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Seeking sanctuary

Montreal becomes Canadian sanctuary city

On Monday, Feb. 20, Montreal became Canada’s fourth sanctuary city.

Some citizens of Calgary are hopeful that the city will become a sanctuary city like Montreal.

“It would be beneficial for everyone to bring in refugees in order to help them and help themselves,” said Oday Bentaleb, a SAIT international student who immigrated from Libya.

“Bringing in refugees with experience and degrees can greatly benefit Canada as a whole by putting these people to work and [bringing] more culture to Canada’s mosaic.”

A sanctuary city is defined as a city that welcomes asylum-seekers, refugees and illegal aliens with non-citizenship.

There are legal differences in the definitions of these statuses.

Refugees are people who are forced to relocate out of their country for reasons like fear of persecution due to war, religion or political opinion.

An illegal alien is a foreign non-citizen living in a country without the official permission of that country.

Asylum-seekers are defined as people forced to leave their country as a political refugee and seek asylum in a safer country.

Toronto became Canada’s first sanctuary city in February 2013, later followed by Hamilton and Vancouver.

Denis Coderre, a former federal immigration minister, assured people that the measures of Montreal becoming a sanctuary city will go beyond symbolism and actually help people who need it the most.

Coderre said that he would like to start a discussion on the major issues that surround becoming a sanctuary city, including how to provide access to healthcare, housing and education.

The police department would not apply to services being put under provincial or federal jurisdiction.

However, the use of these utilities would have to be discussed with provincial and federal authorities. 

In cities that have been declared a sanctuary, only municipal services could be used without individuals facing the risk of deportation. 

Based on the experiences of other Canadian sanctuary cities, it is complicated to work with the police in establishing a protocol in providing services to asylum-seekers.

Officers are required to contact the Canada Border Services Agency if they become aware of someone’s illegal status.

Police spokesperson Mark Pugash of the Toronto Police Department, said that officers were told to not ask about immigration status unless it is appropriate to the situation. 

Pugash wasn’t certain whetherprocedures were adhered to in some of these cases.

Services that would be available for asylum-seekers in sanctuary cities would include access to municipal programs and buildings, such as having admission to libraries and recreation centres.

Ever since President Trump begun enacting laws to remove illegal immigrants and increase restrictions on refugees, Canada has started to see a growth in the number of people seeking asylum to escape potential persecution from the American government.

Shaikh Jamal Zahabi of the Imam council, and the elder of the Masjid/Mosque Calgary Islamic Center, understands the hardship of applying for immigration.

 “It was very difficult when I was living in Ottawa because I was applying for my mother to come into Canada and I got denied because of my lack of income.

“I moved to Montreal and applied for it, [and] there they said that I met the city but not the provinces [requirements],” said Zahabi.

The RCMP stated that they will arrest anyone that has entered Canada illegally. Arrested immigrants will be interviewed and fingerprinted. If they have a valid form of identification, they will then undergo processing.

 If no proof of identity can be provided, asylum-seekers will be detained.

If the asylum-seekers identification is cleared and they pose no threat, individuals must apply for refugee status, and attend a hearing to prove why they cannot return to their original country. 

If the asylum-seekers have family or friends, they are allowed to stay in Canada with them.

If they do not have any relations in Canada, they are given a list of shelters that will accommodate them until their hearing.

Refugee status can be approved due to oppression based upon: race, religion, political opinion, nationality or membership in a social group.

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