British Columbia

Vancouver Police Board approves 'access without fear' policy

Despite criticism from advocates, the guidelines have been approved for use by the Vancouver Police Department.

Guidelines aim to encourage victims and witnesses with uncertain immigrant status to report crime

The Vancouver Police Board approved a policy Thursday that directs officers to not ask for information about the immigration status of a witness, complainant or victim, unless there is a legitimate reason to do so. (Jacy Schindel/CBC)

The Vancouver Police Board passed its "access without fear" policy Thursday in a move that it says will make undocumented immigrants feel safer about reporting crimes. 

The policy directs officers to not ask for information about the immigration status of a witness, complainant or victim, unless there is a legitimate reason to do so.

A similar policy was passed by the City of Vancouver in 2016.

Some advocates have raised concerns about the policy Some say the guidelines don't go far it enough, noting it still allows officers to ask about immigration status if they feel they have a good reason. 

"They continued to pass this access without fear policy, not only disrespecting the people that intervened, [but also] disrespecting the community, the migrant and refugee communities that are really afraid of accessing the basic services," said Alejandra Lopez Bravo from Sanctuary Health.

Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer acknowledged that tension during the board meeting. 

"I realize there is still some distress in the community about this issue," Palmer said. 

The VPD says it is working on how officers will be trained and will engage interested stakeholders in the process.

With files from Zahra Premji

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