20th Metropolis Conference Workshop on Sanctuary cities in the Canadian context

Last March 23, 2018, a team from the BMRC-IRMU partnership gathered with other Canadian colleagues in Calgary for the 20th National Metropolis Conference.  BMRC-IRMU Sponsored workshop titled “A Comparative and Pan-Canadian Study on the Implementation of the Principles of the Sanctuary City” was organized and chaired by Gabrielle Désilets, Concordia University & Florence Bourdeau, TCRI.

In this workshop, we brought together participants from municipal governments, academic sector and community advocates to discuss the different strategies and the various projects already implemented in several Canadian cities. Loly Rico (Co-Director, FCJ Refugee Centre)  shared her experience of training front line workers to facilitate undocumented migrants' access to the city of Toronto's services. Next, Florence Bourdeau (Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI)) talked about the importance of training to help front line workers better understand the different migration pathways and serve undocumented migrants or migrants with precarious statuses in Montreal. Idil Atak (Associate Professor, Ryerson University) offered a critical examination of the Access To program, the City of Toronto’s Sanctuary strategy for undocumented migrants, based on the published research ((No) Access T.O.: A Pilot Study on Sanctuary City Policy in Toronto, Canada). Harald Bauder (Professor, Ryerson University) presented a paper on the wider global context of sanctuary cities policies. His paper, titled “Sanctuary and the New Urban Imagination,” highlighted how practical initiatives to accommodate newcomers combine with reimagining urban space as a community of belonging. The final paper was presented by Mireille Paquet (Associate Professor Concordia University).  Based on comparative research in Canada and the United States, she discussed the different pathways through which municipal politicians and administrations come to adopt sanctuary policies.

The workshop was well attended and allowed for important exchanges. The presentations and lively discussion with the audience demonstrated the need for further research on the topic of sanctuary in the context of Canadian municipalities. Reactions also highlighted the need for increased training and information about loss of status and related immigration issues, for both government workers, SPOs and settlement workers as well as elected officials across Canada. Following this panel, Mireille Paquet and John Shield (with Idil Atak, Graham Hudson and Megan Joy, in partnership with TCRI and Étude légale Stewart Istavanffy) submitted a research proposal to BMRC-IRMU, in order to conduct research related to the issues discussed.  Funding was granted to the team in July 2018.