Thursday 29 December 2022

Joint Statement Regarding Christmas Day Death in Detention

We are angry and saddened, but not surprised, to learn of the death on Christmas Day of another person in Canada Border Services Agency detention. This death took place at the newly built immigration detention centre in Surrey. As long as the CBSA continues to detain migrants, deaths in detention will continue.

In the CBSA's statement, which does not share any information about the cause of death, the CBSA said that “The health and safety of those in our care is of paramount importance to the CBSA. We take this responsibility very seriously.” The interactions that we see of CBSA with migrants every day show that their statement is a lie: the only thing that is of paramount importance to CBSA is meeting their cruel quotas by deporting migrants as quickly as possible.

This death on Christmas Day exposes the numbers of immigrants, including children, who are detained in Canada. Between April 2019 and March 2020, there were 8,825 people detained between the ages of 15 and 83. In the same period, another 136 children were “housed” in detention with their detained parents, including 73 under age 6. Since 2016, Canada has held more than 300 immigration detainees for longer than a year because there is no legal limit to the length of time the CBSA can detain immigrants in Canada.

Since 2000, at least 17 people have died in immigration detention, with at least six deaths since 2016. In 2014, on Coast Salish Territories, the community had to fight for an inquest to get all the details of the death of Lucia Vega Jimenez, a Mexican national without status in Canada: from the transit police office who called CBSA because she had an accent, to the CBSA officer who introduced himself as a “liaison” and used her answers against her in her detention review hearing, to the private security guard playing video games while she died.

These tragedies reinforce our strong commitment and our resolve to fight for an end to immigration detentions and deportations for good. We join the voices of End Immigration Detention Network, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Canada who have called for an end to immigration detention. In our Campaign for Regularization and Status for All, we also raise the calls to Stop the Detentions! Stop the Deportations!

Migrating is not a crime

No more detentions and incarcerations

No more deportacións

No more deaths

29 December 2022 

Signed by: 

Migrante BC
Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (RAMA)Isla
Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (RAMA) Okanagan
Sanctuary Health
Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights (CDWCR) 


Monday 12 December 2022

Federal Court Orders Stay of Deportation

Claudia, Lety, Andres and Isaias are relieved and elated to hear that the Federal Court has ordered the government to stay their deportation, which was scheduled for December 19th. We are thrilled to know that the family can now celebrate Christmas with their friends, family and community.

We are so grateful for the immense solidarity shown by the community over the past six months; the letters and emails that continue to pour in are still so important in supporting the family's ongoing applications for permanent residence. The family would like to share their immense gratitude for Molly Joeck, their Lawyer at Edelmann & Co. Law Offices, Watari Counseling and Support Services, the Hospital Employees Union, Indigenous community members, pastors and churches, friends and community members for their continued support.

La lucha sigue for Status for All, as we fight to ensure no other family has to go through the same stressful and terrifying situation!

Join us as Sanctuary Health will be supporting the Committee for Caregivers and Domestic Workers Rights's rally for Status for All on Sunday December 18 at 9:30 am at 700 Hamilton St in Vancouver (outside the Canada Border Services Agency's office).

Saturday 26 November 2022

Press Release: Community Shares Love and Support for Family Facing Deportation Before Christmas

Vancouver --- Stacks of over 1000 Christmas cards piled up in St James Anglican Church on Saturday at an event to show support for the Bazan family, Leticia Bazan Porto (“Lety”), her sons Andres Obed Liberato Bazan (“Andres”) and Isaias Alain Liberato Bazan (“Isaias”), her daughter-in-law Claudia Alejandra Zamorano Gomez (“Claudia”) and her 9 year old granddaughter, who face deportation on December 19th.

Friends, co-workers, and family shared heartfelt tributes to the family- sharing how much they mean to the community. They appealed to Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, to ensure a positive decision on the family’s ongoing application for permanent residence based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, and to implement a broad and inclusive regularization program so that other people do not end up in the same situation. This family has been in Canada and contributing meaningfully to our communities for over 5 years, and the granddaughter has done all her schooling in Canada.

Last week, the family’s lawyer provided a 945-page request to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) asking that their removal be deferred until a decision on their application for permanent residence could be made. This would allow the family to continue their life in Canada while they wait for this decision. The CBSA refused the request in less than 24 hours. Meanwhile, the family has been waiting for a decision on their application for permanent residence for over a year.

"Canada should uphold their reputation of being welcoming to refugees and migrants and keep Lety and her family here,” said Ingrid Mendez, Executive Director of Watari Counselling & Support Services Society. “Every single day, Lety offers her skills, gifts, and time making dignified and healthy food for the community. She spends her time making sure people are safe, having their basic needs met- how can she be disregarded and disposed of so easily?”

Claudia is also serving our communities as a health care worker at Royal Columbian Hospital, and her union is calling for the government to let the family stay. “At a time when our healthcare system is in critical need of experienced health care workers, we should not be turning away those who have contributed their skills and valuable experience to help protect Canadians. Let Claudia and her family stay!" said Betty Valenzuela, Financial Secretary of the Hospital Employees' Union.

“This family is very important to our community, we value and love them very much. They deserve to stay with us in Canada. A deportation would be a threat to their life,” said Father Jose Rocha, Pastor, Iglesia de Dios de la Profeci.

“Every year in December, we notice the CBSA increasing their activities as they try to meet their annual deportation quotas,” says Omar Chu, a member of Sanctuary Health. “The holiday spirit is about communities coming together to care for each other in reciprocity and solidarity, it’s not about CBSA deporting families to get their Christmas bonus.”

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.

Watari was developed in 1986 as a response to the lack of services and programs for high-risk street involved youth in Vancouver. Since then, Watari has helped thousands of people in the downtown eastside and the surrounding communities, through several youth and community programs as well as through our counselling team. Over the years, Watari has developed important programs not only for youth, but for everyone needing support here in the community, including Indigenous people and migrant workers. Our Latin American Group and Vietnamese Community Kitchen have become important staples in the community as well. Although much has changed over the years, Watari continues to be a safe and supportive place for the people in the community. Today, Watari has 13 essential programs made possible by the dedicated staff, and amazing volunteers and community partners!

The Hospital Employees’ Union is B.C.’s largest health care union with more than 50,000 members working across the health care team in hospitals, care homes, community services, First Nation’s health organizations, and in the health logistics and supply. Sanctuary Health is a grassroots community group that deploys direct action, movement-building, community-engagement, and direct support strategies to advocate for access to services for all regardless of immigration status or documentation.

Monday 5 September 2022

Vancouver Rally for Rights, Regularization, Status for All




On September 18 – one day before Canadian Parliament returns – we will gather in the thousands across the country to demand equal rights and permanent resident status for all undocumented people, migrant workers, students, families and refugees. A historic regularization program is on the horizon, but we need to take to the streets to ensure that no one is left behind. Gather outside your local MP's office with signs at 1 pm and then all meet at Grandview Park for a rally from 2:30 pm - 4:00 pm. 

The rally takes places on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəyəm (Musqueam), Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples and we stand with Indigenous peoples against ongoing colonialism.

Wednesday 3 August 2022

Press Release: Family of Essential Pandemic Workers Facing Deportation; Ask Minister to Intervene

New Westminster ---  On Wednesday August 3rd, surrounded by their supporters, the Bazan family asked Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to intervene and halt their removal to Mexico as part of a wider call for a broad and inclusive regularization program. Over 900 people have written letters to the Minister in support of Leticia Bazan Porto (“Letty”), her sons Andres Obed Liberato Bazan (“Andres”) and Isaias Alain Liberato Bazan (“Isaias”), her daughter-in-law Claudia Alejandra Zamorano Gomez (“Claudia”) and her 9 year old granddaughter.  

The family arrived in Canada more than four years ago fleeing death threats from organized crime and have provided essential labour during the pandemic as they’ve waited for their refugee claims to process. Since October 2020, Claudia has put her life on the line working as a housekeeper in the COVID ward at Royal Columbian Hospital. Claudia is a member of the Hospital Employees’ Union who have supported the families campaign and have also issued a news release.

“I have been working cleaning COVID-19 treatment rooms because nobody wants such a dangerous job,” Claudia said. “We hear constantly at work that there is a labour shortage, but the government is seeking to remove me to a country where I’m afraid for my family’s life. How does that make sense?” 

In December 2020, the federal government launched special programs to regularize the status of refugee claimants who worked in health care. The stated purpose of the now-closed program was to “recogniz[e] the considerable contribution and sacrifice health-care workers have made in Canada throughout the pandemic.” In reality, the program’s extremely narrow criteria excluded many migrant health-care workers; in Claudia’s case, she was excluded because she did not provide direct care to patients. 

Letty is a prolific volunteer including at the South Granville Seniors Centre, Carnegie Community Centre and Mission Possible. She has been a pillar of Watari Counselling and Support Services Society’s food security program contributing to the preparation of 1000 meals and the delivery of 100 food hampers per week. 

“Quite simply, without Letty’s hard work, hundreds of people in our community would not have been able to eat during the pandemic,” said Ingrid Mendez, Executive Director at Watari Counselling and Support Services Society.

Andres and Isaias have both been working in construction and their employer CWL Contracting supports their ongoing application for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. In July 2019, the government announced a public policy for out-of-status construction workers in the Greater Toronto Area to recognize the economic contributions of construction workers like Andres and Isaias. As refugee claimants in British Columbia, Andres and Isaias were not eligible for this narrow program. 

“We won’t let the government continually chew up and spit out members of our community,” says Omar Chu. “These small piecemeal programs mean that the government is continually trying to deport people like Claudia, Letty, Isaias and Andres. That’s why Sanctuary Health is part of a movement demanding an ongoing expansive and inclusive program for full and permanent immigration status for all.”

The imminent deportation is putting stress on the whole family including Andres and Claudia’s nine year old daughter, who has spent her entire school life in Canada since she started kindergarten in 2018. The Canada Border Services Agency ordered her to attend a meeting with her family on July 8th when they told the family they would be deported. Since that meeting, she is not sleeping through the night and is seeing a counsellor about her fears of removal to Mexico. 

“They took fingerprints from all the adults, but didn’t take fingerprints from my daughter. I don’t know why they said my daughter had to be there,” Claudia says. “As a mother, that makes me angry and sad because I see that this has changed my daughter. She cries and asks ‘we are not bad people, why can’t we stay?’” 

Saturday 23 July 2022

BC government withdrawing support for immigration detention within 12 months


On Thursday, the BC government recognized the inherent human rights violations in their participation in the immigration detention regime. They committed to ending their arrangement with the Canada Border Services Agency locking up migrants in provincial jails within 12 months. We welcome this announcement and invite the BC government to implement a Sanctuary Province and examine other ways that they participate in the exclusionary and discriminatory deportation and detention system.

We also urge the federal government to take this opportunity to examine their own practices. If they try to ship migrants off to prisons in other provinces, even farther away from their community supports, we will resist. If they try shuffling more migrants to the federal detention centre in Surrey, where they have a playground and classrooms intended to detain children, we will resist. If they try to construct more federal detention centres, we will resist. If they increase so-called “alternatives to detention,” such as electronic monitoring, that create indefinite surveillance and control in our homes and communities, we will resist.

Ending the violence of deportation and detention is possible. We are fighting for Immigration Status for All!

Friday 29 April 2022

Community Victory! BC Provides Health Coverage for People with Maintained Status

After rallies, position papers, press releases and an open letter, people with maintained status can breath a sigh of relief. Effective May 1, 2022, the Ministry of Health has announced that the Medical Services Plan (MSP) policy will be updated so individuals with maintained status can access MSP until a decision is made by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on their application for extension.

People with Maintained Status (previously known as "Implied Status") are workers and students who have applied for new work or study permits before the expiry of their previous work or study permits and are legally entitled to live and work or study in Canada.[1] Prior to July 1st 2017, the Ministry of Health provided nine months of healthcare coverage to individuals with what was then called “Implied Status.” However, on July 1st 2017, they decided to cut this coverage. The government offered temporary coverage during the pandemic to some people on COVID-19.

According to the Ministry, temporary coverage will be provided to maintained status holders who:

  • Remain in BC on maintained status while waiting for a subsequent work or study permit;
  • Were previously enrolled with MSP;
  • Demonstrate they hold maintained status by providing IRCC receipts showing they applied for their new permit before the expiration of their original permit (or documentation from IRCC if a receipt is not available); and,
  • If the temporary coverage is requested four weeks or longer after the expiration of their original permit, the individual will also need to provide documentation from IRCC demonstrating their application is still active. This may be from the IRCC client website or documentation from IRCC.

 You can read the Ministry of Health's information bulletin here.

People with Maintained Status will no longer have to live with the uncertainty of depending on temporary "COVID-19" coverage. Unlike the COVID-19 policies which arbitrarily set cut-off dates (for example, excluding people whose initial permit expired prior to December 1 2020), the new policy applies for everyone who has Maintained Status.

Thank you to the BC Health Coalition, the BCGEU, the BC Employment Standards Coalition, the BC Federation of Labour, the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, Community Action Initiative, DIVERSEcity Community Resource Society, The Graduate Student Society at SFU, the Hospital Employees' Union, Living in Community, Migrante BC, the Migrant Workers' Centre, Pivot Legal Society, Vancouver Society for Children and Youth of BC, SWAN Vancouver, UFCW1518, Vancouver and District Labour Council, the Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights (CDWCR), West Coast LEAF, the Worker Solidarity Network and Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice for all of your work advocating for the province to stop violating the Canada Health Act.


Wednesday 2 March 2022

Letter to School Districts Across the Province

In April, a motion supporting Sanctuary Schools policies will be put forward at the B.C. School Trustees Association (BCSTA) Annual General Meeting. Sanctuary Health is writing to School Boards across the province with the below message asking trustees to support the motion and to implement Sanctuary Schools policies in their districts.

Dear School Board Chairs,

We are writing to you requesting that you share this message with your fellow trustees.

We encourage you to take a leadership role in implementing a Sanctuary Schools policy in your district to provide access to basic education for all children eligible under the School Act. Click here to read a briefing note explaining what a Sanctuary Schools policy is and why it is important to pass such a policy. Migrant families should be able to register, without needing an advocate, in a welcoming, safe, anti-racist environment. As explained in the briefing note, Sanctuary Health met directly with representatives of the Funding and Financial Accountability Branch at the Ministry of Education and discussed common concerns raised by school districts about Sanctuary Schools policies. The Ministry's response confirming that their ongoing commitment to access to basic education for all children ordinarily resident regardless of immigration status is in alignment with Sanctuary Schools policy is included in the briefing note.

We also encourage you to support the motion in favour of Sanctuary School policies being put forward at the upcoming B.C. School Trustees Association (BCSTA) Annual General Meeting. This motion is an important opportunity for school boards to work together to recognize and support the right to education. We believe that the most effective way to create accessible, welcoming schools is for school districts to work together. The BCSTA is the perfect forum to implement this work. In 1989, the BCSTA participated in a review of the School Act, writing that “all children resident in a district should be eligible to attend public school. School boards should not be asked to police the Immigration Act.” This motion seeks to continue this history of fighting for the Right to Education.

Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.

Thank you,

Sanctuary Health