The city of Toronto took the historic step of becoming the first "sanctuary city" in Canada on Thursday, "ensuring access to services without fear" for all immigrants, regardless of status.
"This is a historic moment because we are saying we are a sanctuary city and that anyone who is in the City of Toronto will be able to access all the services the city offers, be it in the areas of health, in the area of parks, in the area of library, in the area of health and safety,” said councilor Joe Mihevc, the Toronto Star reports. “That is the kind of city we want. We want to open our arms to anyone who comes here while they are here.”
Brent Patterson of the Council of Canadians writes that the step marks a rejection of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government, which "is shamelessly making it harder for people to seek asylum in Canada, and sees only 'savings' in reduced spending on social, education and health benefits from the resulting plummet in the number of refugees."
Rights groups praised the new designation.
“Undocumented people in Toronto avoid city services because of fear of debt, denial of service, detention and deportation,” stated Brendan Bailey, a nursing student and member of Health for All, part of the Solidarity City Network, which lauded the vote. “The passage of this policy means more people will feel comfortable accessing services that will keep them healthy, and out of hospital.”