Regina set to close the door on sanctuary city motion

Regina did not get designated as a sanctuary city despite a motion to city council to declare it as such, but one city councillor said he is proud of the work the city is doing in welcoming newcomers.

Councillor Andrew Stevens said he's proud of the work the city has done

In this 2015 file photo, Regina residents welcome the first group of government-sponsored Syrian refugees in the city. (Brian Rodgers/CBC)

Regina did not get designated as a sanctuary city despite a motion to city council to declare it as such, but one city councillor said he is proud of the work the city is doing in welcoming newcomers.  

The original motion, made in 2017 and called Access Without Fear, was referred back to city administration. It was then changed into an "undertaking," which has less teeth than a motion. Now, executive committee will look at taking the issue off "the list of outstanding items for City Council."

Ward 3 councillor Andrew Stevens said the work is what matters, not the designation.

"I'm glad that administration has reflected on it," he said. "I think they did a great job of highlighting what has been done, what is on the books and really focussing on how we engage with residents, specifically newcomers."

Sanctuary city designations don't have any legal meaning, but Stevens said that the designation is a symbol for newcomers. 

Stevens said he wants to make sure Regina doesn't become a city where people are asked to prove their immigration status for services. He said the city is in a grey area right now where it's not common practice to ask for status-based identification, but there isn't a policy in place either way.

The city is looking into regulating massage parlours. One of the regulation proposals for those facilities is making sure the workers have proof of status. Stevens said he wants more clarity on what the city will do with massage parlours. 

'Fear-mongering' response

Regina started this process in 2017. In 2018, federal immigration minister Ahmed Hussen responded to a letter the mayor's office had sent him that detailed the city's proposition. 

Hussen's letter reads, in part: "A 'sanctuary city' has no meaning or status in Canada's asylum system. There is a risk that such declarations will create incentives for more migrants to enter Canada between ports of entry and establish themselves in 'sanctuary' cities."

Stevens said that response isn't helpful to the intention of the movement. 

"I think it's actually fear-mongering that all of a sudden a sanctuary city designation is going to solicit a whole bunch of, presumably what they meant was, illegal border crossings," Stevens said. 

"The intention of the movement was always to ensure that those who were here felt safe and secure."

CBC has reached out to the federal immigration ministry for comment. 

About the Author

Emily Pasiuk

Emily Pasiuk is a reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatchewan and an associate producer for The Morning Edition. She has also reported at CTV Saskatoon and written for Global Regina. Reach her at emily.pasiuk@cbc.ca.

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