For newcomers, finding access to disability support services can be extremely difficult. In Canada, 69% of migrants reported having unmet healthcare needs. “There is a general lack of understanding of our system. Families were unsure where they can go to access resources and to investigate services. It is very difficult for them to get such information” says a Canadian healthcare service provider. Another provider states: “The system is really complicated. Even for me, it is really complicated as a professional”. In general, there is a lack of awareness in educating the general public in Canadian sanctuary cities, and many providers are not properly trained to uphold policies such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Police in Toronto and Vancouver continue to investigate individuals’ immigration status and alert federal authorities if they do not possess documentation. In these cities, vulnerable migrants and refugees still fear accessing important services for mental and physical health as deportation poses a large threat. This blog post explores the lack of support experienced by newcomers in Canada’s largest sanctuary cities and highlight efforts currently being made to better support immigrants with disabilities.
Canada prides itself to be an inclusive and accessible society. However, for newcomers with disabilities, the level of protection expected in Canada may not apply to them. While Canada has taken steps to make immigration more accessible, one major barrier still exists; disability.
Dr. Judith Bernhard is a professor at Toronto Metropolitan University and the founder of the University’s MA program in Early Childhood Studies. She also teaches in the Immigration and Settlement Studies MA program and is affiliated with the PhD program in Policy Studies. As part of the North American Hub of Soli*City project, Dr. Bernhard and her colleagues, Dr. Julie Young and Dr. Luin Goldring, are currently completing a literature review on the extent to which a Sanctuary City can help to overcome barriers to access for families with young children. We interviewed Dr. Bernhard to learn more about her perspective on Sanctuary Cities and how it relates to her research.