Canada should make clear it will welcome the world K
udos to Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ) for coming up with a smart way to hit back at Donald Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority countries.
Abdullah Snobar, the tech incubator’s executive director who himself is an immigrant from Jordan, is offering start-up space to anyone affected by the ban. He’s also making the DMZ’s in-house counsel available to help individuals and businesses figure out any challenges created by it.
It’s a small thing, but it’s a positive and creative gesture of defiance in the face of the dark turn in American political life under the Trump administration.
It’s no accident that the tech industry, both here and in the United States, has been so outspoken against Trump’s crackdown on refugees, Muslims and foreigners in general.
The leaders of Apple, Google, Netflix, Amazon, Uber and many more came out strongly against the Trump travel ban. The industry recruits from around the world and anything that makes the U.S. less attractive to global talent potentially threatens its future.
Jonathan Nelson, chief executive of Hackers/ Founders, a 300,000-member global network of entrepreneurs and engineers, put it like this: “People come to Silicon Valley so they can build the American dream, and this is one of the last places where the American dream still kind of works. If this happens, you’re going to completely kill the next 10 years of tech companies.”
If Trump prevails, he may well kill the American dream as it has long been understood – a place where people can come from around the world and make the most of their talents.
There’s a big opportunity here for other countries, including Canada. If the U.S. turns its back on the rest of the world and makes outsiders feel unwelcome, there will be a clear opening to attract talent to this country.
The Ryerson initiative should be seen in that light: it sends a positive message that Canada stands ready to welcome brains and hard work wherever it comes from.
The Trudeau government should do what it can to reinforce that message. Dozens of tech CEOs signed a letter urging the government to offer entry visas to people affected by the Trump travel ban, and it should follow through on that suggestion. Universities, too, should not hesitate to reach out to international students looking to study in a welcoming environment.
The American dream may be fading, but we should make clear that the Canadian dream is very much alive.
“If Trump prevails, he may well kill the American dream as it has long been understood.”