Your gateway to Canada


Immigration Newsweek

By Atty. Henry Moyal


Toronto has made history by announcing that it is now a “sanctuary city” to illegal immigrants. It is the first of its kind in Canada. Its mandate and formal policy is to allow undocumented immigrants (commonly known as “illegals”) to access services regardless of immigration status.

In an overwhelming majority vote the city councillors of Toronto passed a law that requires all city staff to ensure that illegal immigrants can access its services without fear of being reported to Canada Immigration and possible deportation.

This comes as good and historic news to an estimated 200,000 persons who are living in Toronto without status. Being without immigration status can arise in several ways and includes visitor overstays, refugee claimants who were denied and never left or workers whose work permits have expired. While Canada is boasting its new “sanctuary” status, it is old news in the USA which has already 36 cities and three states declaring themselves sanctuaries for non-status migrants. Toronto is now in the same domain as other US cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.

It should be noted that the policy does not address barriers faced by non-status residents for services under the provincial or federal jurisdictions such as housing, income security, OHIP, welfare and labor protection. With regard to law enforcement, if the police are aware of an immigration violation they have a duty to report it. However, the current policy is not to ask.

Specific services that illegal immigrants can use without fear of being turned over to enforcement include public health programs, after-school recreation and care, emergency medical services, shelters and hostels, community centers and pools.

However, not everyone is cheering in favor of the new policy which is likely to be passed in other Canadian cities. The Federal Minister of Immigration, Jason Kenney and some Toronto politicians are against the liberal policy as it “ sends the wrong message”.

One dissenting councillor put it this way “It sends a message to the world that it is okay to break the law to come to Canada and it says that the City of Toronto is an accomplice to this lawbreaking.”

Whether you agree with the new policy or not, it clearly emphasizes the fact that Toronto, Canada and the USA all have an enormous amount of illegal immigrants living underground. It is unknown how many undocumented persons live in each country but the combined amount could be over a million. Since most of these persons do pay tax (either income tax, or tax on products) an argument can be made that they benefit the economy and contribute to society. However, applicants who are waiting patiently overseas for years to have their applications processed may not think so.

Attorney Henry Moyal is a certified and licensed immigration lawyer in Toronto, Ontario.The above article is general advice only and is not intended to act as a legal document.Send questions to Attorney Moyal by email or call 416 733 3193