Council passes motion to increase humanitarian support for refugees

September 16, 2015 | Engaged City

Today, Mayor Gregor Robertson and City Council unanimously passed a motion calling for increased support for refugees of the continuing humanitarian crisis facing Syria, Iraq, and the Middle East region. 

“Vancouver has a deep and longstanding commitment to welcoming refugees and their families in times of need, and we are an inclusive, compassionate, and diverse city at heart,” said Mayor Robertson.  “Vancouver and communities across the country have been clear: It’s time for Canada to once again meet our international obligations and to help more refugees start new lives with hope, security, and freedom here in Canada.”

As the UNHRC has reported, the ongoing crisis has displaced millions of new refugees, leaving many stranded and at risk from armed conflict, extreme poverty, hunger, and/or unacceptably poor living conditions. Unfortunately, Canada’s federal response to this global refugee crisis has not met our obligations to the international community, with Canada’s commitment towards government assisted refugees having declined from 19,233 in 1980 to 6,900 in 2015.

In recent years, the City of Vancouver has taken a series of steps to increase its capacity to welcome refugees, and is in the process of reviewing actions that can be taken by the City. These include working to make Vancouver a sanctuary city by implementing “Access without Fear” policies, and constructing an innovative new Vancouver Immigrant Services Society of BC Welcome House for refugees.

Following today’s motion, Vancouver City Council is calling upon the Government of Canada to immediately act to assist a vastly greater number of refugees from this crisis, and to support the “20k2020 We can do more” campaign to establish a new baseline national target of 20,000 government assisted refugees annually by 2020.

The motion also directs staff to report back on how Vancouver can provide more immediate and significant assistance to refugees, recognizing that cities must play a critical role in refugee settlement and support.

Next week Mayor Robertson will chair a meeting of the Big City Mayors’ Caucus where this issue will be further discussed by Mayors from across Canada.