Ottawa could become a sanctuary city
Vancouver, Toronto and Hamilton have policies in place to protect undocumented immigrants
An Ottawa city councillor wants to make the capital a sanctuary city.
Somerset ward Coun. Catherine McKenney plans to present a motion next week aimed at ensuring undocumented immigrants have access to City of Ottawa services without fear of being detained or deported.
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"When things around the world are so tenuous and people are nervous about traveling around, I think it's important we take care of each other," McKenney said.
McKenney believes the recent travel ban in the U.S. has many Canadians worried about the safety and welfare of undocumented immigrants, who often live in very precarious situations.
"We want to make sure that if somebody who's in the city, who perhaps doesn't have documentation, is a refugee, has let their work visa expire ... that they're able to access city services."
Aditya Rao, who is involved with the Ottawa Sanctuary City Network, said McKenney's motion is both timely and necessary.
"There is a lot of discourse, a lot of discussion that is causing fear and that is causing hateful acts, and it's something that we need to stand up against and counteract," he said.
On Tuesday, Toronto Mayor John Tory introduced a new motion affirming his city's status as a sanctuary city. In London, Ont., city politicians unanimously backed a call to make that municipality one as well.
McKenney said she's working with some councillors, as well as the mayor's office and the city's legal department, to draft her motion, which she'll present to council next week. Some councillors have also expressed support on social media for the idea, including Jeff Leiper and Mathieu Fleury.
"It will likely be a motion that asks staff to come back with what that process would look like, what the procedures would look like. But it's something that we want to do very quickly," she said.
McKenney said she hopes Ottawa will be declared a sanctuary city by the spring.
With files from Steve Fischer