Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sanctuary City

(This story originally appeared in North End Breezes.)

In November, the Hamilton Sanctuary City Coalition hosted a community forum. This coalition came together following a community presentation at the Hamilton Public Library last spring.

The group is building momentum to make Hamilton a “sanctuary city."

That is a place where all residents, regardless of immigration status, can access services without fear of reprisal or oppression, detention or deportation. The coalition aims to expose common myths and to educate our city about the harsh realities and barriers faced by residents who do not have full status.

Developing a recognition that all people have the right to freedom of mobility is another goal of the coalition.

Community forum keynote speaker Pablo Godoy addressed an enthusiastic gathering of more than 50 community members and agency staff at the Dr. John Perkins Centre, setting the tone for the day.

Godoy is the national representative of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). He challenged the group to work for “a city that actually allows access [to services] without fear.”

That is, in fact, an overall goal of the coalition: to make Hamilton a city where all human rights are respected and valued and no one is turned away when requesting service. Godoy drew on his personal experiences coming to Canada as a refugee from Guatemala and his professional experience interacting with workers in various government programs.
Godoy decried the idea that people can be called illegal.

“The actions of those corporations that displace thousands, if not millions of people from their homelands and push them out of their homelands—these actions are beyond illegal, but people cannot be illegal.”

Many people have difficulty or are unable to access basic services in Canada.

The Hamilton Sanctuary City Coalition continues its work in solidarity with numerous community groups to ensure that the necessary policies are put in place to make Hamilton the best place to live, work and play for all people.

To find out more or to get involved, contact Maria Antelo at the clinic at 905-527-4572.

(Hamilton City Council Emergency and Community Services Committee will be looking at this issue on February 10th.)