Canada's second-largest city, Montreal, will vote on Monday on whether the city should be designated a "sanctuary city." If the city council approves the idea, as is expected, Montreal will join other Canadian cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Hamilton, which have official policies not to discriminate against undocumented immigrants and refugees by denying them services. Moreover, sanctuary cities also pledge not to use immigration status, or lack thereof, as a pretext to arrest or deport individuals if they come into contact with law enforcement on non-criminal offences such as parking tickets.
The measure comes in the wake of officials saying that a growing number of refugee claimants are crossing the U.S. border into Canada illegally, with the largest increase being recorded in Quebec. This phenomenon has largely been attributed as a reaction to U.S. President Donald Trump's immigration policy. In addition to recently signing an Executive Order banning travel to the U.S. from seven specific countries, President Trump has repeatedly issued warnings to undocumented individuals and families that they are likely to face more rigorous deportation measures than has previously been the case. Trump is also on record slating sanctuary cities in the U.S., such as Chicago and San Francisco, and has threatened to deny such cities federal funding.
“It’s important in dark times like these to provide those values of justice, openness and equity for all our brothers and sisters,” said Montreal Mayor, Denis Coderre, who has previously served as Quebec's Immigration Minister.
If Coderre gets his way and the measure is approved, city services like housing, integration of new arrivals, and recreation will be accessible to those with and without documentation alike.
“It’s to give people the tools to provide services in housing and health care,” said Coderre
It will also mandate the public security committee to work with police to ensure illegal immigrants don’t have their lack of status used against them unnecessarily. The aim of this is to ensure that people continue to present themselves as victims and witnesses, without having to fear wider consequences for contacting law enforcement. Arrest warrants on criminal matters would still be enforced.
“That said, there is always the legal reality, when we talk about criminal records or (aspects) that affect our national security,” said Coderre.
Coderre said Wednesday the step was taken “in solidarity not just with our colleagues in Vancouver and Toronto but with certain American cities.”
However, Coderre's municipal government would need to obtain the necessary powers and resources from the government of Quebec.