Services without fear: Historic win for undocumented residents of Toronto

| February 22, 2013
Services without fear: Historic win for undocumented residents of Toronto

The Solidarity City Network issued the following statement last night after an historic vote at Toronto City Hall. 

 Thursday, after a marathon debate, Toronto City Hall strengthened its promise to provide services to residents without full immigration status or all their immigration documents. Read the exact motion here. 

You called, wrote, met, and pressured your Councillors and they were forced to listen. The first step is complete, and we have a new mission for you.

We need you to go out and make sure that Toronto services are now actually accessible. Sign up here and we will get in touch with you on exactly how. There is a lot of work still to be done, and together we will make it happen.  

City Hall instructed Chris Brillinger, Executive Director, Social Development, Finance and Administration to put together a report on how to improve access to services without fear including training, a complaints protocol and a communications blitz by September 2013.

That means we need to spend the next six months ensuring the right recommendations get on this report and that these recommendations actually pass at City Hall after that.

Many services like housing, healthcare, welfare, labour protections, safety from police brutality childcare, disability services, and immigration status are managed by the province and the federal government. The City will be writing to Ontario and Canada to demand that they to step up. Get in touch with us and help us write up the recommendations that need to go in to these letters. We are looking for people from other cities in Ontario to pass similar policies, if you are interested, get in touch. We are at solidaritycitytoronto[at]gmail[dot]com

A short history of Access Without Fear in Toronto

 The fight to City Hall today has been a long time coming. As we prepare for the work ahead, here is a abbreviated history of what has already happened. 

July 2004: A 16-year old undocumented woman from Grenada is handed over to immigration enforcement by Toronto police when she reports an assault against her. Massive community mobilization at the Toronto Police Services Board demands a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy

February 2006: Toronto Police Services Board passes a partial Don’t Ask policy, community advocates insist the policy is not enough. Download our report on it here.

April 2006: Kimberley and Gerald Lizanno-Sossa are arrested from their school, massive community mobilization demands that the Toronto District School Board pass a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy at the Toronto District School Board. See a short documentary on the fight here.

July 2006: The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Coalition is formed led by No One Is Illegal - Toronto. Over 80 community agencies pass Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policies across Toronto. The DADT Coalition demands that the City of Toronto pass a policy ensuring access to services without fear. Read the Access Without Fear report here

May 2007: Toronto District School Board becomes the first school board in Canada to declare itself a Sanctuary zone. Though an immense community victory, see two reports that document how the policy still needs improvement in some areas here and here.

2007: Instead of passing a universal access without fear policy, City of Toronto issues a poster insisting that services are already accessible. See the poster here. When the City’s website is revamped, the poster disappears.

October 2008: Isabel Garcia is denied refugee status in Canada and is scheduled for deportation. Over a 100 feminist and anti-violence against women organization support the formation of the Shelter, Sanctuary, Status Campaign.

August 2009: Immigration enforcement arrest an undocumented woman at a Toronto area food bank. Community mobilization to ensure Access Without Fear policies are implemented in food banks continues.  

November 2010: After immense community pressure, the Canada Border Services Agency agrees to not enter, wait outside or call inquiring about the identity of undocumented women at any anti-violence against women space in Toronto. The federal government swoops in, firing the head of Toronto area immigration enforcement and reneges the policy. However, they agree to only carry out enforcement if given explicit permission by the staff at anti-violence against women spaces. See a write-up of the campaign before the policy was reneged here.

January 2013: The Solidarity City Network comes to together to make recommendations to Toronto City Council. See the recommendations here and video of deputations here. See list of who is part of the Network at the bottom of the page. Over 200 people meet, write and talk to their Councillors to push forward the policy.

February 2013: Toronto City Council re-affirms its commitment to providing services without fear to undocumented residents and to get recommendations on clear next steps by September, 2013. See the motion that was passed here.

 

The Solidarity City Network is made up of Health for All, Immigration Legal Committee of Toronto, Justice for Migrant Workers, Law Union of Ontario, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Parkdale Community Legal Services, Roma Community Centre, Social Planning Toronto, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, South Asian Women's Rights Organization, Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, The Wellesley Institute and Workers Action Centre. Additionally, Motion 18.5 is supported by Advocacy Centre for Tenants of Ontario (ACTO), Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention, AWCCA at George Brown College, Jane Finch Action Against Poverty, GOAL, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change  and Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. 

 

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