Toronto: The First Sanctuary City in Canada

(From Wikipedia: Sanctuary city is a term given to a city in the United States that follows certain practices that protect illegal immigrants)

Are you a non-status resident of Canada?

While being in this situation may keep you restless and unsettled – always looking behind your back for fear that you’ll get discovered anytime, the truth is that you’re not an exception – there are so many of you.

In the Greater Toronto Area alone, there are an estimated 200,000 residents who don’t have a status. These include people who are still waiting for the decision about their immigration application, those who went to the country as a visitor and overstayed, as well as those who are trying to dodge the authorities and avoid deportation.

Toronto Council announced good news for all non-status residents during the first quarter of this year – the City of Toronto will be the First Sanctuary City in Canada.

And what does this mean? This means that you and other residents without status can now avail of all the services offered by the City of Toronto, most of which are for free. And, you can do this without fearing that you’ll get caught by immigration authorities.

Right now, there are various agencies involved in working with and serving non-status residents. These agencies have pledged to keep the information of their clients confidential, except in instances when Canadian law requires them to disclose.

The Different Services that You can Access:

Health Services

a. Community Health Centers in Toronto. These centers can be found all over Toronto, and each center provides services for the residents of the area where it is located – with doctors, nurses, social workers, and other medical personnel. If you need to avail of a service, just make an appointment and fill out an application form. You don’t have to worry as the information you provide will be kept confidential. You also don’t need any health insurance. You may, however, be required to pay a small fee for the service.

b. Telehealth Ontario. Open 24/7, this telephone service offers free health advice and information. It’s confidential, don’t require a health insurance, and you also don’t have to provide any personal contact info when you call. The number is 1-866-797-0000.

c. Hospital Emergency Rooms. You can get any help from any hospital if you have any medical emergency. The same rules as above apply, and you will only have to pay for the service.

Educational Services

a. Ontario Early Years Centers. These are located in various areas in Toronto, and they offer their services for free. They accommodate kids up to 6 years old and their parents, and they offer various programs. Contact number is 1-866-821-7770.

b. Toronto District School Board. The TDSB passed the “Students Without Legal Immigration Status” policy, which allows all children, regardless of their status, to be accommodated in TDSB schools without any risk because information about them and their family will be kept confidential. If you are interested to learn more about this, you can call the board at 416-397-3000, email them at admissions@tdsb.on.ca, or check their website at www.tdsb.on.ca. You can also visit the International Programs and Admissions Office at 5050 Yonge Street, Toronto to register your child.

Employment Services

a. Workers’ Action Center. This center serves employees or workers (regardless of resident status) who are experiencing problems at work. These problems include harassment and discrimination, as well as not receiving the money you have worked for. If you get involved in any of these situations, just call the center for help: 416-531-0778

b. Industrial Accident Victims’ Group of Ontario. This caters to workers who need help regarding workplace hazards. If your working conditions are hazardous or if you’ve been injured on the job, you can call this group at 1-877-230-6311 to ask for help.

c. Caregiver Action Centre. This caters to and serves people who are enrolled in Canada’s Live-In Caregiver Program. Contact number is 416-361-6319.

911 Services

These cover situations that call for police presence, the fire department, or require ambulance. Just call the number for emergency.

Aside from those mentioned above, there are other services available to non-status residents. These include legal aid, library benefits, as well as counseling. You can find a complete list of these services in this website: http://www.toronto.ca/services/

Other Resources For You

If you encounter any problem trying to access any of the services offered by the city of Toronto, you can call the Solidarity City Network hotline at 1-888-670-4486.

When availing of any service, it would be helpful if you first call the center or institution to ensure that you’re eligible and to find out what information the center will require. Remember not to disclose any information about yourself during your first call, unless you’re sure the information won’t be disclosed to anybody, especially to federal authorities. Once you’re sure your information is safe, only then should you share it.

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