Council refers ‘Access Without Fear’ policy to provincial, federal governments

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Council refers ‘Access Without Fear’ policy to provincial, federal governments
City Hall was a packed house last night as 15 delegates spoke in support of Regina becoming an "Access Without Fear" city, which is a policy that aims to let immigrants and refugees access city services without the fear of being deported. But last night, council didn't vote on the actual motion. Marney Blunt has more on what this means to newcomers in our city – Aug 1, 2017

During Monday night’s Regina City Council meeting, council referred the motion to implement the Access Without Fear policy to the provincial and federal governments.

Access Without Fear is a policy which allows residents without full legal status to access municipal services, without the fear of deportation or detention.

During the city council meeting Monday night, 15 delegates spoke in favour of the Access Without Fear Policy, most of whom immigrated to Canada.

“This hit home to me, this is really personal,” Juliet Bushi said. Bushi moved to Canada from Nigeria 13 years ago.

“My husband actually lost his status in 2013 and simply because of an error we made in his application.”

As a result, Bushi’s husband was out of work for seven months.

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“We struggled. We struggled financially, we struggled martially, morally, mentally… It is something that I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” she said.

Her family’s previous struggles is a reason why Bushi was one of the delegates speaking to city council in support of the Access Without Fear policy Monday night.

The policy requests that immigration and citizenship information can only be collected when required by provincial or federal law. It also requests that city council seek additional funding and support from the provincial and federal governments.

Fougere said that the city doesn’t ask residents if they have the necessary documentation to be in the country, so the policy was essentially redundant.

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“A lot of the discussion was about refugees and those newcomers to Canada who were afraid of when they dealt with housing, with medical, social issues and welfare. And so we felt very strongly that the province, which deals with immigration, should deal with the same issue as well,” Fougere told Global News Regina Tuesday morning.

“The city does not require or ask for the status of any person that comes in, whether it be an immigrant or refugee, we never ask them ‘Are you a Canadian citizen?’ or ‘Do you have the right papers? Should you be in Canada?’,” Fougere said.

“We always have open access to all of our services.”

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Instead of implementing Access Without Fear, Mayor Fougere said that the promotion of their already open door policy is the best bet for the City.

“Let’s just promote the fact that we always provide the service, because that’s what we actually do.”

City councillor Andrew Stevens brought the motion before council. He was the only one who voted against the referral.

“The content of the delegates, the letters, the conversation, will be advanced to different levels of government, (I) totally support that,” Coun. Stevens said.

“(But) a referral motion is pretty much something that just ends debate in its entirety. I wasn’t pleased with that, even though the content of that was positive, I was kind of disappointed that council didn’t have the time or opportunity to say whether or not we actually wanted to be an Access Without Fear City. I think we sidestepped that question, and I think it should have been a bit more of a fulsome discussion on what the value of that title might mean.”

Coun. Stevens says the city will now be looking at the policy as an undertaking, meaning administration will evaluate their current approach on interacting with newcomers.

But some don’t think it’s enough.

“Frankly, I think this administrative wrangling is evasive and cowardly and it’s a way for council to avoid debating the actual issue and taking a stand,” Valerie Zink, one of the organizers of Access Without Fear Regina said.

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“It’s the city’s responsibility to educate its own residents about the accessibility of city services.”

Zink says she plans to keep pursuing the issue.

“We’re going to continue to hold the city accountable and demand that they do more than offer empty promises about Regina being an inclusive and welcoming city. Which, I think we saw last night, it’s not.”

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