Today, Mayor John Tory proclaimed Undocumented Residents Day in Toronto to recognize the thousands of undocumented residents living in Toronto who make important contributions to our city as part of the City’s latest Toronto for All campaign. This campaign aims to raise awareness around the tremendous hardships undocumented residents experience while living in fear due to their lack of immigration status. The City has partnered with FCJ Refugee Centre, and other key agencies, to help humanize undocumented residents in Toronto.
Undocumented residents are often discriminated against because of harmful misinformation and stereotypes.
Many undocumented residents have lived in Toronto for years. They work in essential services, pay taxes, contribute to the economy, and their diverse cultures and communities have helped create Toronto’s identity as a vibrant global city.
Many systemic barriers faced by undocumented residents exist. Undocumented residents lack access to equitable, safe and secure housing; lack equitable access to primary physical and mental healthcare; and have difficultly accessing education at every level. In addition to language and identification barriers, they also lack access to accurate and trustworthy information, which makes them vulnerable to scams or misinformation and are exposed to precarious work conditions.
Given the vulnerability of the population, accurate statistics are not available. According to “Institutionalizing precarious migratory status in Canada”, an article published in 2009, it is estimated that there were approximately 20,000 to 500,000 undocumented people living in Canada: https://refugeeresearch.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Goldring-et-al-2009-Precarious-status.pdf. Another article published in 2010, “Undocumented Migrants in Canada: A scope literature review on health, access to services, and working conditions,” estimated that as many as 50 per cent may reside in Toronto: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19657739/.
The City values the contributions made by all its people and believes that the diversity among its people has strengthened Toronto. The City’s motto, “Diversity Our Strength”, is embedded in the work that the City does and the people to which we provide services.
In January 2017, City Council re-affirmed Toronto as a Sanctuary City, where all residents have full rights to access City services without fear, regardless of their immigration status: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2017.MM24.23. This policy is formally called Access to City Services for Undocumented Torontonians (Access T.O.) and can be found on the City’s website: www.toronto.ca/city-government/accountability-operations-customer-service/long-term-vision-plans-and-strategies/access-to-city-services-for-undocumented-torontonians/.
Through the establishment of the COVID-19 Vaccine Engagement Teams, the City has worked with established and trusted community partners to ensure that undocumented residents, and other vulnerable populations that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, have access to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccinations and vaccination clinics.
The latest Toronto for All campaign includes a video that highlights how undocumented residents may feel unrecognized in a city where they’ve built a life, made friends and contributed to the economic and cultural fabric of the city. Images will also be shared on social media encouraging people to participate in the campaign by taking a photo of the back of their head and posting it on their social media channels with the hashtag #TorontoForAll.
Information and resources to educate Torontonians about undocumented residents and how to be an ally are available on the campaign website: www.toronto.ca/community-people/get-involved/community/toronto-for-all/undocumented-residents/.
This is the 11th phase of the City’s Toronto for All campaign, which has an overall goal of creating a Toronto that says no to all forms of discrimination. Previous Toronto For All campaigns can be found at www.toronto.ca/torontoforall. All phases have been designed to raise awareness among Toronto residents to support the campaign’s goal to build an inclusive city.
“Every year our Toronto For All campaigns aim to raise awareness about a group of people in our city that are in need of our support. This campaign sheds light on the plight and experience of undocumented residents and the many contributions they make towards building up our city. As the most diverse city in the world, and a city that is welcoming of all, we must work together to eliminate the harmful misinformation and stereotypes that exist about this population in our city and this campaign is one of the many steps we will take to ensure that we create a city for everyone.”
– Mayor John Tory
“For 30 years, the FCJ Refugee Centre has been amplifying the voices of Toronto’s most marginalized communities--undocumented residents. We are proud to continue working alongside the City to invite all Torontonians to increase awareness, engage in discussion, and embrace Toronto as a true Sanctuary City, where everyone is welcome and treated with dignity. A Toronto we can all be proud of.”
– Loly Rico, Co-Director, FCJ Refugee Centre