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City Holler

Trish Kelly explores the issues and challenges that face our growing city.

Get ready for Trump refugees, Vancouver

We all need to embrace the idea of making Vancouver a real sanctuary for the marginalized people Trump is aiming to rob of their human rights.

A young man draped in a rainbow flag raises his fist as he and other protesters hold a rally against U.S. President-elect Donald Trump outside the still under construction Trump Hotel, in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday, November 10, 2016.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A young man draped in a rainbow flag raises his fist as he and other protesters hold a rally against U.S. President-elect Donald Trump outside the still under construction Trump Hotel, in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday, November 10, 2016.

You don’t have to be an American to be gobsmacked by Donald Trump’s imminent ascension to the White House. You only need to be a person of colour, a woman, a queer person, a non-Christian, an immigrant, or a person who generally wants to think that the world can be a more just place to be fearful of what will happen next. Many of us feel depressed, despondent or hopeless.

As an urbanite who works my butt off for social justice, I think it’s important to remember, cities didn’t vote for Trump. The orange President-elect won the rural vote, but cities did not succumb to the xenophobic insanity. The day after the election, protests erupted in 25 of America’s biggest cities. People held placards rejecting Trump as their president.

In Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray assured the audience at a post-election rally, “Seattle is the same city today that it was yesterday… guided by equality and inclusion and openness.”

Seattle, which calls itself a Sanctuary City, is part of movement of nearly 300 cities and counties across America that have set policies that prohibit police and other municipal services from inquiring about immigration status when it’s not necessary, like when someone is seeking medical help or reporting a crime.

You can imagine Trump’s thoughts on sanctuary. During the campaign, Trump threatened to cut funding to cities that have a sanctuary policy. It’s now a real threat for places like Seattle, but Murray won’t waiver. And neither should we.

In April of this year, the City of Vancouver adopted an Access Without Fear policy that is the first steps towards Vancouver really becoming a Sanctuary City. Byron Cruz, community organizer with Sanctuary Health, a group that advocates for immigrants mired in red tape while attempting to access health services, tells me that he is already hearing from Americans of Mexican origin who are wanting to flee the States. He doesn’t call them immigrants. Cruz calls them refugees.

With Trump soon moving into the White House, we need to prepare Vancouver for Trump refugees. And we all need to embrace the idea of making Vancouver a real sanctuary for the marginalized people Trump is aiming to rob of their human rights and any feelings of personal safety. We need to hold tight to our values as a progressive city and make a safe space here for each other, regardless of immigration status, the colour of skin, or the gender of our spouse.

Cruz told me he thinks opposition to Trump’s hate will be the reason we all finally come together to really fight for justice. Such brave optimism is what we need right now.

-Trish Kelly lives and writes in the republic of East Van. Follow her on Twitter @trishkellyc

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