Canada is a sanctuary country. President Donald Trump has stirred a lot of enthusiasm in Canada for sanctuary cities. While it makes a great political statement, its also a divisive tactic used by Americans. The "Us" versus "Them" model.
When a person is escaping war or simply wants to immigrate to Canada, the driving force is the idea that Canada is an inclusive, safe country of multiculturalism. There's no thought that a single city in Canada is somehow a sanctuary while the rest of Canada isn't. Declaring a city a "sanctuary city" is a slap in the face of Canadians because a sanctuary city tells the world that somehow the rest of Canada is not a safe place for refugees and immigrants. That Canada is full of anger and hatred towards migrants.
Undocumented immigrant activists argue that sanctuary cities provide a sense of security that other cities don't. Undocumented people "who need our help and the services of our great city, including ambulance, police, fire stations, women's shelters and even schools, may not be able to access those services, because of their concern that they may be required to provide personal information to city officials and then risk being deported." Activists feel that letting someone who is undocumented have access to all municipal services will make them feel safe against bigotry and hatred. Unfortunately, bigotry and hatred exists in the human heart and that can be a deep pool to drain.
A battered woman will be abused regardless of where she lives. Not going to the police or to a women's shelter is a sad symptom of such abuse. No woman's shelter would refuse entry to an abused woman because she's undocumented. No fire department will not respond to a fire. Similarly, if a neighbour's house is burning, someone will call the fire department if only to save one's own dwelling. It's difficult to believe that an undocumented person would let his dwelling burn down and loose all belongings.
But an undocumented immigrant is fearful of being deported, you say. Yet by remaining undocumented one chooses a lifetime of fear. Fear that creates a "Us" versus "Them" mentality. Where anyone outside the safe zone will hurt you. A sanctuary city implicitly says, "Relax. You can be undocumented here. No one will pick on you. But leave and you're putting yourself at risk."
(Photo: NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
That idea has effectively worked in America. It's an easy way to further divide and isolate the population of a country, and in so doing have stronger control over political agendas. Imagine if the mistrust between America's sanctuary cities and other urban and rural places was gone. People wouldn't be arguing about who is breaking the law, flinging labels at one another, or threatening to withhold federal monies needed for infrastructure. Maybe people would get together with their federal representatives and help create an easier and fairer process for citizenship. Recognize the different cultures, accept the people, and move forward onto other important issues -- say, election hacking.
Canadian immigration officers deal daily with undocumented people from different countries. Human trafficking and illegal smuggling of people is an underground industry. Women are put into prostitution rings. People make money off fake passports and sham marriages.
While discrimination and prejudice are part of any society's fabric, Canadians generally make great effort to be inclusive and welcoming. Canada is proudly multicultural, promoting and celebrating cultural diversity in yearly events like Heritage Days and Caribbean Festival. When an advocacy group or politician claims that a sanctuary city needs to exist to protect undocumented immigrants from bigotry and hatred, and make them feel at home and not prosecuted by police, it says two things.
This blows up the idea of an inclusive, respectful nation.
One is that "Canadian justice and authority is bad, so this city will make sure the bad police won't hurt you." The second things is "You're safe here but don't go anywhere else in Canada because those Canadians are hateful, fearful and angry against people like you." Us versus them. On so many levels. This blows up the idea of an inclusive, respectful nation.
Sanctuary cities also ignore the fact that Canada courts foreigners to come here. There is no restriction on which cities can welcome foreigners. Universities make money having foreign students. The contentious Temporary Foreign Worker Program lets any employer bring in foreign workers.
What breeds suspicion and fear is separating or hiding certain peoples from society. The majority don't understand the immigrants, and the immigrants fear the majority. That's what American society has become. Marginalized. Fractured. Fear driven.
A Canadian sanctuary city is Canada trying to be like the United States. What we forget is that Canadians are at their best when they aren't acting like Americans. And it goes the same for immigrants to Canada. Immigrants (undocumented or documented) shouldn't be sheltered in sanctuary cities. If immigrants truly want to be part of Canadian society and have the respect, compassion and understanding of Canadians, immigrants must be visible, noticed, and vocal. We cannot hide undocumented immigrants and hope they will learn to trust us. Because we won't be able to trust or understand them.
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