By David Leacock, Policy and Research Intern at the Wellesley Institute
Yesterday Toronto City Council took an important step toward improving access to the city for undocumented workers. The motion, approved by an overwhelming majority 37-3, affirmed a recommendation from the Community Development and Recreation Committee for the City to explore opportunities to enhance the access without fear policy.
This is an important step by our municipal government and it is crucial to improving population health in Toronto. Undocumented workers face extreme health risks and are without access to legislated minimum standards with regard to employment terms and conditions and workplace health and safety. Our submission to the CDRC committee indicated that these workers face adverse mental health outcomes: anxiety, depression and trauma stemming from fears of deportation. Additionally, barriers to services and poor working conditions have adverse consequences for women and children. Providing enhanced access means that all residents are provided with services regardless of their immigration status.
The motion recommends training frontline city staff and managers to ensure that they can provide access without fear. It also recommends the use of a public education strategy to inform Torontonians of the policy. With this done, undocumented residents can be confident that city agencies will deliver services in safe and inclusive environments and this will reduce barriers to access and adverse health outcomes.
The motion also included a recommendation that City Council request that the federal government establish a regularization program for undocumented residents and that the provincial government review its polices on providing services to undocumented residents with a view of enhancing access to health care and other key services. This is an astute recommendation by council and emphasizes the importance of inclusive and equitable city building.
Our submission emphasized that the recent changes to federal immigration policies will lead to an increase in the number of undocumented residents in Toronto. It is important that proactive policy decisions are taken to facilitate the appropriate management of this expected change in our city. Exploring the options available to improve access to health care for all residents, including those without status is essential to building a healthy and equitable Toronto.
We look forward to reading the report. We eagerly anticipate council’s vote to formalize and enhance the policy and in doing so, officially provide access without fear in Toronto.