Montreal based writer Su J. Sokol writes about a not-to-distant future where Montreal designates itself as an official 'Sanctuary City.' In it she presents the possibility of Montreal being a place where the political underclass (refugees, undocumented people, etc.,) can live free. Since I haven't finished her novel, "Cycling to Asylum", this post isn't about that. It is about what it would look like if it were really true, if Montreal really were such a city.
In a way it is true. At least compared to places like Myanmar, I'm informed by the ads Save the Children target me with while I scroll through my Yahoo inbox, a place where the Rohingya people are said to be the largest growing refugees in the world. Last year, the city of Montreal did indeed pass a motion to declare itself a sanctuary city, a term that apparently has no legal definition. But friends who work in refugee law know how strict the Canadian border really is. No city in Canada can be said to be a true sanctuary; the hurdles to get in are far too high for many vulnerable people to jump over.
With the book and the world the way it is, I can't help but wonder, what would Montreal look like if it were a real Sanctuary City? Not just a political sanctuary, but a real one. An environmental one, an economical one. What if it was the place of Martin's dream; where not only all men, women and gender fluid people are created and treated and judged equal, but where imbedded systems that have been in place long before you or I were born are overturned or at least drastically adjusted? Isn't that what a real sanctuary city would entail? Or is that only my sanctuary. Maybe yours is different.
What I really want to know is, how would such a place take into account the vastness and difference that exist from one red building brick to another?