Windsor

Panel hoping to spark discussion on making Windsor a 'Sanctuary City'

A Windsor group is hoping to bring an Access without Fear policy to the city.

An Access without Fear policy provides undocumented immigrants with access to municipal services

Lawyer Gemma Smyth is moderating a panel on an Access without Fear policy in Windsor. (Jason Viau/CBC)

A Windsor group is hoping to bring an Access without Fear policy to the city.

The term means different things across Canada,  said lawyer and panel moderator Gemma Smyth — the concept might be something you know as a Sanctuary City. 

"I'm hoping we'll talk about what a Made in Windsor solution will look like," said Smyth about Monday's panel at the University of Windsor.

Hosted by the Windsor Law chapter of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the panel looks at Windsor as on the front-line of immigration and asylum protection, due to border proximity. According to the group, more than 25 per cent of people in Windsor are immigrants — and 40 per cent of those are refugees.

An Access without Fear policy provides undocumented immigrants with access to municipal services.

Gemma Smyth talks with Peter Duck on Windsor Morning:

"It's as simple as getting a library card," said Smyth. "Anything a municipality is involved with funding. It really depends on the individual municipality."

Smyth also said housing and shelters would fall under that purview. 

The "vast majority" of people who come to this city come with some sort of legal status and then lose that status, said Smyth.

"They could be people who come as migrant workers and then that employment relationship breaks down, students who come on a student visa and that visa lapses," explained Smyth. She adds that even something as simple as losing identification could mean a lapse in status. 

The local group is only discussing what an access without fear policy would look like for the municipality, but other groups are exploring provincial and federal policies.

"In Windsor, there is a core group of people who care about the most vulnerable," said Smyth. "When we leave people behind, the costs are greater."

Smyth hopes the panel sparks more education programs and more conversations about the topic.

"I really look forward to average folks starting to talk about what this would look like."

With files from Windsor Morning

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