02/21/2013 07:34 EST | Updated 04/23/2013 05:12 EDT

Toronto council approves sanctuary for undocumented residents

Toronto City Council have accepted a recommendation that could open the door to sanctuary in the city for undocumented workers.

The recommendation — approved by a vote of 38-2 — calls for the city to conduct an internal review to explore ways to improve access for people working in Canada without legal status to municipal programs and services "without fear".

Currently, when an undocumented worker with or without a criminal record is discovered, he or she will be dealt with according to Federal legislation — which consists of removal procedures, the recommendation reads. There are no amnesty programs in Canada at this time, it adds.

In turn, these individuals do not seek help, such as medical treatment or assistance with poor working conditions, out of fear of the consequences.

"Research demonstrates that undocumented workers, individuals working in Canada without legal status, face a variety of challenges," the motion reads. "These include: inability to access programs and services available for legal residents, and a limited ability to deal with employment-related issues."

Toronto has the highest number of undocumented workers in Canada, a law professor says.

The recommendation calls for several city offices, and city funded agencies, to conduct an internal review to boost undocumented workers' access to these services. This review will also look at ways to provide training for front line staff and managers to ensure that "undocumented residents can access services without fear".

It also calls for City Council to request the federal government to establish a regularization program for undocumented residents, and request the Ontario government to revisit provincially-funded services including health care, emergency services and community housing to ensure access for undocumented residents.