On March 12 Vancouver City Council approved the motion "Safety for Residents with Precarious Status: Delivering Access without Fear" (with amendments).
The VDLC supported this motion, as it had supported an earlier motion with similar aims roughly four years earlier. We applaud Council's decision to work toward the full realization of a city with access without fear for all.
The following comments were made in support of the motion by VDLC President Stephen von Sychowski at Council's March 11 meeting.
My name is Stephen von Sychowski, I’m President of the Vancouver and District Labour Council, representing roughly 60,000 unionized public and private sector workers in the Vancouver area.
I am here today to speak in favour of the motion Safety for Residents with Precarious Status: Delivering Access Without Fear.
We have supported policies like this since the original Access to City Services Without Fear motion was adopted a few years ago.
As demonstrated by instances such as the raid at Hastings Racecourse last August, there are working people in industries and workplaces across this city who are dealing with precarious immigration status for a variety of reasons – some of which may be outside of their control or they may not even be aware. For example, in the Hastings incident it has been alleged that the workers who were arrested had in fact been misled.
Whatever the circumstances, the fact of the matter is that there are working people across this city who are contributing to our economy, to our communities, and to our city but are living in fear.
Despite the adoption of the previous Access Without Fear motion that I mentioned, we continue to hear stories of people being asked about their immigration status while seeking to access services, register kids for school, and so forth. People don’t feel safe accessing city services or interacting with emergency personnel. This impacts negatively on the well being and safety of our communities as a whole.
We hear these things sometimes firsthand, sometimes second or third, but naturally those affected do not often want to come forward or be identified for fear of possible arrest and deportation.
This compounds with the harm done by the fact that precarious status tends to lead to increased instances of abuse by employers, a fact cited consistently by migrant worker groups and advocacy organizations. This is even more common in cases of temporary workers on permits tied to a single employer upon whom their continued residency in the country relies.
This demonstrates that while the original motion adopted by Council had good intentions and was a step forward there is much more to do in order to see the spirit of it truly reflected in practice universally.
That’s why we agree that this motion is important as a series of next steps to truly and fully implement a policy of Access Without Fear.
Those steps include strengthened policies, provisions for training, and the recognition that this issue is impacted by other levels of government and other agencies and institutions not under the control of the city.
That recognition is important because we know that you can’t simply declare it and make it so. Truly achieving these goals will involve action on what can be directly controlled and ongoing work with others to BC Housing, Vancouver Police Board, and the provincial and federal governments. It’s an ongoing commitment to being a safe and inclusive city for all.
Our solidarity as a labour movement is with workers, regardless of their status, regardless of where they are or where they came from. Our solidarity as a city should be on the same basis, with all the people of this city.
At this historical moment when the eyes of the world are on the inhumane, disastrous manner in which migrants are being treated by our neighbour to the south, let’s proudly demonstrate an alternative of humanity, understanding, and inclusivity.