A divided Edmonton city council has voted in favour of making it easier for undocumented immigrants to gain access to municipal services and programs.
The new policy recognizes that those with precarious immigration status may be reluctant to obtain services such as transit or recreation passes, or interact with bylaw officers, out of fear of deportation.
Coun. Jon Dziadyk, who voted against the policy along with two other councillors, argued the move failed to address how the federal government allowed residents to go undocumented.
That prompted an emotional response from Coun. Sarah Hamilton.
“The federal and provincial government have a ton of things they should be doing but this is fundamentally, fundamentally about affording people the right to live in the city without fear,” said Hamilton. “It’s about safety and security and to grandstand on dignity, basic human dignity, is appalling.”
Hamilton said the policy isn’t just for those with precarious immigration status, but also Edmonton’s homeless residents. She said she has worked with undocumented people which gave her a good sense of the struggle they face, whether it involves access to health care, employment or education.
“I have seen first hand how the immigration process grinds people down to nothing,” she told council.
Dziadyk was joined by councillors Mike Nichol and Tony Caterina in voting against the policy.
“If we go through with this, we’re pushing people further underground by sanctioning subversion of federal law,” said Dziadyk, “And really we should be spending our efforts to try and get people to have a legal status in Canada, in Edmonton, so they can participate meaningfully in society and feel safe here through legal means.”
The so-called “access without fear” policies help immigrants without proper documentation to apply for many of the services a Canadian citizen could, without being questioned about their immigration status.
A report says the policy will allow city staff to consider the impact of expanding two initiatives that already provide access to transit and recreation passes for vulnerable Edmontonians.
During interaction with a peace officer, several types of identification are accepted, including a combination of out-of-country identification and a bill to confirm identity and residence.
Training for community peace officers will be updated “to ensure a consistent approach relative to identification requirements,” the report states.
Similar policies have been introduced by city councils in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, earning them the title of “sanctuary cities.”
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Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area. It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary, generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road). Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.
Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016, Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.
Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton. The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.