Hamilton has declared itself a sanctuary city. Sort of.
A sanctuary city is a city that pledges to give undocumented immigrants access to city services without ever questioning the status of their citizenship.
On Monday, councillors voted to train staff to provide services to immigrants without status. They also voted to lobby the provincial government and educate local organizations to do the same. But the motion didn’t actually use the words “sanctuary city.”
If Hamilton declares itself a sanctuary city, it will be the second in Canada to do so. Depending on your interpretation, it just did that, said Paul Johnson, director of neighbourhood development strategies.
“I don’t think that’s for me to say,” Johnson said of whether Hamilton has just become Canada’s second sanctuary city.
“If the community feels that we are becoming a sanctuary city then we’re becoming a sanctuary city.”
The emergency and community services committee vote was unanimous on Monday. If council ratifies that vote on Wednesday, Hamilton will be a sanctuary city, said Caitlin Craven from Hamilton’s Sanctuary City Coalition.
“Once that passes, then Hamilton adopts the policies that effectively makes us a sanctuary city,” Craven said.
A couple of elements the coalition wanted are still missing. One is a dedicated staff member on the issue, Johnson said. The other is incorporating the concept into the city’s funding agreements with other agencies.
Toronto, Canada’s first sanctuary city, spelled it out in its motion, said Coun. Sam Merulla.
“I’m a little reluctant why we wouldn’t accept doing the same,” the Ward 4 councillor said.
About a dozen presenters spoke in favour of the sanctuary city concept on Monday. Coun. Judi Partridge of Ward 15 in Flamborough said there are no down sides.
“It’s the right thing to do,” she said. “Quite honestly, to me, Hamilton already is that. By passing this motion, we’ve made it official.”