Montreal declared a ‘sanctuary city:’ What does that mean?

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Montreal: A sanctuary city
WATCH ABOVE: Montreal has been declared a sanctuary city, following a vote at city hall. As Global's Felicia Parrillo reports, that means undocumented immigrants will have access to city services – Feb 20, 2017

Montreal is now a sanctuary city, after a vote at city council Monday afternoon following a motion that was put forward by Mayor Denis Coderre.

The vote was unanimous.

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Advocate groups like Solidarity Across Borders argue the city’s motion is “inadequate” without the implementation of more concrete measures to help unauthorized immigrants in a safe way.

“The City of Montreal needs to get beyond easy symbolism and undertake tangible measures…to end deportations and ensure access without fear by undocumented migrants to all essential services including health care, education and housing,” said Stacey Gomez, a community organizer with Solidarity Across Borders.

The organization had been campaigning since 2009 to declare Montreal a sanctuary city, demanding free access to primary and secondary schools, as well as hospitals, clinics and other services.

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What is a sanctuary city?

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Sanctuary cities ensure undocumented people and unauthorized immigrants have access to city services, regardless of status and are not prosecuted for violating federal immigration laws.

READ MORE: Refugees risking their lives to find sanctuary in Canada

There are already several sanctuary cities in Canada.

READ MORE: What is ‘safe third country’ legislation?

Toronto was the first city in Canada to be declared a sanctuary city, with city council voting 37–three on Feb. 22, 2013.

Hamilton, Ont. was the second in February 2014 after city council voted unanimously to allow undocumented immigrants access city-funded services such as shelters, housing and food banks.

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London, Ont. voted unanimously to declare the city a sanctuary in January 2017.

READ MORE: Toronto doctor helps refugees fleeing U.S. for asylum in Canada

As of February 2017, Ottawa, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg and Montreal are considering motions to declare themselves sanctuary cities.

Vancouver is not a sanctuary city, but it did adopt an “Access to City Services without Fear” policy in April 2016 for undocumented residents or those with uncertain immigration status.

There are believed to be at least 50,000 undocumented migrants in Montreal.


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