Access Without Fear: By Byron Cruz
Recently members of Sanctuary Health and their allies attended a council meeting at Vancouver City Hall where the Access Without Fear policy was voted on.
We made sure that Lucía Vega Jimenez does not remain invisible, she isn’t a ghost. The migrant construction workers that built the Olympic Village and the Canada line aren’t ghosts. The migrant women and men that clean our office buildings and houses, and take care of our children are no longer ghosts.
Their sweat, hard work and tears are many and will continue, but regardless of their immigration status they no longer can be denied municipal services, be called “illegals,” or be reported to Canadian Border Services Agency.
They make up a vibrant city that recognizes that due to diverse and unjust circumstances and journeys, some have precarious immigration status.
Vancouver’s Access without Fear Policy:
The new policy means city staff won’t ask about immigration status before providing services, or report immigration status to other public offices unless the law requires it. But it doesn’t cover police, park or library services or services of other levels of government.
Lucía guided our mission, as each one of us rose to speak. We have the skills to plan, organize, speak out, rally and design a policy that will improve immigrants’ lives. We asked the Vancouver municipal government to pass a motion supporting the migrant justice movement, and they did.
But we know the Sanctuary City policy has huge limitations because it doesn’t apply to the Vancouver Police Department and other services that discriminate. The City needs to take a strong stand to ensure that the police and others will comply with the Sanctuary City principles. We expressed our concerns and they were warned; we will make the city accountable.
The Access Without Fear policy is a step in the right direction. In the future we will continue to open doors for services for migrants with precarious or no immigration status.
So far, we have set up a referral agreement with the New Beginnings clinic at BC Women’s Hospital, lobbied Translink and Transit Police to stop collaborating with CBSA, and worked with the British Columbia Teachers Federation to present Sanctuary City Principles to the Vancouver School Board. We also have worked with the New Westminster School Board to implement Sanctuary Schools in their district, worked with Vancouver Coastal Health to implement guidelines of non-collaboration with CBSA as well as pushed for Fraser Health Authority to stop their collaboration with CBSA.
We still have lots of work ahead of us. We demand that the municipal grants given to community organizations to support refugees and immigrants comply with the Access Without Fear policy.
We demand that the Vancouver Police Department immediately stop reporting, detaining and deporting immigrants. We ask the VPD to follow the Access Without Fear policy, and stop collaborating with CBSA. We said this in city council in front of members of VPD, so they will either see us sitting at a table working collaboratively to make this happen or they will find us outside rallying for changes.
At the first attempt of a hospital calling CBSA please do not hesitate to contact us so that we can support you and make the hospital and staff accountable.