Councillor wants Regina to adopt 'Access Without Fear' policy

Ward 3 Coun. Andrew Stevens wants Regina to become an 'Access Without Fear City,' which essentially means that anyone, regardless of immigration status, can use services without concern they will be deported or detained.

Policy aims to assure people they can use city services regardless of immigration status

Coun. Andrew Stevens wants Regina to become an 'Access Without Fear City.' (Brian Rodgers/CBC)

A Regina councillor wants the city to ensure refugees and migrants can access its services regardless of their immigration status and without fear of deportation.

Ward 3 Coun. Andrew Stevens will present a notice of motion at Monday's city council meeting, asking that the city become an 'Access Without Fear City.'

It's a policy that's been endorsed by other cities, such as Vancouver, in order to reassure migrants they have full access to civic services without concern they will be reported, detained or deported. 

In his motion, Stevens said Regina should follow suit given its vision to be "Canada's most vibrant, inclusive, attractive, sustainable community where people live in harmony and thrive in opportunity."

Ward 3 Coun. Andrew Stevens. (Micki Cowan/CBC)

Newcomers need to feel safe

Stevens is tabling the request on behalf of a group of residents calling themselves Regina Sanctuary City. 

Mirtha Rivera, who herself came to Canada as a refugee from Chile in 1975, believes there needs to be a policy that explicitly states people should feel safe accessing city services — such as calling the police — explaining newcomers don't necessarily feel this sense of safety right away.

"You still bring in your mind the fear [of] the police, the fear of people who beat vehicles because of what have might happened in the place you're running away from," she said Monday.

Rivera herself said when she first arrived, she was afraid of calling the police. She recalled a memory of being in a car accident, but not wanting the police or emergency services to respond. 

"I thought, 'That's it, I'm going to disappear.'"

"I was just afraid for my life."

She has known others in the city also afraid to contact local authorities or even go to the hospital. 

Rivera explained the idea to ask that the city becomes an "access without fear" city came from instances of anti-Muslim violence and a desire to better protect community members. 

Not asking immigration status

Stevens asking that besides a declaration, city staff only collect someone's immigration or citizenship status if required by federal or provincial law. 

The motion also seeks to ensure that someone's immigration status is not shared beyond city departments without their consent. 

Stevens also wants city staff to study how employees could be trained about the policy — potentially extending it to city-funded agencies — and what other improvements could be made to ensure refugees or migrants don't face barriers to services. 

In terms of money, the motion requests the city ask the provincial and federal government for additional funding in order to offer better support services for migrants and implement the policy. 

Policy could extend to police

The motion also states that police do not share someone's personal information about immigration collected during street checks. 

Stevens also wants the police to start reporting on the number of immigration cases involving the Canada Border Services Agency to be regularly reported to the city's board of police commissioners.