undocumented by remaining in Canada after they fail to achieve refugee status. Governments cannot keep reliable statistics on individuals living without documentation: City staff say the number of undocumented Torontonians could be as low as 20,000 and as high as 500,000.

Comments

  • kole

    Great initiative! Very happy to see this happening. Much respect to all those involved in making this a reality!!

    • John Patrick

      yeah, its great that lawbreakers can now get free health care eh
      Treasonous decision by some very out-of-touch lawmakers

      • OgtheDIm

        They were already getting in JP. Which is why only 2 councillors voted against this.

        • Mat Damon

          youre right, we should continue to provide substandard care to our elderly so people who have never paid taxes in this country can get a free ride
          oh, and tax payer funded sex changes, because THAT clearly should be a priority
          the backlash from this will be far-reaching..people are sick and tired of criminality being rewarded, and especially illegal immigration

          by the way, what are you, an immigration lawyer? parasite

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            If every visa-lapsing human-trafficked paid-under-the-table illegal in the country were rounded up and deported tomorrow, do you really think anything would change for our elderly? It wouldn’t because the two are utterly unrelated.

          • CaligulaJones

            Hardly. If illegals aren’t paying income taxes, and they are using ANY service provided by the government, it obviously costs more than if they aren’t paying income taxes and NOT using any services provided as they aren’t even here. Why does the left fail math so much?

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            Why are you being such a jagwagon?

            Government services aren’t finite or static: if an illegal immigrant gets in line it doesn’t mean someone behind them is denied a drivers license or a check-up. If demand actually soars, the budget will be adjusted just as it would following a spike in legal immigration, a baby boom, or other demographic shift.

            If the Right actually gives a crap about the state of the elderly, or schools, or whatever other service they think illegals will have in their cross-hairs, how about fighting for a tax increase to undo the cuts you’ve already wrung out of them?

          • CaligulaJones

            “Government services aren’t finite” Pretty much says everything the Left believes in. Again, see Greece when an almost entire population skips on paying tax, yet demands full services like retiring at 55. As for raising taxes: see Rae, Bob (1990 to 1995)…

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            So if Toronto becomes a sanctuary city the city will go broke because nobody will be paying taxes. That’s some fancy math you have there, Champion Of The Right.

          • CaligulaJones

            Toronto certainly would go broke following your “logic”: just continually raise taxes to pay for more services. Again, see Greece. Raise taxes, people flee or skip them, tax base lowers. Repeat as needed. Read the article I posted above. Not every point is relevant, but I haven’t seen one of you hippies try to refute even one of the points. Says it all, really.

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            Where did I say “just keep raising taxes”? Nowhere, that’s where. Maybe you missed it when you were ignoring that there’s no connection between a few thousand extra library cards and 90% of the population of the city spontaneously not paying taxes.

            But please go on ignoring the parenthetical too.

          • mark_dowling

            CaligulaJones, to be fair – income tax is one of many taxes. Everyone (legal/illegal/visitor etc) pays HST, everyone who lives in Toronto pays property tax if they own OR rent. Lots of “legals” pay zero income tax because of being under exemption thresholds.

          • CaligulaJones

            ” income tax is one of many taxes.” Yep. which is why I mentioned it specifically. And, no, not everyone pays HST, (a great deal of under the table work in construction, for instance), and there are so many illegal rooming houses that don’t pay full property tax its not funny.

          • HotDang

            What if it was their Nanny that was deported?

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            New Job Opportunities For Honest Hard-Working Canadians!

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    I’m surprised to see only three dissenting votes. Where’s all the usual right wing bluster about tax payers and job-stealing?

    • John Patrick

      where is the common sense, more like it. I am a ‘leftie’ and do not support this initiative. its a slap in the face to Canadians and legal immigrants who hopped through all the hoops. These city councillers and the mayor should be shown the door, and I believe they are about to face a massive backlash come election day.

      • CaligulaJones

        Wonder what will happen to the marginalized working poor when 100,000 new workers enter the legal workforce. Can’t be good for them.

        • dsmithhfx

          What do you care, except to score a cheap point?

          • CaligulaJones

            Are you somehow insinuating that I don’t actually care about the current, legal working poor (most of my family, in fact)? Why don’t you answer the question: what will happen to people who are now working legally when 100,000 people, who used to have to work for cash, can now compete with them? Do you understand anything about math at all?

          • dsmithhfx

            How about raising minimum wage to $20/hr? Build enough subsidized housing to meet demand? Support unionization of service sectors? Do you really give a rat’s ass for “marginalized working poor”, or is this just about immigrant-bashing? Because that would certainly be consistent with the brand of politics you espouse.

          • CaligulaJones
          • Mat Damon

            “How about raising minimum wage to $20/hr”
            Whats that noise?
            Thats the sound of all the jobs leaving the country. Good luck with that.

          • CaligulaJones

            Don’t confuse it with math. The funny thing is, one example I can give is a unionized worker who makes over $20 already, but doesn’t work much as there are so many construction jobs already going to those who pay cash under the table, both to illegals and to save sales tax – a double whammy. This is how Greece started…

          • dsmithhfx

            You seem terribly concerned about Greece. So tell us about all the Greek millionaires who aren’t paying taxes. Hmmm ?

          • dsmithhfx

            Caligula’s Senator Horse was pretending to be concerned about “marginalized working poor” to justify his immigrant-bashing. We put paid to that pretty picture… And thanks for the help!

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

            Even better, let’s make that wage $30 instead, so that they can afford to actually buy things to keep the economy going and to be able to save, afford a home, put their kid through college/university, plus retire comfortably?

    • TorontoistEditors

      It’s worth reiterating (despite a lot of media coverage that has obscured this point): the motion was just asking for a report about how Toronto *could* become a sanctuary city. It’s an implicit endorsement of the goal, but it doesn’t involve any actual on-the-ground changes yet. There are generally some councillors who are willing to learn more about an issue without committing to the changes that might be proposed down the line.

    • dsmithhfx

      See above.

      • tyrannosaurus_rek

        I did, when it was written. Didn’t think it needed a reply.

  • mark_dowling

    I am a permanent resident who applied through CIC, filled out the forms, took the medical, paid the fees etc. etc. Can I ask the people who back this initiative – how would you rework the immigration system? Is the phrase “no-one is illegal” equivalent to “zero immigration controls” and if not, to what degree does it differ? (Please spare us all a history lesson, or tell us “what we have to understand”. You are Minister of Immigration in a majority government and can rewrite/repeal IRPA. Go.)

    • dsmithhfx

      “Please spare us all a history lesson, or tell us what we have to understand” Sorry, no, you are not spared. If you want to be ignorant, that’s on you. It’s great that you did everything by the book, but realize not everyone can. Criminalizing those people does not work, not to mention it is cruel and dehumanizing.

      • mark_dowling

        There you go, telling us what can’t be done rather than what you would do. The mention of “history” is because advocates frequently deflect the big picture stuff in favour of these “well just allow these people because history and there will be no complications” style replies.

        • dsmithhfx

          Sure there will be complications. Life is complicated. Deal with it. You’re only “legal” until the gummint decides you’re not. And it’s been making a lot of noises about that lately, but I’m guessing you probably haven’t been paying much attention.

          • mark_dowling

            Must be comfortable there in assumptions land.

          • dsmithhfx

            A guess is just a guess. And this FYGM act is a bit out of character for you.

          • mark_dowling

            I offered an open forum for ideas on how the immigration system could be reworked using a blank sheet of paper to reconcile the notion of removing sanctions from avoiding immigration restrictions with the broader public good. From you I get bullshit and a trip to the urban dictionary. So I really don’t care what you think is in or out of character for me, thanks.

          • dsmithhfx

            You want to skip the history lesson then please don’t bother, because without it you got nothing germane to this discussion

    • Angus

      Sorry the government wasted your time, but “no one is illegal” means exactly that: nobody should be subject to criminal or civil penalties because of how they entered the country.

      That doesn’t necessarily imply “zero immigration controls”, although that would certainly be the easiest and best way to achieve it. Personally, I’d start by dismantling Citizenship & Immigration Canada, and launching Jason Kenney into space.

      • dsmithhfx

        Why, what has space done to you?

    • andrew97

      I’m not answering your question exactly, but I support both this initiative and immigration controls, and I see them as somewhat orthogonal. Once people are in the city, they should be allowed to take advantage of city services, as a matter of public good and regardless of their status with the federal government. Moreover, as a citizen it would not be cool if suddenly I had to present my passport to get a library card or whatever. I might change my opinion if there were a huge number of illegal immigrants who were overwhelming city services, but this is not the case as far as I can see. Much better to have e.g. visa overstayers living openly rather than underground.

    • ephena

      I have no problem with economic immigrants. They come here to work, and build lives, and if we gave them a pathway to legal status, so they could pay taxes, I would be fine with that. Immigration controls that weed out criminals, or fleeing corrupt politicians and terrorists make sense to me, but barring people who just want to live a more prosperous life seems counterproductive. If people come for the “free” healthcare, give them a means to pay taxes, and the healthcare is no longer “free”. They pay for it the same way I do.

      Some studies have said that to be competitive in the next 100 years, Canada needs to double it’s intake of immigrants (see the G&M series on immigration a few months ago). Less controls on people who want to be here, more emphasis on integrating people and giving them language skills, increased and expedited evaluation of foreign credentials , and more focus on getting people into the tax base, less red tape and more time spent on training. Use the resources of CIC to look for damaging criminals, instead of nitpicking about who is bringing in masses of cash. We need workers, young people, and people willing to train. Take the people who have already demonstrated they want to be here, move them from working under the table to working legit jobs. They clearly want to work, get them paying taxes, or give them a path to become legal.

      Stop being so picky about people who already have money, take people who have future potential, not 60yr old business men with 5 years left to work before pension. Families with kids are great. The kids get a Canadian education, and we get their whole working, tax-paying lives. We need to build, and the undocumented workers who are here now can be part of that. Plus, anyone who buys food, services and goods, is already paying HST. Let them have access to services that will help them become successful. We all got a leg up, through public education, OHIP, training programs, before we started paying taxes. Giving services is an investment in future citizens. We need to stop being knee-jerk short-sighted.

  • OgtheDIm

    People don’t seem to realise the “hoops” have changed significantly in the last 6 years.
    E.g. People are being denied because they can not remember the colour of the shirt of their torturer, and thus are considered to be lying. And don’t get me started on how its not wise for Canadians to drive in Mexico, but a refugee from their is being sent back because its safe. This isn’t a left vs. right thing. Its an educated about the process thing.

    • mark_dowling

      How would you change the hoops?

      • OgtheDIm

        Not sure. Most likely put into law that refugee screening processes should be set by an arms length body of Canadians, like the CRTC, with as little political interference as possible.

        That’s all kinda beside the point though.
        I do know those who went through the refugee process 30 years ago, or the PR process, would be scared bat shit by this one. And anybody scared batshit by a threat to be sent back to where they were tortured is worth allowing to use the library, in my books.

        • unconvinced

          Why is everyone assuming that these illegal immigrants are somehow refugees of some horrible nation, if that was the case 100% of the time, then sure it makes sense to put an umbrella of services and help over all of them – unfortunately a lot of our “refugees” are actually economic and forgo safety in a country close by to jump on a plane or a boat and come here for the free money and healthcare.

          • mark_dowling

            In theory the refugees of horrible nations shouldn’t count for sanctuary policies, since refugees or those awaiting decision do have immigration status. In practice, while those who have been refused should be regarded in the same light as visa overstayers, the methodology to determine status has become deeply politicised on both left and right and it’s clear that some refusals are unjust. It doesn’t suit the narrative of either extreme to split these cases out from “I got here on a tourist visa and someone offered me a cash in hand job so…”

          • OgtheDIm

            Well apart from the whole idea that welfare is “free money” given how much rents costs in this city……

            lets just say that one person’s torture case is another person’s dirty lying thieving gypsies coming here for economic reasons.

            Reality is more likely in the middle.

            Which is why we need to take the politics of the day out of the process.

          • ephena

            If they are here for the “free” healthcare, make them legal and get them paying taxes. Put in training programs, reinstate language learning and settlement services, get their kids enrolled in school, and bring them into the fabric of Canada. Economic immigrants who just want better financial opportunities will work if given a crack at decent employment. I’ve worked with a lot of them. The vast majority don’t want to be on assistance, they want to work. Invest in integrating them at the outset, and reap the benefits of people who were willing to give up their homeland to be prosperous. Will always be some freeloaders, but you can be born in Canada and fit that bill too. Better to take advantage of the immigrants who want to be here, and want to make a better life for themselves, even if they aren’t fleeing torture.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    Would undocumented people have to pay for services normally free to residents/citizens?

  • derek

    what stupidity! we need to have a ‘zero tolerance’ for undocumented residents so as not to encourage such behavior. i can understand if its a kid brought in by parents or so but enough of this Canada… I worked my butt off and wasted lots of money trying to get in here through legal ways.. It took me three tries to come in. js

    • dsmithhfx

      “I worked my butt off and wasted lots of money trying to get in here through legal ways”

      So trying to get in through “legal ways” is a waste of money? With this gummint, and all the legit applicants they just cut loose without so much as a refund, I can believe it.

      • mark_dowling

        Who did they “cut loose without so much as a refund”? There is a refund process for the pre-2008 application case closures. http://www.cicsnews.com/?p=1984 Are you referring to something else?

        • dsmithhfx

          You’re right, they are offering refunds of application fees. Small consolation though to the nearly 300,00 people who tried to go through so-called legal channels and were summarily tossed out of the queue by a government that wants to pander to its political base, rather than respect the legal process already in place that many thousands tried to abide by.

  • Peter Clarke

    For the public good let’s see if lawyer Clayton Ruby on a “pro bono” basis will defend the law of the land and go to court to ensure that city council and all councillors get on the right side of the law concerning their ultra vires motion that declared the city of Toronto a sanctuary for illegal immigrants?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josie-Erent/1074278927 Josie Erent

    time to deport Mihevc and the other idiots at Toronto city hall who clearly do not understand that immigration is a federal matter…

  • ephena

    Many of the undocumented are already working, under the table. Making them legal wouldn’t take jobs from anyone – that’s a straw man. Getting undocumented people into the tax base makes a ton of sense. Canada needs immigrants. We also need programs to get newcomers into areas that need workers, both geographically and in terms of training. In the next 10 years, Canada faces a shortage of workers. So, bring in more people, spend the money to train them (as well as training Canadians for the jobs that actually are needed through colleges and apprenticeship programs), and we will be set for the next 40-50 years. Panicking at the thought that the dirty, lazy, cheating immigrants will take your job is just not realistic. We need to increase our tax base, and immigration is the right way to do that.

    • mark_dowling

      Can you explain a seeming contradiction in your opening sentences? If an employer forgoes the legal employment market in favour of paying cash in hand, a person without status who gets “regularised” and wants to join the tax base is surely in peril of losing the job s/he has. If the employer is willing to pay a taxable wage, why hire someone without status in the first place? If employers can pay cash in hand without consequences, how is the resident with status to find a job which pays what provincial law mandates?

      • ephena

        A very good point Mark. Let me try and explain my thinking (not perfect, but a start for discussion). When there is a big pool of undocumented workers it is easy for employers to cut corners, and hire them. They can complain and sob about how they can’t afford to hire actual Canadians, and pay real wages, but honestly, most employers bear the cost of legal wages, deductions and EI contributions, and they seem to survive. If you have promised your customers prices for yardwork that are so low you can’t afford to hire people legally, then the problem is with your business model, and the fact that your whole sector is based on illegal practices that cheat the rest of the economy, and I have very little sympathy. For people like house cleaners, it would be a better situation all round if they had legal protections from exploitation, and could access EI and other services. If there were less people who had to work under the table, it would be easier for a person to demand they get paid properly for the work they do.

        If we reduced the size of the undocumented pool, it would be harder for employers to get away with hiring and paying under the table. It will never go away, that is certain, and I’m not trying to say it would. The harder we make getting into Canada for people who want to work here, the easier we make it for employers to exploit people, and avoid paying deductions.

        Undocumented, under the table workers want to be legal (at least the ones I have met do – can’t speak for all), so if you gave them a reasonable path to legal employment, the pool would shrink. Not a perfect solution, but I haven’t heard a better one.

      • dsmithhfx

        An interesting discussion has begun in the wake of a survey that reveals up to half of all workers in Toronto have no benefits or job security, because they are working under “contract”, or the table. Other countries have begun to address this issue by providing special benefits, or assessing a surcharge against employers. I myself have been a victim under this regime. The issue is not “undocumented workers” and how to catch and punish them, the issue is unscrupulous employers, and governments that want to fly in “guest workers” to do jobs so unpleasant and underpaid that the domestic workforce won’t do them. That’s all part of the history, and it may surprise you to learn, also the present.