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Local and Urban Politics

E10 - Sanctuary Cities

Date: Jun 5 | Time: 10:30am to 12:00pm | Location: SWING 108

Chair/Président/Présidente : Meghan Joy (Concordia University)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Oliver Schmidtke (University of Victoria)

Getting to Sanctuary: Canadian Municipalities and the Politics of Sanctuary Cities: Mireille Paquet (Concordia University), Meghan Joy (Concordia University)
Abstract: Since the early 2010, Canadian municipalities have started to engage with the policies and discourses surrounding the concept of “sanctuary cities”. Amongst others, Toronto has implemented a policy of “Access without fear in 2013 and Montreal has declared itself to be a sanctuary city in 2015. With changes in the global context of migration management and the continuation of anti-immigration policies in the United States, more Canadian cities are experimenting with discourses, policies and instruments aimed at providing services without regards to immigration status and at limiting collaboration with immigration enforcement authorities. While the challenges associated with the implementation of sanctuary policies in Canada are starting to be documented, this paper is concerned with the politics of getting to sanctuary in Canadian municipalities. This politics is well documented in the cases of American cities but these explanations do not take into considerations the specificities of Canadian municipal politics and the particularities of enacting sanctuary in relation to Canada’s national immigration regime. As a consequence, this paper asks: what are the political pathways through with municipal governments come to enact a sanctuary policy, a sanctuary declaration or more limited sanctuary practices. Building on case studies from Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, London and other cities, this paper identifies three general pathways: 1) mayoral entrepreneurship, 2) bureaucratic innovation and 3) bottom up mobilization. Each of these pathways has implications for policy design, policy implementations and potential outcomes of sanctuary practices in Canada.


Of Sanctuary and Solidarity: Municipal Migrant Justice in Toronto, Montréal, and Vancouver: Karl Gardner (York University)
Abstract: In recent years, “sanctuary cities” have been thrust into the national spotlight, sparking debates about the role of municipalities in managing and policing immigration in Canada. Since Toronto became Canada’s first sanctuary city in 2013, Hamilton, Vancouver, Montréal, and Edmonton have all passed similar policies. Such cities are becoming increasingly important as Canada's immigration regime continues its march toward a system of "permanent temporariness," which creates the conditions for a growing number of migrants to be forced to become undocumented in Canada. Despite the presence of these formal sanctuary policies, what I call “sanctuary from above,” a closer look reveals a broad spectrum of sanctuary zones and practices that exist within these cities. This spectrum ranges from hollow promises to “welcome immigrants” to more rigorous policies of “access without fear,” which refers a practice of providing services regardless of immigration status and a commitment non-collaboration with the Canada Border Services Agency. This paper seeks to analyze the spectrum of sanctuary in Toronto, Montréal, and Vancouver and investigate the role of grassroots social movements and advocacy organizations in cultivating and expanding sanctuary in their respective cities, a process I call “sanctuary from below.” In this paper I draw from years of organizing experience in Toronto, as well as qualitative interviews conducted for my doctoral research with migrant justice organizers.


Sanctuary’s Sovereign Rule: Exceptional Private Power of Local Immigration Policy within Toronto’s Sanctuary City: Sasha Kovalchuk (McMaster University)
Abstract: Sanctuary City scholarship encounters a dilemma. Studies reveal Sanctuary Cities, wherein municipalities provide services regardless of immigration status, often result in a false sense of security for undocumented peoples living in constant threat of deportation. Yet scholars remain optimistic because Sanctuary Cities challenge the primacy of the state to police migration. I argue Sanctuary City literature dichotomizes policy effectiveness thus obscuring how state officials, business, and civil society actors each contest and can possess local sovereign control over citizenship. I develop the concept of private delegated sovereignty as a metric to trace the local political process and contest over enacting citizenship. Three overlapping theoretical methods reveal Sanctuary City local governance mechanisms. First, Sanctuary City policies utilize zoning technology described by post-development globalization theory (like by Murray and Ong) who show how local and subnational bodies configure exceptional territorial zones to benefit private business who gain degrees of sovereign power over citizenship, labour, and environmental regulation. Second, in cases of immigration federalism (like in Canada and the U.S.), decentralized and shared de facto jurisdictions over migration enables each level of government to partake in zoning technologies controlling migrants. Third, Toronto demonstrates how zoning technology operates within local immigration policy in cities capable to benefit migrants’ well-being. Sanctuary City policies are a zoning technology available for levels of government to configure jurisdictional bounds of local immigration governance. Sanctuary Cities reveals a contest between state, business, and civil society actors over delegated private sovereign zoning to administer citizenship powers within immigration federalism.