Sanctuary Cities

Written by: Kayley MacGregor

What is a Sanctuary City?

Declaring a city a ‘Sanctuary City’ is both a symbolic and practical action. Symbolically, it means that the City wants all who reside within it, regardless of citizenship, to be able to feel they are a part of the community. On a practical side, it allows people to access City services (transit, libraries, recreation centres, public health, emergency shelters, food banks, etc.) without having to prove their citizenship, a move called the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. However, these services do not extend to health care, affordable housing, or other provincial services, only municipal services. Much of the push for cities has resulted from events such as the migration crisis in Europe, the current immigration ban on select countries under Trump’s presidency, and the recent shooting at a Mosque in Quebec.

The Tale of Canadian Cities:

Here are some Canadian cities that have declared themselves Sanctuary Cities so far*

Toronto Montreal Vancouver Hamilton London
When? 2013, the first in Canada February 2017 2016 February 2014 January 2017
Success? Reports on their success said they never fully committed. Lack of training for city employees on how to deal with non-citizens accessing services was a big issue. “Don’t ask, don’t tell applied very unevenly Too soon to tell, working on drafting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for the police force. 2015 transit police adopted the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Some say it has fulfilled its purpose, others say it has done very little, as a lot of the issues are federal/provincial, but as a positive note the police are onboard with the “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” Beginning the policy-drafting phase

* Regina, Ottawa, Saskatoon & Winnipeg looking into it

Does it Work?

There are concerns that it creates a “false sense of security”, where undocumented people are no less vulnerable to being deported than before. Some police forces have not been cooperative in following the “don’t ask, don’t tell policy”, meaning that when they interact with undocumented persons, they collect information that they then share with the CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency). Undocumented peoples as a result may be more vulnerable to crime, as they are unlikely to report a crime if they are risking being deported. By law, if law enforcement is made aware that someone is an undocumented citizen, they are required to report it, which is why having a functioning “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is important for a Sanctuary City to actually be safe.

There are also concerns that by declaring a city a Sanctuary City, cities are allowing people who are not contributing citizens to social services, to use them, and that it is unfair for the rest of the population. There are also concerns that it will become a haven for criminals who have entered Canada illegally, who may choose a Sanctuary City to reside in as they may be less likely to get caught.

What’s Going on in London?

Following the tragic shooting at a Mosque in Quebec, Ward 13 Councillor Tanya Park motioned for London to become a Sanctuary City. The motion also directed the City to work with the City’s diversity committee to gather recommendations for becoming a Sanctuary City, and to assure the Federal Government of London’s continued commitment to accept refugees from the seven countries under Trump’s current immigration ban. This motion passed unanimously in Council. 


Homeless Youth in Ontario

Homeless Youth in Ontario (in the last 5 years)

Researcher: Alex Reurink


In Canada there is a minimum of 35,000-50,000 youth on the streets, from this 1,000-2,000 of these youth are located in Toronto alone. 65% of these youth have failed to complete high school, 77% are unemployed, 30% are involved in some sex trade 1 in 5 youth identify as LGBTQ, and studies have shown over 70% for these youth had suffered from some sort of abuse at their homes before leaving.

Who they are:

Youth in Ontario (and Canada) in considered an individual who is 25 years old or younger, most of the homelessness youth population falls between 19-25 years of age. The average individual leaves home at the age of 15 to live on the streets. There are more men than females’ homeless in Ontario, but only but a brief margin.  Now homelessness is not simply sleeping on the streets, it is more not have a stable place to stay. If a person is constantly coach surfing or sleeping in shelters they are considered homeless under Canada’s definition.

What Causes Homelessness:   

There are several different reasons why someone might be homeless in Ontario such as: lack of education, abuse, shortage of jobs, expensive housing, and addictions. However when dealing specifically with youth the reasons seem to deal with issues in the family.

Hazards/ Dangers to the homeless youth:

Homeless youth are much more likely to be threatened and/or attacked on the streets, attacks being robbed, held at knife point or being sexual assaulted. These youth are much more likely to be subset able to sickness and disease, specifically dealing with sexual transmitted diseases and pregnancy. These woman are 3x more likely to get pregnant. For woman who got pregnant (on average around ages 16-17) they are at a high risk of miscarrying. The reasons for this is because of poor nutrition, higher rates of substance abuse, and issues affected by sexual transmitted disease.

There is also increased risk of exploitation, violence, victimization, greater involvement in the police and justice system, disengagement in school, stress, depression, suicide and anxiety disorders.

Action Plans:


  • Poverty Reduction Plan


  • Goal is of lifting 25% of Ontario youth out of poverty in a 5 year span
  • Breaking the cycle of poverty: This includes high quality child care, health care, education and the support and attention youth need
    • A grassroots idea of trying to help the family to ensure that that the youth do not end up homeless in the first place
    • This is also being specifically targeted to higher at risk minorities groups such as first nations
    • Nutrition programs that provide free food
    • Initiatives to pay for youth to be involved in extracurricular activities
    • Summer school programs
    • Youth-in-transition program: connects young people with employment and education resources
    • Moving on Mental Illness action plan + special needs strategy
    • Local Poverty Reduction fund:
      • Supporting 15 projects that strengthen the well-being of children and youth
  1. Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Policy Brief: Towards an Ontario Youth Homelessness Strategy
  • Encompasses: knowledge base, community action, youth engagement, provincial engagement, federal commitment, and A way Home Canada (The emergence of A Way Home – a cross-sectoral, national coalition employing a solutions-focused approach to systemic change, program planning and implementation – provides an opportunity for the province to move quickly to support communities to engage in this work. A Way Home is dedicated to co-creating and amplifying solutions with communities and all levels of Government) (COH, 2015)
    • Grassroots idea
  • Focuses on three things: the prevention in order to stop it before it happens, a emergency or crisis response, and lastly need to move youth into a safe and planned way with the appropriate support systems in place



Electoral Reform

Electoral Reform

Researcher: Ellen Altpeter

What is electoral reform?

Electoral reform is change in electoral systems to improve how public desires are expressed in election results.

Electoral reform is a current issue in Canada, with the Liberal Party winning a majority in the 2015 national elections on a platform which promised that the 2015 election would be the last one held under the current voting system. Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberal Party has promised that the election that voted the Liberal Party into power with a majority vote would be the last time the current electoral system would be used.

Most Canadians, based on what they know of the electoral system in Canada, believe that at least some changes need to be made, and are concerned about electoral reform:

Electoral reform

How do elections work currently?

Currently, elections work using the plurality voting system, and more specifically, the “first past the post” method. Each person eligible of voting can vote for only one candidate, and whichever candidate gains the most votes out of all the candidates [a plurality] is elected – they do not need the majority of the votes to be elected, just the most votes. This method is used in all levels of government in Canada, for municipal, provincial and federal, except for territorial voting in territories of Northwest Territories and Nunavut, where elections are held using the consensus government model.

Pros of the “first past the post” system:

  • It is far more likely to produce majority governments in a competitive multi-party system where no one party is able to dominate. Majority governments are said to provide stable government and allow direct accountability to the electorate, with one party for the electorate to reward or punish.
  • It also facilitates clear community representation. With the 2015 elections, Canada is divided into 338 constituencies each with their own representative to speak on behalf of local interests.
  • The system is also easy to understand and administer. A winning candidate only needs one more vote than any other candidate in the district.

Cons of the “first past the post” system:

  • Often elected officials represent less than half of the voting constituents in their ridings. They only need one more vote than their rivals to get elected.
  • There is often a significant distortion between the share of seats parties win and their share of votes. When the results of all the local contests are added up across a province or region, some parties can dominate while other parties have very few if any seats despite winning significant numbers of votes.
  • Many votes are ‘wasted’, which can discourage voters and lead to declining turnout & general alienation.

Other election options:

  1. Preferential, or ranked, ballot: Voters rank the candidates — first choice, second choice and so on. If no candidate emerges with a majority after the first count, the lowest-ranked candidate comes off the ballot, and their votes are redistributed according to the second choices cast. This continues until one candidate achieves a majority of 50 per cent plus one vote.
  2. Proportional representation: The percentage of seats a party holds corresponds to the percentage of votes it receives.
  3. Mixed-member proportional representation (MMP): Voters have to make two choices on the ballot: one for a candidate to represent them and one for a party. Roughly half to two-thirds of seats would be filled by the individual candidates who win their ridings, as in our current first-past-the-post system; the remaining seats would be allotted according to each party’s share of the popular vote, with the candidates taken from a predetermined list.
  4. Single-transferable vote system: The number of electoral districts is greatly reduced, with each represented by two to seven members. Voters rank some or all of the candidates in order of preference. In the first count, any candidate who has enough first-preference votes is elected automatically. In subsequent counts, the elected candidate’s surplus votes are transferred to the next choices in fractional amounts. After each successive count, candidates who reach the quota are elected, and those who don’t are eliminated.
  5. P3 (proportional-preferential-personalized): Each riding elects between three and five MPs (determined by population density). Voters rank parties in order of preference, then pick their preferred candidate from their top-choice party. The seats in each riding are distributed according to the party rankings. If any party fails to get enough votes to win a seat, they are dropped off and their votes redistributed according to voters’ second choices.
  6. Mandatory, or compulsory, voting: Citizens who fail to show up on election day may be subject to a fine. Currently, citizens are not required to vote, or may spoil their ballot.

Municipal Voting:

Municipal governments have used the “first past the post” voting method, historically, however, the Ontario government gave municipalities the option of using ranked ballots in local elections as early as 2018. Under this system, voters rank candidates in order of preference.


Young and In London Blog

“Sally waited for the Principal to return along with her parents and, of course, Mr. Patel. The office was cool, and a bit stuffy, but from inside her bowl she didn’t really notice. Something about the water muffled the sounds and the smell and the temperature. She didn’t mind. She hoped her parents weren’t mad. She hoped the Principal didn’t yell again.”sally-the-fish

Want to know what happens next? You can read this story, and other articles on our blog, Young and in London: Canada’s London the way that young people see it.