What sanctuary city status would mean for Saskatoon

By in Opinions

Sanctuary cities are common throughout the United States, but as of right now there are only four of them in Canada. The turbulent politics surrounding immigration are changing the way we respond to it and there is talk of several more Canadian cities becoming sanctuaries, including Saskatoon.

Saskatoon should be a welcoming and inclusive city for all people.

It was announced in early February that the Saskatoon municipal government is beginning to discuss becoming a sanctuary city. This announcement comes in the aftermath of American president Donald Trump’s executive order for a 120-day ban on refugees entering the United States, as well as a 90-day ban on entry from seven Middle Eastern and North African countries. Both Saskatoon and Regina are considering adopting the sanctuary city status, following suit of some other cities in Canada, such as Vancouver and London, Ont.

Illegal immigration has previously not been prevalent in Canada the way it has in the U.S. In 2011, there were a reported 487 people caught entering Canada illegally, but the past year has seen a rise to over 1,000 people who were caught illegally entering.

This is still far from the numbers of migrants caught entering the U.S. illegally, which can reach over 1,000 migrants every day during peak seasons. However, with Trump’s exclusionary executive orders and promises of deportations, illegal immigration might be on the rise in Canada.

Becoming a sanctuary city means that everyone is welcome to feel safe in a city, regardless of their immigration status, and it also means taking the role of enforcing immigration status off of municipal law enforcement. This will mean that the local police force will be able to spend more time focusing on stopping actual crimes and keeping its people safer.

If Saskatoon goes through with becoming a sanctuary city, it would mean that everyone will be able to access police services without fear of being displaced. This will make for safer cities because of more trusting relationships between everyone living in the city and the police. It will make the use of health care, public transportation, schools and all other public services open to everyone as well.

There is the fear that sanctuary cities make it easier for criminals without immigration status to live in the city. The sanctuary city status does not make undocumented immigrants exempt from the law, it only ensures that their presence alone is not an indictable crime. If an undocumented immigrant were to otherwise break the law, they would still be prosecuted just like any other person.

As these discussions are only in the beginning stages, there is still quite a few things to be determined regarding the change. For example, how would this affect police training and how would they ensure unity among the police department on the new policy?

There is also the question of how the citizens of Saskatoon will react. There is a rising xenophobia problem in Canada, as was made obvious by the horrific Quebec shooting in January. The idea that exclusion is the only way to have safe communities is spreading quickly not just in Canada but throughout the whole Western world.

Welcoming immigrants to our communities and treating them as equals will help to lower the hostility from all involved. Inclusion, rather than exclusion, is the best course of action to create safe and happy communities.

A city diverse in population and culture with mutual respect may be a utopian dream, and having sanctuary cities is a small step in that direction — but a small step is better than no steps at all.

Making Saskatoon a sanctuary city might take some of the stigma away from refugee and immigration policy. Giving all people access to these services can only improve the living conditions of all people in the city. It will lower crime, keep the whole population healthier and better educated, and strengthen relationships between police and the community.

The benefits of Saskatoon becoming a sanctuary city greatly outweigh the detriments, so there is no reason why these discussions should not proceed into actions. This will not only make everyone a little bit more equal, but will also strengthen our communities and society as a whole.

Lyndsay Afseth

Photo: dvids / Flickr

  • Guest

    It’s up to the Canadian Border Agency and not municipal government to decide the status of immigrants illegal or legal. While it would be nice to have a sanctuary city it would only create resentment, but maybe that is the cynical part of me speaking.

  • Guest1

    I have not found that the reason people oppose illegal immigrants to be that it could create an unsafe environment. Rather, I have heard feelings skewed more toward: taking jobs, non compliance with our current culture and being expected to comply with a culture we didn’t ask for and that immigrants chose to leave, and the fact that Canada has so much space- it’s a luxury that is being taken away from us because of hoards of immigrants coming in and moving us toward being as overpopulated as the U.S and China! The fact that people can just waltz in illegally and create these issues is unbelievable. The rules and laws are in place for a reason.

  • J Doug

    Canada can’t even figure out how to take care of her First Nations communities, yet she wants to bring in how many hundreds of thousands of refugees. How many First Nations communities in Canada (or in Saskatchewan) don’t even have access to clean water in 2017? How many First Nations groups have limited access to jobs, education, and things to do to keep them from getting bored and getting into trouble with alcohol, drugs, and crime? If Canada could figure out how to address the issues affecting her own people, then, and only then, would she be in a position to be able to try to help other people. Canada is like a single mother with 46 children who should only have 1 or 2 kids.

  • David

    Thoughtful people who oppose ‘sanctuary city’ and other radically inclusive policies do so because of their inherent injustice. The whole purpose of immigration law and policy is to provide a just and impartial platform for welcoming newcomers to our great nation. When anyone, including Afseth and The Sheaf, tries to legitimize illegal entry, they actually promote a system whereby we overload our capacity for immigrant intake with people who cheat the system. That is unjust, hypocritical, and, quite simply, wrong. Don’t mistake opponents as xenophobic or regressive; they are your only hope for a viable and sustainable open border policy.

  • Sara

    What the heck?? You cannot just pick and choose from the laws just because you feel sorry for some people. The laws are there to protect people. If you are illegal you are illegal and should not be allowed in. It is unsafe for the illegal immigrant, unfair to the rest of the society and just plain wrong. This could have damaging effects. What a ridiculous idea! Look what the illegal immigrants did to America’s economy and now Canada is going to take these illegal immigrants?

  • Usask for Logic

    Illegal immigrants entering Canada from the United States should not be taken seriously as refugees. According to the sheaf, one extreme attack in Quebec makes *obvious* that Canada has a large problem with xenophobia. So why should we accept illegal immigrants running away from Trump (who poses absolutely no real threat to any legal citizens of America) into our Muslim hating society? If you look past the thin logic of the sheaf that a single attack means Canadians on the whole are xenophobic then you may find people are okay with immigration and diversity, but that illegal immigration disadvantages legal immigrants, and burdens the social system of our country.

  • Michelle

    Great article! The comments here seem to miss the point entirely. There is no such thing as an “illegal”, there are people who just want to live normal lives and there is nothing illegal about that. Also, it is not a situation of “we don’t even take care of our own”, we need to demand the government take care of everyone instead of holding it against other groups that also need help. Lastly, if there were truly open borders we wouldn’t need “sanctuary cities”, but the fact is that we do need them for as long as we police imaginary lines due to fear, xenophobia, and the rampant misunderstanding of facts.

    • Sung Li

      Are you serious?