London a ‘sanctuary city’ in Trump shadow? | The London Free Press

City politicians unanimously backed a call to make London a so-called sanctuary city, prompted by U.S. President Donald Trump’s ban on refugees from seven predominately Muslim countries.

But the proposal — now going to city staff for study before final approval — drew hesitant support from some council members, who questioned exactly what such a designation would mean for London.

“Anyone who comes to London as a refugee should be welcomed to our city and access all services. That goes without saying,” Coun. Phil Squire said Monday. “My concern is, what is a sanctuary city?

“If the definition of sanctuary city includes people who’ve consciously broken the law to enter Canada and present a danger to Canada, that’s a concern to me.”

Toronto has already adopted the policy, which news reports have described as allowing non-status residents to access city services without fear of being turned over by municipal employees to border officials.

Municipal services are limited, and do not include things like education and health care, for which the province shoulders the cost.

But Coun. Tanya Park pushed forward the motion — just one day after the deadly shooting at a Quebec mosque that killed six people and left 19 injured — in response to the Trump ban on refugees from seven nations.

“With this motion, it’s my intention that the City of London officially (become) a sanctuary city where people can access municipal services without fear,” she said.

“It’s so important that we stand against discrimination, exclusion and hate, and that we welcome individuals . . . from Syria, Iran, Sudan, Iraq, Yemen, Lybia and Somalia.”

Trump campaigned on a building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and last week issued an executive order to begin construction.

He’s also ordered cuts in federal grants to sanctuary cities — which in the U.S. means cities that shelter illegal immigrants — and more border patrol agents and immigration officers.

Coun. Jesse Helmer estimated there are 5,000 Londoners originally from the seven predominately Muslim countries on Trump’s refugee ban, noting the new U.S. president makes their ability to travel to the U.S. unclear.

Park’s motion asked city staff to do two things:

The debate naturally overlapped with the Sunday night massacre at the Quebec City mosque. It started with a moment of silence to remember the victims.

Said Mayor Matt Brown: “There is no room for Islamophobia, for racism, for hate of any kind in our community or in our world.”

Coun. Mo Salih, who is Muslim, praised residents here who reached out to offer support to the local Islamic community since the shooting one province over.

“I love you, London,” he said.

In an unrelated matter Monday, council, meeting as the strategic priorities and policy committee, agreed with a request from London police officers to have a provincial agency probe aspects of their now-resolved 2016 budget battle. Go to for that full story.