Rethinking the sanctuary cities

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The latest hot button issue getting the masses all riled up is the question of sanctuary cities, and while on one level the idea has merit there are also serious questions that need to be put on the table.

The concept of a sanctuary city isn’t new, but it has surged in popularity over the past 20 years as conflict ravages many parts of the world. The first North American city to adopt the designation was Los Angeles in 1979. Throughout the 1980s cities across the United States followed suit, including Seattle, New York City and San Francisco.

In Canada, Toronto was the first to declare itself a sanctuary city in 2013 followed by Hamilton, London and more recently last month, Montreal.

There have been some convincing arguments in favour of the designation, particularly those who believe that access to services such as health care is a fundamental right, and those who claim it protects the victims of domestic violence or abuse who would be otherwise unable to seek help.

But I must confess the idea of sanctuary cities bewilders me. What about all of the people already waiting in the queue for social services such as health care, education and housing? What about all of the folks who came to Canada legally – an arduous process that can be lengthy and expensive?

Declaring a city open for business to people who are not in Canada legally may sound like the compassionate thing to do, but where should the additional funding come from?

A recent study by the Fraser Institute found that Canadians wait an average of 20 weeks for medical procedures that are deemed necessary, sometimes up to three times longer than in other countries with publicly-funded health-care systems such as the U.K. and the Netherlands. Doesn’t further straining an already stressed health-care industry with carte blanche access for anyone and everyone seem unwise?

Sanctuary cities also boast access to education and housing for individuals who are in Canada illegally. Again, while I empathize with folks who feel that education and access to affordable housing is a basic right, I would argue that we have an obligation to our citizens and residents first. Class sizes have been ballooning at alarming rates over the past two decades, and the wait-lists for affordable housing in many of Canada’s cities get longer every day.

No matter how someone wishes to join the ranks of our fine nation, due process must be followed, and line jumpers shouldn’t be shown preference.

Darlana Robertson is a twentysomething writer from Calgary, and a former Central Alberta resident.

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Darlana Robertson

Darlana Robertson is a twentysomething writer from Calgary and a former Central Alberta resident. Her columns appear regularly in the Innisfail Province.