top of page

Situating Sanctuary


Images: WikiCommons

Sanctuary, both in terms of its significance and its associated practices has evolved dramatically over the years. Today, discussions of sanctuary focus largely on the idea of sanctuary cities to protect undocumented migrants, and increasingly as a tool for racial and economic justice.

Historically, sanctuary was associated with acts of hospitality (kindness to strangers), kinship practices and legal practices that moderated the excesses of criminal justice systems in Ancient Greece and Rome as well as in Medieval Europe. The sites of sanctuary varied as well. In Ancient Greece, sanctuaries were often isolated: located in caves and mountain peaks. There were also spaces, such as Kos (pictured to the left), where sanctuary was ritualized and therefore more formal. In Medieval England, chartered sanctuaries such as Westminster Abbey afforded protection to individuals in flight from the law and would-be avengers.

The character, and spaces, of sanctuary have changed over time raising questions about the nature of sanctuary, and society, more broadly. The "Sites of Sanctuary" research project documents and analyses changes in the scope and practice of sanctuary in Canada from the 1800s to the present.


Canada deports Scarborough residents to Guatemala with Canadian son, 7
 October, 2019
ICE tried to fine immigrants living in sanctuary churches. Now, it’s backing down.
October, 2019
Montréal ne se décrira plus comme une ville sanctuaire
December, 2018
A Dutch church has been conducting religious services for 27 days to protect a refugee family
November, 2018
'It’s a New Life’:
Juhasz Family Allowed to Stay in Canada After 2 Years in Sanctuary
January, 2017
Sanctuary Cities Stand Firm Against Trump
December, 2016


The project team has started going through over a hundred years of Globe and Mail coverage. Stay tuned for updates...

bottom of page