Community Alert: Montreal is NOT a Sanctuary City


Felhívás! Montreal nem szentélyváros!

تحذير للجميع: مونتريال ليست ملاذا للمهاجرين غير الشرعيين

Montreal, March 1, 2017 – Solidarity Across Borders, a migrant justice organization based in Montreal, active since 2004, is issuing this Community Advisory in order to correct the misleading public information concerning the passing of Montreal’s symbolic “Sanctuary City” Declaration on February 20, 2017. We encourage supporters and allies to share this advisory widely.

Since Montreal adopted the “Declaration Designating Montreal a Sanctuary City”, we have been contacted by many non-status migrants and their supporters. Some individuals believe they will now be safe on the streets of Montreal or even that they can present themselves to immigration authorities to regularize their status, while others are hopeful to be able to access essential services such as health care, education, work and housing. In general, the declaration has raised questions, hopes and expectations of many undocumented migrants.

But the idea that City of Montreal has taken substantial measures to become a real sanctuary city is false.


The substantive demands of undocumented migrants, reflected in the relentless organizing and mobilizing of groups such as the Non-Status Women’s Collective of Montreal, Mexicans United for Regularization, and the Haitian Non-Status Action Committee, as well as other groups and undocumented individuals, are not met by the the City of Montreal’s declaration.

The “Declaration Designating Montreal a Sanctuary City” does not give undocumented people access to, for example:

  • secure jobs with dignity;
  • healthcare;
  • education for children and adults;
  • drivers’ licenses;
  • bank accounts (this is not an exhaustive list).

The City of Montreal should demand access to all of these things for undocumented migrants, but the legal power to change this belongs to the Quebec and Canadian governments.

Continued Police Collaboration with the CBSA

In addition to accessing essential services, a “sanctuary city” means being able to go about daily life in Montreal without fear of being handed over to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) as a result of a casual interaction with police or metro agents.

The “Declaration Designating Montreal a Sanctuary City” does NOT stop the Montreal Police (SPVM) or metro agents from handing undocumented people over to the CBSA.

Every week, the SPVM arrests undocumented people for small infractions or demands ID in situations of racial profiling, discovers that they have stayed past a deportation order, and hands them over to CBSA for detention and deportation. The City of Montreal’s declaration will not change this.

Because this reality has not changed, we remind undocumented people to prepare for interactions with SPVM in a way that can help keep you safer. Preparing in advance could help keep you calm and secure.

A summary of what the “Declaration Designating Montreal a Sanctuary City” does and does not mean:

  • HEALTH CARE: The City of Montreal’s declaration does NOT provide access to health care. We need to pressure the provincial Quebec government to provide health cards to all residents of Quebec, including temporary and undocumented residents.
  • EDUCATION: The City of Montreal’s declaration does NOT provide access to education at any level. The Collectif éducation sans frontières continues to pressure the Quebec government to provide access to free primary and secondary education for all children in Quebec, including undocumented children.
  • WORK: The City of Montreal’s declaration does NOT provide access to declared work for undocumented residents. The Canadian government refuses to give Social Insurance Numbers and work permits to undocumented people living in Canada and the City of Montreal’s declaration will not change this.
  • POLICE: Importantly, the City of Montreal’s declaration does NOT prevent the police (or metro agents) from collaborating with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) agents. The Montreal police regularly hand over undocumented migrants to CBSA agents, and there is no reason to expect this practice to stop. Montreal does have the power to change this and we must continue to demand that it adopts a resolution telling its police to never, in any circumstances, hand people over to the CBSA.
  • HOUSING: The City of Montreal’s declaration states that the City will allow access to the public housing it controls, regardless of someone’s immigration status. It’s not clear how this will work in practice at the HLMs, coops and OBNLs that are partially funded and controlled by the City.
  • MUNICIPAL SERVICES: The City of Montreal’s declaration states that the City will allow access to municipal services which includes libraries, recreational facilities and food banks. It’s not clear how this will work in practice.
  • OTHER SERVICES: The City of Montreal’s declaration will NOT allow undocumented persons access to driver permits (a provincial responsibility) or bank accounts (which require identification that is provided by the provincial or federal governments).
  • REGULARIZATION: The City of Montreal’s declaration does NOT mean that undocumented residents can regularize their status and eventually become permanent residents and citizens. A regularization process is a federal responsibility. Justice and dignity demands an inclusive, comprehensive and ongoing regularization program for all temporary and undocumented migrants.

The Mayor and city councillors should stop claiming Montreal is a “sanctuary” to refugees and migrants. To make this claim without tangible measures in place to meaningfully protect all migrants, refugees and undocumented people is both confusing and grossly irresponsible.

Ask organizations you are in touch with to adopt the Solidarity City Declaration and add their name to the growing list of Montreal organizations who endorse it.

Together, let’s build our networks of support, mutual aid and solidarity, beyond the symbolism and opportunism of politicians.

– A Community Advisory prepared by the Support Work and Solidarity City committees of Solidarity Across Borders.

twitter: @SolidariteMTL
tél.: 438-933-7654 (messages only)


Background Links & Information

– Undocumented and need support?

– Community groups speak out on City of Montreal’s limited and symbolic Sanctuary City motion

– Sanctuary City: Videos of interventions during Solidarity Across Borders press conference

– Sanctuary City: Media Compilation (February 2017)

– Solidarity City Declaration

– Solidarity City Declaration Demands

Education Without Borders Collective

– Public Statement: No Border Agents in our Hospitals and Clinics / Health Care For All!

Current Support Work Campaigns

Past Support Work Campaigns

For convenience, we have linked the City of Montreal Sanctuary City Declaration (French only) here: