Toronto police 'flagrantly' ignoring Sanctuary City policy

April 13, 2017
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Chief Mark Saunders's report to the Police Services Board on how Toronto cops are dealing with people who don't have legal status leaves many questions unanswered. 

City council, having reaffirmed its commitment to being a Sanctuary City in a highly publicized photo opportunity at City Hall following the announcement of Trump's travel ban on January 31, wanted to know if the police were following the board's policy. 

The answers Chief Saunders provided to the board at its regular monthly meeting on March 23 offered little clarity.

In place since 2006, the policy states that "non-documented residents" will "have equal access to policing services without the fear that contact with the police will lead to inquiries about their immigration status." Developed at the urging of the advocacy group No One Is Illegal, the policy directed the chief to develop procedures to ensure that "victims and witnesses of crime will not be asked their immigration status unless there are bona fide law enforcement reasons to do so."

Only one board member, Councillor Shelley Carroll, had any good questions for the police chief. 

For example, she wanted to know whether victims of human trafficking, such as sex trade workers, ought to feel safe going to police without fear of being reported. She also wanted to know under what circumstances police officers would conduct a check on someone on CPIC, the national crime database. 

When the chief had no answers, Carroll moved a motion passed by the board to defer consideration of the report until May, when the chief would come back with answers.

Other questions remain unasked.

According to a 2015 study University of Ottawa professor David Moffette conducted for No One Is Illegal, Toronto police contacted the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) more than 3,200 times in an eight-month period, and at least 80 per cent of those calls were checks of immigration status.

A February 2017 study led by Ryerson University criminology professors Graham Hudson and Idil Atak - (No) Access T.O.: A Pilot Study On Sanctuary City Policy In Toronto - concluded that "the Toronto Police Service has not fully complied" with the board policy and has often "flagrantly" ignored it.

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