Canadian Sanctuary Network

statements on sanctuary

Beneath each excerpt is a link to the full PDF version of each of these statements.

Synod motion on Bill C-31 and sanctuary, Anglican Diocese of Quebec, November 2012

"BE IT RESOLVED THAT this Synod:

a) call on the federal government to repeal those provisions of Bill C-31 changing Canada's refugee policy, which put at risk the security of those seeking refuge in our country, in particular but not limited to:

i) The unqualified discretion given to the Minister of Citizenship and
Immigration to unilaterally declare certain countries as "safe" and the same discretion given to the minister to declare refugee claimants as "irregular arrivals," resulting in penalties including, but not limited to, imprisonment;
ii) The shortened timelines for the process of refugee determination which make access to legal counsel exceedingly difficult if not impossible;
iii) The provision that denies access to Humanitarian and Compassionate appeals for a full year after a negative decision by the Immigration and Refugee Board, by which time the refugee claimant will have been deported;

b) affirm the church's ancient practice of providing sanctuary for refugees unjustly facing a clear and present threat to their safety and security;

c) encourage the congregations of the diocese to study and otherwise explore the possibility of providing sanctuary to refugee claimants facing deportation under the provisions of Bill C-31, drawing on resources available from the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada and other Christian communities..."

Download: Synod motion on Bill C-31 and sanctuary, Anglican Diocese of Quebec

Briefing note for the Bishops of Canada concerning sanctuary for refugees in Catholic churches, 2004

"In a Canadian Press article dated July 26, 2004, Immigration Minister Judy Sgro announced that she wanted churches to abandon the time-honoured practice of providing sanctuary to refugees under the threat of deportation. The Minister was quoted as saying, “…frankly if we start using the churches as the back door to enter Canada, we’re going to have huge problems”… and “the protection of our country and of Canadians has to be the No. 1 concern. And people shouldn’t be allowed to hide anywhere.” Ms. Sgro also stated that she would be meeting Church leaders to discuss the issue. As an alternative to sanctuary, Ms. Sgro requested that Church leaders come to her directly with troublesome cases related to immigration.

Several Church leaders were quoted in subsequent media reports in response to the Minister’s statements. The following points were highlighted: refugees are not a threat to Canada’s security, but refugees who face the threat of deportation often have significant security concerns; Christian communities do not take the decision to offer sanctuary lightly, nor do failed claimants lightly choose this option – rather, sanctuary is most often a last resort when they perceive a wrong has been done and where a hope of rectifying that wrong exists.

Most significantly, the Churches’ main argument is that the problem is not recourse to sanctuary, but the flawed refugee determination system that fails to protect some refugees...."

Download: Briefing note for the Bishops of Canada concerning sanctuary for refugees in Catholic churches

A statement on the proposed refugee sanctuary movement by the Social Affairs Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, June 1993

"Conscious of the pain and sorrow experienced by refugees who are torn from their homelands, and often from their families by violence, war and repression, the Social Affairs Commission of the Ontario Assembly of Catholic Bishops wishes to respond to the recent decision of some refugee workers to renew the practice of sanctuary as a measure of conscience and last resort in the face of injustice.

In deporting genuine refugees, Canada's government fails to fulfill its obligations to protect refugees under international law, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Immigration Act.

In particular, we regret that the lack of meaningful appeal based on the merits of the claim, prevents Canada from ensuring the recognition of all genuine refugees.

We are also concerned about the government's policy of expelling failed refugee claimants without providing a meaningful review of their case based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds...."

Download: A statement on the proposed refugee sanctuary movement by the Social Affairs Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario

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