Feb 22, 2013

By Jane Brown

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Toronto has made history as Canada’s first “sanctuary city”.  City councillors have passed a motion by a vote of 37 to 3 allowing undocumented immigrants access to city services.  The plan also requires training of all city staff and managers to ensure Toronto’s estimated 200,000 non-status residents can access services without fear of being turned over to border enforcement officers for detention and deportation.  Councillor Gord Perks says it’s an extension of what’s already in place at Toronto’s schools, “programs called Don’t Ask Don’t Tell where we provide education to kids whether their parents are here illegally or not.”

Both Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford voted for the motion.  Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong was among the 3 who voted against it.  He says illegal immigrants “should be removed.  We should not encourage them.  We should not help them.  We should not facilitate them.  They’re an insult to every immigrant who played by the rules to get to this country.  They’re an insult to every immigrant who’s waiting to enter this country legally.  It sends a message to the world that it is okay to break the law to come to Canada.”

Council’s vote comes at a time when the undocumented population is expected to surge in 2015 and when many legal but temporary foreign workers will see their four year work permits expire under a new federal law.  36 American cities have similar policies of allowing illegal immigrants access to city services without fear of being reported.

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