'You are welcome here,' councillors tell immigrants in wake of U.S. ban

Mayor John Tory and some 20 city councillors condemned Islamophobia on Tuesday afternoon, and reaffirmed Toronto’s place as a sanctuary city.

Mayor John Tory reaffirms Toronto's sanctuary city status

Mayor John Tory introduced a new motion Tuesday affirming the city's status as a sanctuary city. Councillors Joe Mihevc, left, and Joe Cressy, right, seconded the motion, which was overwhelmingly approved by council. (John Rieti/CBC)

Mayor John Tory and some 20 city councillors condemned Islamophobia on Tuesday afternoon, and reaffirmed Toronto's place as a sanctuary city.

Tory took aim at U.S. President Donald Trump's executive immigration order that temporarily blocks people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, while also urging Canadians to welcome refugees and immigrants.

"No one should be made afraid because of who they are or where they come from," Tory told reporters at city hall.

Coun. Joe Cressy, who along with Coun. Joe Mihevc seconded a motion put forward by the mayor, said the Trump administration's actions cannot go unchallenged and that banning people based on their country of origin is "simply wrong."

Cressy said as the U.S. closes its borders, Canada and other countries must do more to open theirs.

Toronto's message is clear, he said: "You are welcome here."

Coun. Joe Cressy blasted the Trump administration's stance on immigration. (John Rieti/CBC)

As a sanctuary city, Toronto is supposed to give all residents full rights to city services regardless of their documentation status. Tory's motion was approved swiftly by council.

However, Karl Gardner of No One Is Illegal — Toronto, said this is "not realistic on the ground right now," and that city workers need to be trained not to question people's residency status and that the province also needs to do more to open up its services to those who need it.

Mihevc said he doesn't want people to feel like they're living in the shadows in this city.

Tory motion also calls for:

  • City divisions and agencies to review their policies to make sure they're supporting undocumented people in the city.
  • Urging the federal government to continue focusing on inclusion and non-discrimination in its immigration and refugee policies.
  • And for all Torontonians to condemn islamophobia, xenophobia and racism here and around the world.

Several councillors declined to vote for the motion.

Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong walked out moments before the vote, along with Coun. Christin Carmichael-Greb.

In a tweet shortly after, Minnan-Wong said he doesn't support illegal immigration.

"We have laws. They should be followed," he wrote.

Mayor urges Torontonians to get to know newcomers

Tory, who attended a vigil for the victims of a shooting at a Quebec City mosque last night, said Torontonians need to protect anyone who is feeling vulnerable right now. He said he spoke with a mother at the vigil whose son has faced abuse because of his faith.

"We have built this city on saying we're not going to let that happen here," Tory said.

The mayor said people in this city shouldn't fear immigration, and if they do, they should do more to learn about the people who are moving here.

"Understand their stories as you would understand your own," Tory said.

"This is how our city will resist fear."