Montreal

Montreal renews program offering municipal ID to undocumented immigrants

The identification and residence card program, started in 2019, allows eligible people to use services such as food banks, pools, libraries and day camps. It also allows people to sign a lease, get vaccinated, and register their children for school. 

About 500 cards have been given to immigrants in precarious situations since 2019

The identification card allows eligible undocumented immigrants in the city to use municipal services, such as libraries. (Sara DuBreuil/CBC)

A trip to a municipal library or pool can be challenging for those without documentation, but a municipal program in Montreal is trying to make it much easier.

On Monday, city council voted unanimously to renew the program offering identity cards to people without government-recognized immigration status, as well as immigrants in precarious situations, until at least the end of 2023.

The identification and residence card program, started in 2019, allows eligible people to use services such as food banks, pools, libraries and day camps. It also allows people to sign a lease, get vaccinated, and register their children for school. 

The program is facilitated by the group Doctors of the World and was modelled after a similar project in New York City. The group's street workers seek out the immigrants in precarious situations and help them get an ID.

The card allows eligible people to use services such as food banks, pools, libraries and day camps. It also allows people to sign a lease, get vaccinated, and register their children for school. (City of Montreal)

"We're really happy because the card is quite important for the people with whom we're working," said Pénélope Boudreault, national director of Doctors of the World. "So we are happy to continue with the project." 

The organization says it works primarily in Montréal-Nord, Côte-des-Neiges, Parc-Extension, Saint-Léonard, Saint-Michel and Villeray.

In addition to helping people without documentation, the program also gives identification cards to immigrants in precarious situations — people who cannot provide proof of identity due to immigration status, or people who don't want to use their asylum-seeker documentation as identification. 

The service is confidential and free.

So far, about 500 of these identification cards have been handed out, according to Josefina Blanco, Montreal's executive committee member responsible for diversity. 

"We want to make sure that vulnerable people are not isolated," she said in an interview with CBC News.

"We know that when people can feel welcome, when they feel they have the right to different services, it's much better for integration in general."

The program will cost $365,105.

SPVM doesn't recognize IDs

As of now, Doctors of the World does not encourage undocumented people to show their Montreal identity cards to the city's police officers.

Blanco confirms that the SPVM does not currently recognize the cards as official ID, but says the city is studying ways to change that.

"I would say there's still work to be done," she said. 

Although it's difficult to quantify, Boudreault said her organization believes there are around 50,000 undocumented people living in Montreal. 

With files from Miriam Lafontaine

now