Tuesday, 17 July 2018

VPD refusing Access without Fear for migrant communities

Where? 2120 Cambie Street
When? Thursday July 19th, Protest at 12:30 PM, Public Meeting at 1 PM
What? Join the protest, and/or sign up to speak by emailing office@vancouverpoliceboard.ca (bcc: sanctuaryhealthvancouver@gmail.com so that we know you are coming)

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/483363188790350/

At a public meeting at 1pm Thursday, the Vancouver Police Department will ask its Police Board to pass fake “Access to Police Services without Fear” guidelines, which will only create a false sense of security.

We are asking community to tell the police that their guidelines are unacceptable by protesting outside their meeting and/or by signing up to speak directly to the board.

The Vancouver Police Department should not claim to provide ‘Access without Fear,’ if it continues to be complicit in the detention of children, the separation of families and the deportation of people to countries where they will face violence and persecution. If you collaborate with Canada Border Services Agency, you’re not providing ‘Access without Fear.'

The VPD’s proposed guidelines are exactly the opposite of Access without Fear principles. They list extremely general reasons why they may choose to call CBSA. Even when they cannot justify their call under these very general reasons, they refuse to limit their officers’ ability to contact CBSA.

We have shared multiple concerns rooted in the experiences of community members, and the VPD cannot explain how their guidelines would offer any safety to these same people. For example, we received a report from a Latinx refugee who was walking down the street while wearing construction gear and was stopped by a VPD officer and asked for his immigration papers. In another case, when the VPD was called to a job site to investigate a case of missing tools, they proceeded to ask everybody on the worksite for their immigration status.

Read the Sanctuary City audit of Access without Fear policies in the City of Vancouver here: http://www.sanctuarycityvan.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Audit-Final.pdf 
To read the guidelines, see page 20-21 here: https://vancouver.ca/police/policeboard/agenda/2018/0719/1807P03-Board-Report-Access-to-Police-Services-Without-Fear.pdf

Friday, 29 June 2018

Sanctuary Health Statement 2018-06-29

As we see heartbreaking violence happening at all borders and as the municipal elections approach, several candidates and parties have been speaking out about Sanctuary City - and the city’s Access Without Fear Policy.

The current City of Vancouver Access Without Fear policy, passed in April 2016, has not been implemented under Vision Vancouver and has not led to meaningful change in the lives of migrants and their ability to feel safe accessing services. We often hear politicians say they support migrant communities but actions speak louder than words.

Sanctuary Health is a non-partisan group; we have not and will not endorse any political candidates. All candidates and community-oriented organizations must be held accountable to individuals who live in fear due to their precarious immigration status and the reality on the ground has not changed for them. The City of Vancouver has failed to allocate any resources to train staff and raise awareness about their policy, and they failed to get the Vancouver Police Department on board with the sanctuary principles. We are willing to work with anyone who will advance the Sanctuary City movement.


Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Still Waiting, Still Afraid: Auditing Access without Fear Policies in the City of Vancouver

Below is the Executive Summary of an Audit of Access without Fear policies in the City of Vancouver, two years since the policy was initially passed. Click here to read the full report.
It has been two years since the City of Vancouver passed its Access without Fear policy. While we’ve witnessed Vancouver’s mayor and City Council celebrate the policy as an example of the City of Vancouver’s inclusive and welcoming nature, the policy has not been implemented. Sanctuary Health Vancouver, with the support of a group of UBC students, conducted an audit on the implementation of Access without Fear policies in the City of Vancouver. This report presents the results from this audit.

The City of Vancouver committed through their policy to implement a communication and education strategy to raise awareness about the principles and policy; to develop guidelines in collaboration with affected communities to offer training to city staff; to monitor and evaluate; to implement a complaint mechanisms; to provide annual community reportbacks to share progress; and to advocate for provision of services regardless of immigration status to other orders of government and jurisdictions. Little to nothing has been done on any of these items. Furthermore, the City policy explicitly recognizes shelters as an important site for Access without Fear. However, none of the frontline workers were aware of the Access without Fear policy. Several staff stated they would have to give personal information to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers. This lack of training about the need to protect client confidentiality could prove to be most devastating to the safety and security of undocumented individuals. Furthermore, a new agreement between CBSA, the John Howard Society and the Belkin Shelter will put shelter workers in direct contact with the CBSA as the shelter will be used as a de-facto detention centre.

Council encouraged the boards of Parks and Recreation, the Vancouver Police, and the Vancouver Public Library to adopt policies which support the spirit and objectives of the City’s policy. The Vancouver Library Board passed their Access to Vancouver Public Library Services without Fear Policy in April 2016. In November 2016, The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation approved the Access to Park Board Services without Fear policy. Meanwhile, the Vancouver Police Department refuse to consider implementing Access without Fear principles.

A lack of training for frontline staff is significantly impacting Vancouver Parks and Recreation and the Vancouver Public Library’s respective policies. Only one out of twenty-seven frontline parks board staff interviewed were aware of the Access without Fear policy and most said they did not know what to do if the CBSA or police ask for information about clients. Similarly out of the twenty library locations called, only two staff confirmed knowledge of the library’s Access without Fear policy and only six were confident that they would not share information with law enforcement agencies without a warrant or legal order.

Through our journey of building relationships with individual frontline staff and service providers, Sanctuary Health has encountered great champions within the Vancouver Public Library and the Vancouver Parks Board. Because of the great trust, understanding and solidarity of these staff, more families have been able to use the libraries with their children and access leisure cards to be able to bring their children to community centers. We want to acknowledge these efforts as these relationships and their work is an example of what meaningful access without fear could look like. With training and support at the institutional level, all staff could replicate this work and make our city inclusive and equitable for all.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver Police Department is asking people with precarious immigration status to talk to them, while refusing to assure their safety from deportation if they do. Over the past two years, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) has sought community endorsement of their ongoing working relationship with CBSA’s Inland Immigration Enforcement under the banner of “Access without Fear”. This relationship subverts the whole intention and purpose of an Access without Fear policy, and is unsafe for people with precarious immigration status. Until the VPD commits to truly providing Access without Fear, the VPD should not pass guidelines called “Access without Fear” which would create a false sense of safety.

Click here to read the full report.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

What’s really scary? Not having health coverage when your baby needs it


Then, the BC MSP office reached out to Sanctuary Health and asked to meet as soon as possible. 
On Tuesday, we met with leadership of BC MSP and Pharmaceutical Services. They agreed that all BC-born babies deserve and are eligible for health coverage under MSP.  The MSP office said they would work with Sanctuary Health to make sure babies who had previously had their applications rejected would get coverage. They also committed to eliminating the whatever registration barriers had been preventing these babies from getting MSP coverage so that no family faces rejection in the future. We need to confirm that the registration barriers have been lifted for future applicants - then we'll know for sure whether this issue has been resolved. However, we are cautiously hopeful that for some BC families, life is about to get a whole lot easier. 

October 27th, 2016

(Vancouver) - Advocates and health care professionals gathered at the Strathcona Midwifery Collective, this morning to share that they are terrified for babies who cannot access BC health coverage due to discrimination against their parents’ immigration status. Among pumpkins bearing messages such as “Health for All” and “MSP for Babies,” they shared messages from the worried parents of these babies.

“For us as parents, it’s indeed extremely frustrating that our baby does not have medical coverage,” said Oscar and Marcela, whose names have been changed to protect their privacy. “We have applied twice and in neither application the Ministry has taken the time to respond whether or not my baby qualifies.”

"If a baby is born in Canada, they are a Canadian citizen and immediately eligible for MSP," Minister of Health Terry Lake told Parliament on May 5th 2016. However, in correspondences with Sanctuary Health, Barbara Walman, Assistant Deputy Minister of Health confirmed that in practice this is not the case. “Although any child born in BC is a Canadian citizen and may be entitled to MSP coverage,” she wrote. “The timing of and requirements for their coverage will depend on the circumstances of their birth.” Over 500 people have sent emails to the Ministry of Health asking them to develop a registration process that aligns with Minister Lake’s words.

“This is a life and death situation; these babies could die if they don’t get health care,” said Ingrid Mendez of Sanctuary Health. “Meanwhile, deportation to face violence in their home country is not a legitimate option. Although mothers have told us, in desperation, that they are willing to put their own lives at risk if their babies could stay safe in Canada.”

“I get really worried and powerless when he is sick, I don’t know how much help I can get without his MSP coverage,” said Camila, who will need to find thousands of dollars to pay for her babies’ urgent surgery. “The immigration part of it [is] also worrying because they might start questioning why I am asking for help when I am not Canadian, only my baby is.”

“We’ve spoken to health care providers in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba, and we understand that all these provinces provide healthcare to babies in these situations. It’s time for BC to step up to the plate.” said Tasha Nijjar of Sanctuary Health.

Sanctuary Health is a grassroots community group that deploys a wide range of strategies to advocate for access to services for all regardless of immigration status or documentation. To learn more about the issue visit: http://www.bchealthcoalition.ca/what-you-can-do/make-sure-bc-babies-can-access-health-care


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Media Advisory: What’s really scary? Not having health coverage when your baby needs it

VANCOUVER BC-- As Halloween approaches, advocates and health care professionals will gather to share their grave fears for BC-born babies who cannot access BC health coverage due to discrimination against their parents’ immigration status. Over 500 people have sent emails to the Minister of Health about their concerns.

WHAT: Press Conference and Powerful Visual
WHEN: Thursday, October 27th, 2016 9 AM
WHERE: Strathcona Midwifery Collective at 439 Dunlevy Avenue

Ingrid Mendez, Sanctuary Health
Jennifer Kuhl, BC Health Coalition

About Sanctuary Health
Sanctuary Health is a grassroots community group. We deploy direct action, movement-building, community-engagement, and direct support strategies to advocate for access to services for all regardless of immigration status or documentation. We are committed to building cross-sectoral alliances of mutual support to advance the migrant-justice movement on unceded Coast Salish territories.

About BC Health Coalition
The BC Health Coalition is a network of individuals and organizations with a shared passion for public health care. Our coalition community is comprised of over 600,000 people in B.C. - and growing.