Council votes in favour of motion to help undocumented residents

Chris Kitching,,   Published Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 11:04AM EST

City council has voted in favour of a motion that makes it easier for people without full and secure immigration status to access city services already available to legal residents of Canada.

According to advocates, the proposed measures within the motion make it easier for newcomers to receive aid from places such as food banks and access health, employment and recreation services, and ensure their children can attend local schools.

Syed Hussan, a spokesman for the Solidarity City Network, said there are about 400,000 people in Toronto who don’t have full immigration status.

City hall

Toronto City Hall is shown in this file photo. (The Canadian Press/Michelle Siu)

“These people live here, they’re part of our community,” Hussan told CP24 reporter Katie Simpson ahead of the vote. “They should be in our schools, they should be able to walk down the street to the food bank or a shopping centre or go into a shelter without fear of detention and deportation.”

Hussan, who was at city hall Thursday to watch council debate the motion, said that having the motion approved would help newcomers take one “small step” towards that goal.

He is also calling on the provincial and federal governments to eliminate restrictions.

The motion not only calls on improved access to city services, it also calls for the federal government to create a regularization program for undocumented residents, and asks the province to review its policies for provincially-funded services to ensure access to health care, emergency services, housing and other social supports.

“We need the province to join in, we need the federal government to make its moves and we need Toronto to set the path forward,” Hussan said.

Dozens of supporters, wearing yellow T-shirts reading “Access without fear,” attended the city council meeting to watch the vote.

By passing the motion, Toronto becomes the first city in Canada to have “sanctuary city” type policies, according to Solidarity City Network.

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