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.