Trump’s travel ban fu­els fears in Canada

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - DOU­GLAS QUAN

Un­cer­tainty gnawed at Mehran Shi­razi on Sun­day.

The PhD en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent at Si­mon Fraser Univer­sity had hoped to visit his brother in New York this year, but those plans have been scut­tled for now af­ter the U.S. im­posed tem­po­rary travel re­stric­tions on peo­ple from seven Mus­lim­ma­jor­ity coun­tries, in­clud­ing Iran, where Shi­razi is from.

Shi­razi, who is a per­ma­nent res­i­dent of Canada and holds only an Ira­nian pass­port, isn’t sure whether he’d make it across the bor­der.

“It’s a lit­tle sad that peo­ple are pun­ished be­cause of the place they were born,” he said.

Shi­razi’s com­ments re­flect the mass con­fu­sion and out­rage sowed this week­end by a sweep­ing im­mi­gra­tion or­der by U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump that barred cit­i­zens from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, So­ma­lia, Su­dan and Ye­men from en­ter­ing the coun­try for 90 days.

Even af­ter the Trudeau gov­ern­ment gave its as­sur­ance that Cana­dian pass­port hold­ers, in­clud­ing dual cit­i­zens, as well as per­ma­nent Cana­dian res­i­dents, were ex­empt from the travel ban, the ques­tion still lin­gered for many who had trips planned: is it safe to travel?

Toronto’s Mehrdad Hariri, CEO of the Cana­dian Science Pol­icy Cen­tre, has a Cana­dian pass­port but is still un­sure whether he will at­tend a con­fer­ence in Bos­ton in two weeks.

Hariri, a dual cit­i­zen of Canada and Iran, said he wor­ries U.S. cus­toms of­fi­cers could still give him a rough time be­cause of where he was born, just like what hap­pened in the months af­ter the 9/11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

“I missed flights, they ques­tioned me for hours,” he said. “We don’t know how the pol­icy is be­ing im­ple­mented at the gates at the air­ports. … I am still very cau­tious.”

Mem­bers of the Ira­nian-Cana­dian com­mu­nity said they had heard anec­do­tal re­ports of peo­ple fac­ing ex­ten­sive ques­tion­ing at U.S. air­ports but those re­ports could not be ver­i­fied.

Toronto im­mi­gra­tion lawyer Lorne Wald­man said Sun­day he would ad­vise peo­ple like Hariri to wait a cou­ple of days be­fore trav­el­ling to the U.S. if they can.

“I would urge them to pro­ceed with cau­tion and per­haps to wait a day or two so that the in­struc­tions reach the local level,” he said. “It is clear that the whole is­suance of the ex­ec­u­tive or­der was poorly han­dled by the U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion, who had ob­vi­ously not thought through all of the con­se­quences.”

Mean­while, the lead­ers of over 150 Cana­dian tech firms and tech in­cu­ba­tors is­sued a pub­lic let­ter call­ing on the Trudeau gov­ern­ment to make spe­cial ac­com­mo­da­tions — in the form of tem­po­rary-res­i­dency visas — for any in­di­vid­u­als de­nied en­try into the U.S.

“Cana­dian tech com­pa­nies un­der­stand the power of in­clu­sion and di­ver­sity of thought, and that tal­ent and skill know no bor­ders. … By em­brac­ing di­ver­sity, we can drive in­no­va­tion to ben­e­fit the world,” read the let­ter signed by ex­ec­u­tives from com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Shopify, Wealth­sim­ple, and OMERS Ven­tures.

Aaron Brindle, a Google Canada spokesman, said in an email more than 100 Google em­ploy­ees were af­fected by the ban, though he wouldn’t say ex­actly how.

“Our en­gi­neers work on global teams build­ing prod­ucts that are used by bil­lions of peo­ple … Of course we’re con­cerned about the im­pact of this or­der and any pro­pos­als that could im­pose re­stric­tions on Googlers and their fam­i­lies. We’ll con­tinue to make our views on these is­sues known to lead­ers in Wash­ing­ton and else­where,” he said.


At a brief­ing in Ot­tawa Sun­day, Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter, said Canada would pro­vide tem­po­rary res­i­dency to any­one de­nied en­try into the U.S., but he re­ported there were no trav­ellers stranded at Cana­dian air­ports. Hussen added that should any Cana­di­ans ex­pe­ri­ence prob­lems en­ter­ing the U.S., they should seek con­sular as­sis­tance by call­ing 613-996-8885.

Much of the con­fu­sion this week­end seemed to stem from a state­ment put out by the U.S. State Depart­ment Satur­day that the travel ban would en­com­pass dual-cit­i­zen­ship Cana­di­ans from one of the seven tar­geted coun­tries.

“I went to the US 6 times in 2016. 2 or 3 times were for work. I’ve been in Canada since Grade 8. But I was born in Su­dan, so I’m banned,” tweeted Elamin Ab­delmah­moud, an ed­i­tor at Buz­zFeed in Toronto.

Reza Zadeh, a pro­fes­sor at Stan­ford Univer­sity in Cal­i­for­nia and CEO of tech com­pany Ma­troid, tweeted: “Just paid for the health in­sur­ance of my Amer­i­can em­ploy­ees. As a Cana­dian-Ira­nian with an EB-1 Green Card, now not al­lowed into US. Weird.”

Some out­side the U.S. pan­icked about whether they’d be able to re­con­nect with loved ones in the U.S. Wald­man said he re­ceived a call from an Ira­nian-born Cana­dian woman who has a green card in the U.S. She is cur­rently trav­el­ling in Europe and was wor­ried whether she would be able to re­u­nite with her hus­band and chil­dren.

For a time, ques­tions swirled about whether Hussen, who was born in So­ma­lia, would even be able to en­ter the U.S., but a spokes­woman brushed aside any con­cerns.

And late Satur­day, a state­ment from the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice pro­vided a bit of re­lief. It said that Daniel Jean, Canada’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor, had spo­ken to his Amer­i­can coun­ter­part con­firm­ing that dual cit­i­zens were not af­fected by the ban.

Jean told re­porters Sun­day he didn’t think the U.S. gov­ern­ment un­der­stood all of the con­se­quences of the travel ban be­fore sign­ing it.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble to see how many peo­ple are rediscovering the com­fort and also the power of col­lec­tive anger,” Ab­delmah­moud wrote in a fol­low-up tweet. “It’s quite a thing to see.”


Izzy Ber­dan demon­strates against an ex­ec­u­tive or­der Fri­day that bans le­gal U.S. res­i­dents and visa-hold­ers from seven Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity na­tions from en­ter­ing the U.S. for 90 days and puts an in­def­i­nite hold on a pro­gram re­set­tling Syr­ian refugees.


Mehran Shi­razi had hoped to visit his brother in New York this year, but those plans have been scut­tled for now.

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