In 2013, Toronto became the first Canadian city to adopt the Access to City Services for Undocumented Torontonians policy that ensures all residents have access to local services without fear of being asked for proof of immigration status. Three years later, Vancouver city council adopted the Access to City Services Without Fear for Residents with Uncertain or No Immigration Status policy, shortly after the cities of Hamilton and Montréal. Canadian sanctuary city, or Access Without Fear, policies aim to support access to city services without fear for residents with precarious or no immigration status. While some scholars argue that adopting sanctuary city policies challenges national immigration policies, others question its effectiveness and counteract the capacity of cities to honour the promises of providing access to basic services to residents that the city is meant to serve. My thesis explores how the issue of Access Without Fear in Vancouver and Toronto captured the attention of policymakers and gained entry to city council agendas. Drawing from Érik Neveu’s constructivist framework, I use data from policy and civil society reports, as well as twenty-six qualitative, semi-structured interviews to compare sanctuary city policies in Toronto and Vancouver. My analysis reveals that identifying the most suitable political champion capable of leveraging influence within and outside city council led to the effective mobilisation and successful advocacy to push and propel the issue to the institutional, albeit political, agenda.
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