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Access Without Fear policies pass at Toronto City Hall

Today, after a marathon nail-biting debate, Toronto City Hall strengthened its promise to provide services to residents without full immigration status or all their immigration documents. Read the exact motion here.

You called, wrote, met, and pressured your Councillors and they were forced to listen. The first step is complete, and we have a new mission for you.

We need you to go out and make sure that Toronto services are now actually accessible. Sign up here and we will get in touch with you on exactly how. There is a lot of work still to be done, and together we will make it happen.

City Hall instructed Chris Brillinger, Executive Director, Social Development, Finance and Administration to put together a report on how to improve access to services without fear including training, a complaints protocol and a communications blitz by September 2013.

That means we need to spend the next six months ensuring the right recommendations get on this report and that these recommendations actually pass at City Hall after that.

Toronto Star front pageToronto Star front pageMany services like housing, healthcare, welfare, labour protections, safety from police brutality childcare, disability services, and immigration status are managed by the province and the federal government. The City will be writing to the governments of Ontario and Canada to demand that they to step up. Get in touch with us and help us write up the recommendations that need to go in to these letters. We are looking for people from other cities in Ontario to pass similar policies, if you are interested, get in touch. We are at solidaritycitytoronto@gmail.com

A short history of Access Without Fear in Toronto

The fight to City Hall today has been a long time coming. As we prepare for the work ahead, here is an abbreviated history of what has already happened.

2003: Female identified members of No One Is Illegal-Toronto enter Toronto immigration detention centre as art therapists. Over months of conversation, and art making, the women and children in the detention centre identifying fear while accessing services one of the key barriers to living undocumented in Toronto.

2004: The demand for a DADT, Access Without Fear policy was first brought to City Hall in 2004, as part of a series of 10 Demands for Action Against Poverty. 23 community groups participated in these efforts. Instead of passing a universal access without fear policy, City of Toronto issues a poster insisting that services are already accessible. See the poster here. When the City’s website is revamped, the poster disappeared.

JULY 2004: A 16-year old undocumented woman from Grenada is handed over to immigration enforcement by Toronto police when she reports an assault against her. Massive community mobilization at the Toronto Police Services Board demands a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy

FEBRUARY 2006: Toronto Police Services Board passes a partial Don’t Ask policy, community advocates insist the policy is not enough. Download our report on it here.

APRIL 2006: Kimberley and Gerald Lizanno-Sossa are arrested at their school, massive community mobilization demands that the Toronto District School Board pass a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy at the Toronto District School Board. See a short documentary on the fight here.

JULY 2006: The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Coalition is formed led by No One Is Illegal - Toronto. Over 80 community agencies pass Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policies across Toronto. The DADT Coalition demands that the City of Toronto pass a policy ensuring access to services without fear. Read the Access Without Fear report here.

MAY 2007: Toronto District School Board becomes the first school board in Canada to declare itself a Sanctuary zone. Though an immense community victory, see two reports that document how the policy still needs improvement in some areas here and here.

OCTOBER 2008: Isabel Garcia is denied refugee status in Canada and is scheduled for deportation. Over a 100 feminist and anti-violence against women organizationssupport the formation of the Shelter | Sanctuary | Status Campaign

AUGUST 2009: Immigration enforcement arrests an undocumented woman at a Toronto area food bank. A community mobilization ensues to ensure Access Without Fear policies are implemented in food banks.

NOVEMBER 2010: After immense community pressure, the Canada Border Services Agency agrees to not enter, wait outside or call inquiring about the identity of undocumented women at any anti-violence against women space in Toronto. The federal government swoops in, firing the head of Toronto area immigration enforcement and reneges on this policy. However, they agree to only carry out enforcement if given explicit permission by the staff at anti-violence against women spaces. See a write-up of the campaign before the policy was reneged here.

JANUARY 2013: The Solidarity City Network comes to together to make recommendations to Toronto City Council. See the recommendations here and video of deputations here. See list of who is part of the Network at the bottom of the page. Over 200 people meet, write and talk to their Councillors to push forward the policy.

FEBRUARY 2013: Toronto City Council re-affirms its commitment to providing services without fear to undocumented residents and to get recommendations on clear next steps by Sep 2013. See the motion that was passed here.

Some media coverage:

Torontoist: City to Explore “Access Without Fear” Policy for Undocumented Residents
CTV News: Council votes in favour of motion to help undocumented residents
CBC: Toronto council approves sanctuary for undocumented residents
Toronto Star: Toronto declared ‘sanctuary city’ to non-status migrants
NOW Toronto: Council votes to protect undocumented residents
Toronto Star Opinion: Ensuring basic rights in Toronto for undocumented newcomers
Toronto Star: Toronto considers giving underground migrants access to services without fear
NOW Toronto: Syed Hussan on making T.O. a Sanctuary City
CBC Metro Morning: Undocumented people
CP24: City hall motion aims to help undocumented residents
InsideToronto: Undocumented workers in Toronto fear for future, city committee told
Rabble.ca: Toronto adopts 'Access Without Fear' policies

The Solidarity City Network is made up of Health for All, Immigration Legal Committee of Toronto, Justice for Migrant Workers, Law Union of Ontario, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Parkdale Community Legal Services, Roma Community Centre, Social Planning Toronto, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, South Asian Women's Rights Organization, Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, The Wellesley Institute and Workers Action Centre. Additionally, Motion 18.5 is supported by Advocacy Centre for Tenants of Ontario (ACTO), Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention, AWCCA at George Brown College, Jane Finch Action Against Poverty, GOAL, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.