Movement to ensure access without fear to municipal services will continue
April 26 2017
There is a City Council Meeting taking place today, but there will be no motion to make Ottawa a sanctuary city. Not today, and probably not anytime soon. Mayor Watson, Councillor Qaqish and their allies have made it clear that, even in the face of overwhelming evidence and support, they refuse to support any policy that would make our city safer and more accessible for all. The Mayor and his allies have gone to great lengths to make sure that no such policy can go forward, spinning tired myths and lies, and ignoring the evidence and calls for action from the organizations and communities they claim to be accountable to.
Over the last two months, over 50 organizations have endorsed the call to make Ottawa a sanctuary city.
Last month at the Community and Protective Services Committee, 30 representatives from across service sectors and communities came forward to testify that community members with precarious immigration status do not access municipal services for fear of being asked about their status, risking detention or deportation. Among the groups that came forward were immigrant serving organizations, community health centres, women’s shelters, and refugee shelters, who shared stories and experience from the front lines and made the case for why the City needs to support them to make their services more accessible. Lawyers and experts clearly laid out how a sanctuary city policy falls well within the City’s political and legal purview and how it can be made most effective. Faith leaders, community associations, youth and student groups called on City Council to implement policies that would ensure access to services without fear for the communities they serve.
Despite 7 hours of testimony from those on the front lines of this issue detailing the need and support for a sanctuary city policy, a group of councillors remained consistently hostile to those making deputations, ignoring or interrupting them, and sometimes even leaving the room while they spoke. By the end, Councillor Qaqish had the audacity to say that he had heard no evidence of there being a problem and that the City was doing enough.
We know that Mayor Jim Watson and his allies on Council have decided that they will not support any policy guaranteeing access without fear for all Ottawa residents. With a sizeable majority opposed to such a policy, no sympathetic Councillor is willing to bring a motion forward.
The Sanctuary City Network is committed to moving forward regardless of the lack of political will on Council. Though we remain open to working with Council to pass a policy, we do not anticipate that this will be possible any time soon and will not wait.
The Network is committed to working with frontline service providers, community leaders, and residents to make Ottawa a sanctuary city in fact, even if City Council is not willing not to make it one in policy.
Ottawa is a welcoming city not because of City Council, but because of us. Together, we can make it more so. With your support, the movement to make Ottawa a sanctuary city will continue.
The Ottawa Sanctuary City Network