Friday 19 December 2014

Sanctuary Health in the Vancouver Sun

Representatives of Sanctuary Health have been in the Vancouver Sun twice in recent weeks:

Injured migrants fear being reported to CBSA by hospitals (December 17, 2014) 

A report on how people without legal status in Canada are increasingly afraid to go to hospitals for fear of being reported to the Canada Border Services Agency.

Border Services ramping up arrests, advocates say (December 11, 2014) 

Comments from community groups including Sanctuary Health on the rise of arrests from Border Services.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Transportation not Deportation!

Transportation not Deportation!
December 14th, 4 PM, Main Street Skytrain Station

Calling for access to transportation without fear! Stop transit police collaboration with CBSA!

This vigil marks the one-year anniversary of Lucia Vega Jiménez's detention. Please join us at Main Street Skytrain Station where Lucia was first stopped because she did not have fare.

¡Acceso al transporte público sin miedo! ¡Alto a la colaboración de la policía de tránsito con CBSA!

Esta vigilia marca el primer aniversario de la detención de Lucía Vega Jiménez. Por favor, únanse a nosotros en la estación de Main, donde Lucía fue inicialmente detenida al no poseer su boleto de pago.

Every day in the Greater Vancouver area, at various skytrain stations and bus stops, transit police racially profile migrants. In total, three hundred and twenty eight people were reported to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) by Transit Police last year, one in five of whom faced a subsequent immigration investigation, which suggests that the other four were simply racially profiled.

One of these people was Lucia Vega Jiménez, who later committed suicide in a detention center. At the coroner's inquest into her death, a transit police officer testified that he turned Lucia over to CBSA, in part, because Lucia had an accent and that he believed “she wasn’t originally from Canada.”

Rather than regret this trend, a Translink press release brags about how "Transit Police have a strong relationship with CBSA and annually investigate a significant number of over-stays and other immigration violations in partnership with CBSA." Transit Police’s own report similarly notes that “Transit Police represented a significant proportion of the Police Agency referrals to the CBSA offices.”

Public transportation is increasingly militarized and privatized, disproportionately impacting racialized, Indigenous, poor, and undocumented communities. Bus riders face the humiliation of being singled out and berated, as well as the threat of violence. Vancouver's Transit police are the only armed transit police force in the country, with an annual budget of $31 million that is expected to grow 25% over the next few years.

Armed transit police should not be on our public transit system and transit should not be a border checkpoint. We want an immediate end to CBSA collaboration with Translink, Transit police and Translink security. Transit is a right and no one should be targeted or criminalised for accessing it.


Todos los días en la zona metropolitana de Vancouver, en varias estaciones del tren elevado y paradas de autobús, la policía de tránsito aborda racialmente a los migrantes. En total, trescientos veintiocho personas fueron reportadas el año pasado a la Agencia Canadiense de Servicios Fronterizos (CBSA, por sus siglas en inglés) por la Policía de Tránsito, de los cuales uno de cada cinco enfrenta una investigación migratoria posterior a la detención, lo que sugiere que los otros cuatro fueron abordados por motivos raciales.

Una de estas personas era Lucía Vega Jiménez, quien más tarde se suicidó en un centro de detención. En la investigación oficial sobre su muerte, un oficial de policía de tránsito testificó haber transferido a Lucía al CBSA, en parte, porque tenía un acento que le hizo creer que "ella no era originaria de Canadá."

En lugar de lamentar esta tendencia, en un comunicado de prensa Translink se jacta de cómo la "Policía de Tránsito tiene una fuerte relación con CBSA y anualmente investigan un número significativo de estancias extemporáneas, además de otras violaciones de inmigración". El propio informe de la Policía de Tránsito señala que ésta (la Policía de Tránsito) representó una proporción significativa de las referencias de la Agencia de Policía a las oficinas de la CBSA."

El transporte público está cada vez más militarizado y privatizado, impactando de forma desproporcionadamente racista, a indígenas, pobres y comunidades de indocumentados. Los pasajeros del autobús se enfrentan a la humillación de ser señalados y reprendidos, así como a la amenaza de la violencia. La Policía de Tránsito de Vancouver es la única fuerza de policía de tránsito armada en el país, con un presupuesto anual de $31 millones de dólares que se espera crezca un 25% en los próximos años.

La Policía de Tránsito armada no debe estar en nuestro sistema de transporte público y el transporte no debe ser un puesto de control fronterizo. Queremos que se ponga fin de inmediato a la colaboración entre CBSA y Translink, la Policía de Tránsito y seguridad Translink. Transitar es un derecho y nadie debe ser acosado o criminalizado por acceder a éste.


Transit Police Report Riders to Immigration Nearly Every Day/Reporte de la Policía de Tránsito sobre pasajeros referidos a migración casi todos los días

Transit Police willing to discuss ID checks that could lead to deportation/Policía de Tránsito dispuesta a discutir los controles de identidad que podrían conducir a la deportación

Lucia Vega Jimenez: Timeline of a tragedy/Lucía Vega Jiménez: Cronología de una tragedia

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Endorsement: No One Is Illegal Statement on the Inquest into Lucia Vega Jimenez's Death in CBSA Custody

Sanctuary Health endorses this statement released by our friends at No One Is Illegal about the inquest into Lucia Vega Jimenez's death in CBSA custody.

The BC Coroners Service is currently conducting an inquest into the death of Lucia Vega Jimenez. Jimenez was a 42-year Mexican hotel worker who died while in Canadian Border Service Agency’s custody in December 2013 after being turned over to immigration authorities by TransLink police. Just prior to her scheduled deportation to Mexico, she hung herself in a cell at the Vancouver International Airport. She died eight days later, on December 28, 2013.

As part of a coalition of grassroots immigrant, community and Latin American groups, we have been denied participant status at the inquest. With the inquest coming to a close, we would nonetheless like to take this opportunity to reiterate our vision and demands.

Specifically with respect to the tragic death of Lucia and the subsequent one-month coverup by CBSA, we demand:

1. A public apology by CBSA, Minister of Safety Stephen Blaney, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Lucía’s family and those who love her and miss her;
2. Compensation to Lucia’s family particularly since she was the main economic support for her ailing mother.


Over the past ten years we have supported migrant detainees on a daily basis and have organized against the injustice of migrant detention. Seeking asylum is a right yet an increasing number of people who have been forced to flee their homes are being placed behind bars in Canada. They are held in conditions of imprisonment that are fundamentally inhumane and degrading.

Last year alone, 10,088 people were detained by the CBSA (one of them was Lucia). This included over 200 children. These migrant detainees spent a total of 183,928 days in immigration detention. One-third of all migrant detainees are held in provincial prisons, including in maximum-security facilities. Migrants are the only population within Canada who can be incarcerated simply on administrative grounds without being charged with a specific criminal offence. Unlike those charged with the offences under the criminal (in)justice system, migrant detainees are not sentenced and so have no idea when they will be released.

Migrants are essentially detained for trespassing an artificially created border on stolen Indigenous lands.

We desire:

1. An end to the wide, discretionary and arbitrary powers given to CBSA officers to detain migrants;
2. An end to all processes of immigration detention especially given that migrant detention in Canada is unjust, arbitrary and often indefinite;
3. An end to deportations and permanent status for all migrants upon landing;
4. An end to the criminalization of migration;
5. Addressing the root causes of displacement and migration.


In the short-term we advocate:

1. Shutting down the holding cells below the Vancouver International Airport;
2. An end to indefinite immigration detention, instead instituting a 90-day limit on detentions pending deportation. Limits on detentions called presumptive periods are the norm in most Western countries;
3. No immigration detention in maximum-security prisons;
4. An end to the practice of mandatory detention for irregular arrivals under the Refugee Exclusion Act;
5. Independent civilian oversight of CBSA;
6. End of enforcement cooperation with CBSA by non-immigration public bodies including but not limited to TransLink and the Transit Police;
7. Overhaul of the judicial and adjudication process so that migrants have fair and full access to judicial review, legal aid, bail programs and pro bono representation;
8. An end to the two-tier discriminatory refugee system and designated countries of origin (‘safe countries’) under the Refugee Exclusion Act.
9. Increased transparency by CBSA (without violating detainee privacy rights) to include disclosure by CBSA on a monthly basis about how many detainees are in CBSA custody, in which holding center, and for what length of time.

The following short term recommendations with respect to detainee rights should be implemented immediately:

10. Free phone calls and internet access;
11. Free multilingual books and reading material, as well as access to artistic and literary workshops;
12. Access to legal counsel, NGOs and family members for visits and monitoring;
13. Access to interpreters;
14. Unrestricted legal line and access to legal aid;
15. No shackling or cuffing of detainees including during transport;
16. Access to mental health support and medical care as requested;
17. Access to exercise equipment, yard time, fresh air, and windows.


We believe the following recommendations are counter to the principles of migrant dignity and freedom:

1. Electronic monitoring or any alternative to detention that continues to surveil migrants;
2. Detention centers and prison expansion including privatization and the offloading of government accountability onto corporate interests;
3. Any increased length in detention periods;
4. Measures that purport to increase detainee safety but that, in effect, increase scrutiny and invade privacy such as cameras and regular cell checks that involve, for example, waking up detainees.

As grassroots anti-colonial migrant justice organizers, we struggle for the right to remain, the freedom to move, and the right to return. We are all human and are not inferior or undesirable due to our migration status, race, gender, class or ability. We actively strive for a humanity where everyone has the right to sustenance and the ability to provide it, where we are all free of oppression and exploitation, where each of us has control over decisions that affect our bodies and our communities, and where everyone is able to live meaningfully in respectful and responsible relationships to one another and the earth.

Friday 26 September 2014

Justice For Lucia Vega Jimenez: Press conference and Vigil



Join us at the following:
Press Conference and Delegation
Monday September 29th at 8:30 am
Burnaby Coroners Court, MetroTower II, 4720 Kingsway

Rally and Vigil
Tuesday September 30th at 6:30 pm
CIC offices, 300 West Georgia, near VPL.


A BC Coroners inquest into the tragic and shameful death of Lucia Vega Jimenez is beginning on Monday September 29th and continues till Friday October 3rd. We invite the community for a delegation on the first day of the inquest as well an evening rally to gather and renew our calls and commitment for justice.

Lucia Vega Jimenez was a 42-year Mexican hotel worker who died while under Canadian Border Service Agency’s custody in December 2013 after being turned over to immigration authorities by TransLink police. Just prior to her scheduled deportation to Mexico, she hung herself in cells at the Vancouver International Airport. She died eight days later, on December 28, 2013. Lucia’s death was kept secret by CBSA and pubic officials for over a month.

Community members uncovered this horrific tragedy and sounded the alarm to media. Lucia's death sparked national outrage. A petition by community groups with over 8,688 signatures calls for a full, transparent and independent civilian inquiry and investigation. The petition also calls for independent civilian oversight and a comprehensive review of migrant detention policies.

Despite months of grassroots community mobilizing to seek justice for Lucia and her family, a coalition of eight immigrant, refugee and Latin American community groups have been denied participant status by the BC Coroners Service. We gathered information, organized memorials, and pressed the government for justice. We called for this inquest and an independent investigation, and still we - the community - have been shut out.

Though we have been shut out, we will not be silent. We want to know what happened to Lucia while in CBSA's custody. We want to know why CBSA hid her death for over one month. We want to know why Translink is cooperating with border officials. We want to know why Lucia did not receive support, including mental health support, services. We want to know why there is no independent accountability or oversight mechanism for migrant detention. We want to know why CBSA is detaining and deporting migrants like Lucia back to unsafe circumstances.

We condemn Canadian immigration policies and the practices of the Canada Border Services Agency for the breaking up of thousands of families and the unjust imprisonment of thousands of migrants, including children. Last year alone, 10,088 people were detained by the CBSA. Over the past five years there have been a number of migrant deaths in detention, while awaiting deportation, or upon deportation. These include Jan Szamko, Habtom Kibreab, Walji family, Hossein Blujani, Lucia Vega Jimenez, Grise, and Veronica Castro.

Migrant dignity, not migrant death!
Not one more detention, not one more deportation, not one more death!

Justicia para Lucía: No más muertes de migrantes
Un órgano administrativo de la provincia de BC empezará una investigación pública del lunes 29 de septiembre al viernes 3 de octubre por la trágica y penosa muerte de Lucía Vega Jiménez.
La comunidad, incluyendo una coalición de ocho grupos de migrantes, refugiados y grupos Latinoamericanos han sido EXCLUIDOS de participar en esta coalición
Invitamos a la comunidad a participar como delegación en el primer día de la investigación y a un rally para unificar y renovar nuestras voces y compromiso por la justicia.
Lunes 29 de septiembre a las 8:30 am
En el Burnaby Coroners Court, MetroTower II. La manera más fácil de llegar en transporte público es si toman el skytrain a Metrotown, el edificio está junto a la estación. Caminan en la entrada principal al centro comercial y esta en el área de la plaza abierta.
Martes 30 de septiembre a las 6:30 pm
En las oficinas de Citizenship and Immigration Canada en el 300 West Georgia junto a la biblioteca pública en el centro

Lucía Vega Jiménez una mexicana de 42 años que trabajaba en un hotel murió en diciembre del 2013 bajo la custodia de la migra (Canadian Border Service Agency ó CBSA) después de haber sido detenida por la policía de tránsito y referida a las autoridades de migración. Justo antes de su fecha de deportación a México, Lucía se colgó en la celda de detención en el Aeropuerto Internacional de Vancouver. Murió ocho días después, el 28 de diciembre del 2013. La muerte de Lucía fue encubierta por CBSA y por las autoridades por más de un mes.
Miembros de la comunidad descubrieron la tragedia y comunicaron a los medios lo sucedido. La muerte de Lucía generó indignación a nivel nacional. Una petición de grupos comunitarios con más de 8,688 firmas hizo un llamado para exigir una investigación transparente e independiente sobre el caso de Lucía. La petición demanda una investigación supervisada por la sociedad civil y una revisión amplia de las políticas y lineamientos de detención a migrantes.

A pesar de meses de mobilización comunitaria para buscar justicia para Lucía y su familia, una coalición de ocho grupos de migrantes, refugiados y grupos latinoamericanos han sido negados como participantes en la investigación por el órgano administrativo de BC. Recopilamos información, organizamos vigilias y presionamos al gobierno para que se haga justicia. Exigímos esta investigación y aún así, nosotros - la comunidad - hemos sido excluidos.
Aunque se nos ha cerrado la oportunidad de participar dentro de la investigación, no nos quedaremos callados. Queremos saber que le pasó a Lucía mientras estaba en la custodia de CBSA. Queremos saber porqué CBSA ocultó su muerte por más de un mes. Queremos saber porqué Translink está cooperando con la migra. Queremos saber porqué Lucía no recibió ningún apoyo, incluyendo consejería y servicios de salud mental. Queremos saber porqué CBSA delega su responsabilidad de cuidar de los migrantes detenidos a una agencia de seguridad privada que no tiene que rendir cuentas al público. Queremos saber porque no hay mecanismos independientes de rendición de cuentas por las detenciones a migrantes. Queremos saber porqué CBSA está arrestando y deportando a migrantes que como Lucía corren peligro de regresar a sus países de orígen por diferentes circunstancias.

Condenamos las políticas migratorias canadienses y las prácticas de CBSA por la ruptura de miles de familias y el encarcelamiento injusto de miles de migrantes incluyendo niñ@s. En el último año, 10,088 personas fueron detenidas por CBSA. En los últimos cinco años ha habido una serie de muertes de migrantes en centros de detención mientras esperaban su deportación y/ó al ser deportados. Entre estas muertes están las muertes de Jan Szamko, Habtom Kibreab, la familia Walji, Hossein Blujani, Lucia Vega Jimenez, Grise y Veronica Castro

Dignidad para los migrantes, no más muertes de migrantes!
No más detenciones, no más deportaciones, no más muertes!

Resisting cuts to Refugee Health Care

Watch inspirational videos of health care workers, organizers, lawyers, and dedicated community members speaking out and resisting cuts to refugee health care. HEALTH CARE FOR ALL! :

Resisting cuts to refugee health care

Saturday 20 September 2014

Sanctuary City Movement, Van Coast Salish territories: Principles & New Website

Check out and share Sanctuary City vancouver Coast Salish Territories Website below. Support, endorse, and share the principles- only together will we build a community and movement where ALL people regardless of status will have access to health care and services without fear!

Sanctuary City Website

Sanctuary City Principles:

Our cities are comprised of people of all migration statuses who contribute to community. Limiting access to services based on migration status creates a fundamentally unjust system in which sections of our community are excluded, exploited, and denied access to their basic human rights.
In recent years increasingly exclusionary immigration policies have been introduced. Policies such as Bill C-31, Bill C-24, Bill C-10, cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program, and the changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program create a state of fear. People are being denied access to basic services such as health care and are left vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. People are being treated as disposable economic commodities rather than human beings.
Honouring the land and actions of the First Nations that have lived on this land since time immemorial, we want to build communities that are in solidarity with Indigenous land defenders on Turtle Island and with global movements against dispossession. As part of the growing Sanctuary and Solidarity City movements across North America/Turtle Island we seek to collaborate with communities and service providers to create safer access to services for all people based on need rather than status.
As we move toward Greater Vancouver becoming a Sanctuary City, we are asking that service providers and municipal governments incorporate the following principles into their service provision:
1) Access to basic and essential services will be determined by need and not migration status
Services such as education, health services, food security, dignified housing, public transit, public safety, legal aid, and municipal services are meant for everyone regardless of status. This means:
  • Not asking for proof of citizenship or information regarding immigration status when people are accessing services
  • In circumstances when identification is required, service providers will accept other forms of identification, including but not limited to: letters of reference/support, municipal ID, expired ID
  • Apply human and labour rights equally to all people regardless of migration status, and value people based upon their humanity
2) Access without fear
The fear of debt, deportation, and/or death should not limit people’s access to services. We recognize that the responsibility of enforcing immigration law falls onto Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) alone, and is NOT the responsibility of service providers, health care workers, other police agencies, transit security nor the municipal government. As such service providers will:
  • Treat all information regarding other peoples’ immigration status as strictly confidential, and never share it with CBSA or CIC
  • Create and ensure CBSA free zones, where public spaces such as hospitals, clinics, schools, parks, community centers, neighborhood houses, settlement services, food banks, libraries, shelters, construction sites, city hall and public transit are zones where CBSA are not called, welcomed, or allowed entry
  • Ensure that municipal and public resources will not be used to support CBSA investigations or activities
Workplaces, community groups, and service providers can endorse our principles and commit to working towards them. Endorsements can be sent to

Sanctuary City from Below: dismantling the City of Vancouver

Article: Sanctuary City from below

"declarations of sanctuary by municipal governments are only meaningful if they are accompanied by clear implementation strategies and accountability mechanisms; victories must be defended by our communities to prevent them from being rolled back; our political power lies in challenging, not appealing to, power; and zones of sanctuary are actively constituted not by politicians but by us – as service providers, educators, healthcare professionals, and neighbours – on the basis of solidarity and mutual aid"

Status: Inside Vancouver's Sanctuary Movement- a seven part series

Check out David Ball's 7 Part series looking inside the Sanctuary City Movement here:

Status: Inside Vancouver's Sanctuary Movement- A Tyee 7 part series (July 2014)

Sunday 8 June 2014

Sanctuary City Community Forum, July 2, 2014, 6 pm

Friends and community members!

Join us for a light dinner and a Community Forum on the topic of building a Sanctuary City in the Lower Mainland. Based on consultations over the last few months, we will be:
1) Giving a brief overview of work that has happened so far and presenting a draft list of necessary principles for our campaign
2) Discussing proposals for creating a Sanctuary City (or Sanctuary Cities) here, including sector-specific proposals for service providers
3) Outlining and discussing ways for each of us to get involved in organizing towards a community where all members, regardless of status, can access services without fear

LOCATION: 215 West 2nd Ave, Vancouver, BC, Unceded Coast Salish Territories. We will be meeting on the east side of the building (entrance off of West 2nd Ave)

DATE/TIME: Wednesday July 2, 2014, 6-9pm

ACCESSIBILITY: West 2nd staff have confirmed that the washrooms and doors are wheelchair accessible. We are meeting on ground floor. For any other accessibility inquiries, please get in touch with us.

***Please note that while everyone is welcome to attend, we ask that attendees do not use this meeting to promote their interests in upcoming civic elections. Thank you. If you have any questions regarding the forum, please do not hesitate to contact us at

CHILDCARE (on site) also available upon request. Email us at

Friday 6 June 2014


Please join us Monday June 16th at noon @ 300 West Georgia St (infront of the immigration & refugee board offices) to stand up for health care for all people regardless of status! and tell our communities and government that we oppose the IFHP cuts.Facebook event page:

Interim Federal Health Progran Cuts Petition

We are all human, we all get injured, we all get sick:
Health Care is a Right for Everyone

A Refugee is any person who is forced to leave their home country for life-saving reasons. Canada is a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and 1967 UN Protocol on the Status of Refugees and has in the past been a global leader in the provision of respectful treatment of those seeking refuge – this is changing quickly.

The recent drastic changes to the Interim Federal Health Program now deny approximately 95% of refugees in Canada all access to primary and preventative health care as well as the supplemental health care that is provided for many low-income Canadians. The Conservative government has promoted the cuts as only removing health care “extras” – but prenatal care, medicine, lab testing and the other affected services are vital elements of good healthcare.

Most refugees can now only access medical care in cases of life-threatening emergency. Refugees who are from “Designated Countries of Origin” (DCO) cannot even access these limited emergency-only services. A DCO is anywhere that Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, says is a ‘safe’ place – as we all know, no country can be safe for every person.

The only health services that all refugees are now technically entitled to are in cases of ‘public health concern’ (someone with a highly infectious disease) or ‘public security concern’ (someone with a psychotic condition that the state or a doctor considers dangerous to the public). This policy basically says that refugee medical care should only be provided to protect “us” from “them”, pitting people who have citizenship in Canada against those who have less secure status in this country.

These cuts will leave many people sick and injured without proper care, overloading the already overcrowded emergency rooms and forcing the provinces to pick up the bill. Ultimately this creates a kind of medical apartheid, where some people are “worth” health care while people who are actually among those most in need are abandoned.

These changes are happening at a time when all immigrants (even those who have permanent residency or citizenship), refugees and undocumented people in Canada are facing policies of increased scrutiny and widespread threats of deportation. Health-care providers and community groups across the country are organizing to support refugees and undocumented people’s health care needs, despite the Federal Government’s cruel actions.

We believe in health care for all, provided as a human right regardless of where you are from or how much money you have,


"Sanctuary city policy should not simply re-brand the city, but represent a "shift in culture, to be able to see people as people and not as different categories of people who are deserving or not deserving."

Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto has just released a shocking study about the impacts of the Tory government's refugee health care cuts.

In an unprecedented move, doctors have been taking public action against the cuts, including a third national day of protest on June 16th, 2014:

Fore more on the study:
Photo: Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto has just released a shocking study about the impacts of the Tory government's refugee health care cuts.

In an unprecedented move, doctors have been taking public action against the cuts, including a third national day of protest on June 16th, 2014:

Fore more on the study: