Council Fears Access Without Fear 

This is an excellent summation of the inexplicable vote at Council on Monday night.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Council Derails “Access Without Fear” Motion Despite Widespread Support

After little debate, Regina city councillors derailed discussion on the “Access Without Fear” motion at Monday night’s council meeting by passing a motion referring it to other levels of government. The Access Without Fear Motion, submitted by Councillor Stevens, would have committed the city to ensuring that all of its services could be accessed without fear by newcomers and longtime residents alike, regardless of their immigration status.

Members of Access Without Fear Regina, a grassroots group that campaigned to support the motion, are surprised that councillors failed to approve the policy given its overwhelming support among Regina residents. Over 30 organizations, ranging from the Regina Professional Fire Fighters Association to the Regina and District Labour Council and University of Regina Students Union, had endorsed the motion, with a collective membership representing over 60,000 Regina residents. Thirteen delegations, including representatives of organizations and immigrants themselves, spoke to the urgent need for the policy. There was no delegation that registered to speak against the motion. Seven letter of support from community organizations were also submitted as part of the agenda; no letters opposed to the motion were received by council.

The brief debate over the motion ended when a motion by Councillor Bryce to refer it to higher levels of government was approved. According to Emily Eaton, one of the organizers of the campaign, “Clearly councillors failed to understand the motion, which dealt exclusively with municipal services. It’s difficult to make sense of why they would refer a motion about municipal services in our city to other levels of government.”

“By sending the motion and our testimony up the chain to the federal immigration minister, they are betraying the spirit of the motion, which is to protect the privacy of newcomers,” said Mirtha Rivera, who spoke in support of the motion and came to Regina as a political refugee from Chile following a military coup in 1973. Rivera was also frustrated by how councillors responded to the stories of torture, sexual violence, and political persecution shared by delegates. “Following presentations by 13 speakers, Findura likened our fear of deportation and abuse to his fear of snakes,” she said.

Eaton said “it was shocking to see the extent to which councillors seemed to willfully ignore or neglect the evidence presented, despite months of research, consultations, and policy development. Councillors had direct input in the language and intent of the motion before it was submitted, but at the meeting misconstrued its substance.”

The reality of fear facing community members with precarious status will persist while council bides its time with last night’s decision. Access Without Fear Regina intends to continue advocating for a safe, healthy, and inclusive Regina where all residents are entitled to dignity and security. /