Resources from the Sanctuary Health collective

Still Waiting, Still Afraid: Auditing Sanctuary City Policies in the City of Vancouver (Sanctuary Health, May 2018) Two years after the City of Vancouver passed its Access without Fear policy, Sanctuary Health Vancouver, with the support of a group of UBC students, conducted an audit on the implementation of Access without Fear policies in the City of Vancouver. While we’ve witnessed Vancouver’s mayor and City Council celebrate the policy as an example of the City of Vancouver’s inclusive and welcoming nature, the policy had not been implemented.  This report presents the results from this audit.

Open Letter from Health Care Providers to Minister Dix and Dr Bonnie Henry regarding access to health services (July 2020) Healthcare providers in British Columbia (BC), urgently wrote to the Ministry of Health asking them to adhere to evidence based public health policy by providing health services to ALL people in BC regardless of eligibility for Medical Services Plan (MSP) or immigration status.

Briefing Note: Access to Care Upon Arrival (Sanctuary Health, March 2020) British Columbia’s exclusionary wait period prevents new immigrants, temporary foreign workers, returning Canadians and even some newborn Canadian babies from receiving health care coverage. The three month wait period places individuals in a limbo period and forces them to delay seeking care until coverage is received. This package includes three appendices: a policy study of the “Three Month Wait”, the Minute of the Medical Services Commission that implements the wait period  and Letters of Support from 25 organizations.

Update: Following the release of this report, the government waived the three-month MSP coverage wait period effective March 1, 2020 and then re-implemented the wait period coverage on July 31, 2020. This temporary waiver shows both that it’s possible to remove the wait period, and also that it’s beneficial to public health. Ontario ended their three month wait and have not brought it back. As a community, let’s continue to demand the complete removal of the wait period and expanding full health coverage for all!

Briefing Note: Sanctuary Schools (Sanctuary Health, October 2021) Canada is a signatory to the UN Convention Rights of the Child which declares that every child has the right to education and the BC School Act mandates the provision of free education to every school age student if they and their guardian are “ordinarily resident” in BC. This concise policy brief shares information for school districts looking to pass Sanctuary Schools policies in British Columbia. See more resources and learn more at

Briefing Note: International Student Health Fee (Sanctuary Health, June 2022) In August 2019, the B.C. government introduced the International Student Health Fee, increasing the financial burden on the families of international students cand reversing the previous government’s decision to eliminate MSP premiums for children by re-introducing the Fee for K-12 students with study permits. Student unions and international students across the province wrote to the government explaining the injustice of the Fee and recommending its elimination. This policy brief shares an additional issue with the International Student Health Fee that was not address in existing submissions about the fee: the definition of “international student” used in implementing the policy arbitrarily targets the children of some of the most marginalized families in our province. See more resources and learn more at

Other Migrant Advocates

The Migrant Rights Network  is a cross-Canada alliance to combat racism and fight for migrant justice. We are a network of self-organized migrants including farmworkers, careworkers, international students, undocumented people as well as allies. Join the Network’s campaign for Status for All!

School for All BC advocates for Sanctuary Schools policies in districts across British Columbia. All students, regardless of their immigration status, have the right to access public schools in British Columbia. Yet, families in British Columbia with precarious or no immigration status continue to experience barriers to registering their children in school across the province. This needs to change!

Migrant Students United at SFU is a group of international and domestic students from TSSU, GSS, SFSS, and their allies who have come together to advocate for migrant students’ rights under the support of Migrant Student United. We seek equitable and just policies for migrant students by speaking up about and fighting against the systemic barriers at the university, provincial and national level that prevent us from accessing our rights. By joining forces together we can raise awareness about discriminatory and exploitative rules, policies and cultures, and we can contribute to creating a fair, equitable and inclusive environment for migrant students and other migrants. We demand just conditions for immigration, fair fee structures, better support for migrant students, and status for ALL. Together, we can create real change!

Fuerza Migrante is a community organization that seeks to transform a world stained by exploitation and injustice. They work to build an autonomous movement of migrants, based on mutual aid and community self-defense.

Migrante Canada is a chapter of Philippine based Migrante International, a global alliance of over 200 member organizations in 23 countries. Migrante Canada was founded in October 2010 and has 13 chapters and member organizations across Canada. We are based in Vancouver, Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Winnipeg, Toronto, Barry, Ottawa, Montreal, Sherbrooke and Quebec City.

RAMA Okanagan is a grassroots migrant justice group that strives to support the approximately 5,000 Latin American and Caribbean “temporary” migrant farmworkers in the Okanagan Valley in their ongoing struggle for dignity, community, and humanity. Their aim is to be worker-led and to respond to the needs identified by migrant workers as they arise. Ultimately, their intention is for migrant workers themselves to name and direct our priorities. Together, they engage in direct support work to ensure workers’ everyday needs are met, to facilitate their access to local social services and to guide them in navigating local communities.

Other Resources about Access to Services and Sanctuary Cities

Regularization in Canada (Migrant Rights Network, October 2020) People become undocumented because of the failures of immigration policy. There is no access topermanent residency for most low-wage migrants in Canada, and only 60% of refugee claimants are accepted. Almost all undocumented immigrants in Canada were previously on a temporary authorization (work, study, refugee claimant permit). They reached a point where they could not get permanent residency and the federal government refused to renew their permits. They were faced with an impossible choice: either return to a country where they may face war, discrimination, climate catastrophe or no economic opportunities and leave communities, families and relationships in Canada OR stay without access to any rights and services and in daily fear of deportation. Those who stay become undocumented immigrants. This is the Migrant Rights Network’s proposal for a broad and inclusive regularization program.

Qualitative evaluation of a mandatory health insurance ‘wait period’ in a publicly funded health system: understanding health inequities for newcomer im/migrant women (Hamel-Smith Grassby M, Wiedmeyer M, Lavergne MR, et al, BMJ Open, 2021)  This study seeks to evaluate impacts of a residency-based waiting period for health insurance coverage on lived experiences of health and settlement for im/migrant women in British Columbia, Canada. Findings highlight severe, yet commonly overlooked, health inequities produced by a mandatory health coverage wait period within a purportedly ‘universal’ healthcare system. Health system policies such as mandatory ‘waiting periods’ produce discriminatory and inequitable outcomes for im/migrant women. Policy reforms towards full ‘healthcare for all’ are urgently needed to affirm the health and human rights of all im/migrants.

SARS-CoV-2 testing and COVID-19–related primary care use among people with citizenship, permanent residency, and temporary immigration status: an analysis of population-based administrative data in British Columbia (Wiedmeyer, S Goldenberg, Peterson, S. et al., Can J Public Health, 2023) This study of administrative data found that people with temporary immigration status in BC experience higher SARS-CoV-2 test positivity; alarmingly, this was coupled with lower access to testing and primary care. Interwoven immigration, health and occupational policies place people with temporary status in circumstances of precarity and higher health risk. Extending permanent residency status to all immigrants residing in Canada and decoupling access to health care from immigration status could reduce precarity due to temporary immigration status.

Exploring the perspectives of healthcare providers that care for non-insured individuals utilizing emergency departments in Toronto (Siu, C., Rao, S., Hayman, K. et al., Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine, 2022) Interviews with healthcare professionals have highlighted that marginalized populations, including non-insured individuals, face multiple barriers when accessing the ED, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the temporary extension of health coverage to non-insured patients enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic has likely improved patients’ healthcare experience, which we will explore directly with non-insured patients in a future study. In this post-COVID world, we now have an opportunity to learn from our experiences and build a more equitable ED system together.

Health outcomes, health services utilization, and costs consequences of medicare uninsurance among migrants in Canada: a systematic review. (Garasia, S., Bishop, V., Clayton, S. et al., BMC Health Serv, 2023) Medically uninsured groups, many of them migrants, reportedly delay using healthcare services due to costs and often face preventable health consequences. This systematic review sought to assess quantitative evidence on health outcomes, health services use, and health care costs among uninsured migrant populations in Canada.

Changes to BC International Student Health Fees: What are the Issues? (The Graduate Student Society at SFU, 2019)
Open Letter regarding the International Student Health Fee (Alliance of BC Students, January 2019)
These two papers describe the initial analysis of the harms of the International Student Health Fee.

Expanding Sanctuary: What Makes a City a Sanctuary Now? (Mijente, January 2017) This report from the United States, documents what a city needs to do to become an effective Sanctuary City.

Position Paper: Sanctuary City (West Coast LEAF, February 2015) This Position Paper describes the need for a Sanctuary City in Vancouver, the key components of a effective Sanctuary City policy, and considerations for successfully implementing a Sanctuary City policy in the City of Vancouver.

Who We Are: Municipal ID Cards as a Local Strategy to Promote Belonging and Shared Community Identity (The Center for Popular Democracy, December 2013) The purpose of this report is to describe the various municipal ID programs that have sprung up across the United States, to compare the features of the different campaigns as well as the ID cards and policies themselves, and to encourage further conversation among other local constituencies and legislators about whether a municipal ID program would benefit their communities.

Often Asking, Always Telling: The Toronto Police Service and the Sanctuary City Policy (No One Is Illegal-Toronto, November 2015) This report presents new evidence that the Toronto Police Service (TPS) is not complying with the City of Toronto’s Access Without Fear directives and often violates its own partial “Don’t Ask” policy.

To Serve Some and Protect Fewer: The Toronto Police Services’ Policy on Non-Status Victims and Witnesses of Crimes (Osgoode Hall Law School Journal of Law and Social Policy, January 2009) An article examining the current Toronto Police Services policy on victims and witnesses without legal status and evaluates the legal and policy arguments raised both for and against a robust “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy with respect to non-status individuals. It concludes that in the absence of a “Don’t Tell” policy, there remains a substantial and a very real concern that the current policy measures will do little, if anything, to increase the trust that non-status individuals are able to place in the police.

NOII Statement: Inquest into Lucia Vega Jimenez Death in CBSA Custody (No One Is Illegal-Vancouver Coast Salish Territories, October 2014) A statement for the inquest into the death of Lucia Vega Jimenez, a migrant detainee who died in CBSA custody. The statement outlines a long-term vision and short-term recommendations with an explicit focus on ending detentions and deportations.

Police Services: Safe Access for All; Legal Arguments for a Complete “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy (Immigration Legal Committee, May 2008) A report to the Toronto Police Board recommending that that Toronto police adopt a policy to prevent officers from disclosing immigration status, should they become aware of it. It argues that not only is there no duty to disclose, but a practice of regular disclosure of immigration status by police is likely contrary to statutory, constitutional and international law.

Solidarity City (Montreal) is the creation of a community that rejects a system engendering poverty and anguish, not solely for immigrants and refugees, but also for other Montrealers confronting these same realities. We are opposing fear, isolation, precarity and division. We strike back with solidarity, mutual aid, support work and direct action.