Foes unite over im­mi­gra­tion ban

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - U.S. REFUGEE BAN - MICHAEL DEN TANDT

In clos­ing Amer­ica’s bor­ders to refugees and ban­ning vis­i­tors from seven Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity na­tions in­clud­ing U.S.-al­lied Iraq, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has man­aged the seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble; to shove Con­ser­va­tive stal­wart Ja­son Ken­ney and Lib­eral Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, long­time foes, into the same tent.

They’re joined there by Saskatchewan con­ser­va­tive pre­mier Brad Wall, Al­berta New Demo­cratic pre­mier Rachel Not­ley, B.C. Lib­eral pre­mier Christy Clark, On­tario Lib­eral pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne, Toronto con­ser­va­tive mayor John Tory, as well as fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship can­di­dates Deepak Obhrai and Michael Chong — all of whom spoke in sup­port of help­ing refugees Satur­day, in re­sponse to Trump’s move, as did Ken­ney and Trudeau.

Such an un­likely po­lit­i­cal ag­glom­er­a­tion could only oc­cur un­der ex­tra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances, which these are. Just over a week into his pres­i­dency, Trump’s se­ries of jar­ring state­ments and dra­co­nian ex­ec­u­tive or­ders have left fed­eral Con­ser­va­tives di­vided, fed­eral New Democrats strug­gling to find a role and Trudeau’s Lib­er­als care­fully thread­ing their way through a cri­sis un­like any in mod­ern mem­ory.

The abrupt­ness of the White House refugee and im­mi­gra­tion ban and its im­me­di­ate im­po­si­tion at air­ports world­wide, and con­flict­ing U.S. gov­ern­ment communications in the af­ter­math, led to a day­long furor Satur­day over whether thou­sands of Cana­dian dual cit­i­zens of the af­fected na­tions — Syria, Iraq, Iran, Ye­men, Su­dan, So­ma­lia and Libya — would be de­nied en­try to the United States.

The State Depart­ment ini­tially said they would be. The Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice late in the day con­tra­dicted this, say­ing Cana­dian pass­port hold­ers, in­clud­ing dual cit­i­zens, are ex­empt. Mean­time, late Satur­day the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union won a judg­ment in a New York court pre­vent­ing the de­por­ta­tion of any­one be­ing de­tained in the U.S. un­der Trump’s or­der, who had an ap­proved refugee ap­pli­ca­tion, valid visa, green card or other doc­u­ment al­low­ing them le­gal en­try.

The or­der did not stip­u­late that the Amer­ica-side de­tainees, re­port­edly num­ber­ing fewer than 200, be re­leased. Nor has there been any change in the White House pol­icy, which freezes all refugee en­try for 120 days, bars vis­its from the named coun­tries for 90 days, and sus­pends refugee en­try from Syria in­def­i­nitely. Sun­day morn­ing, Trump tweeted “our coun­try needs strong bor­ders and ex­treme vet­ting, NOW.” Re­ac­tion world­wide has ranged from be­wil­der­ment, to shock, to fury. Spon­ta­neous demon­stra­tions erupted in sev­eral U.S. air­ports Satur­day and more protests were ex­pected Sun­day.

This leaves Cana­dian pol­i­tics, for now, in a kind of limbo, as MPs re­turn to the House of Com­mons from their win­ter break. Trudeau’s tweet Satur­day shortly af­ter noon (“To those flee­ing per­se­cu­tion, ter­ror & war, Cana­di­ans will wel­come you, re­gard­less of your faith. Di­ver­sity is our strength. #Wel­cometoCanada”) drew more than 366,000 re-tweets and has drawn broad me­dia cov­er­age in the United States.

Trudeau’s mes­sage was in keep­ing with an emerg­ing strat­egy of stress­ing trade and se­cu­rity ties with Wash­ing­ton, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously as­sert­ing Cana­di­ans’ open­ness to im­mi­gra­tion and refugees, in con­trast to Trump’s na­tivist po­si­tion. The PM’s tweet in­stantly be­came the sub­ject of de­bate over whether he had gone far enough, or too far, in pok­ing a stick in the pres­i­dent’s eye.

Mul­cair, the NDP’s care­taker leader, has called Trump a “fas­cist,” which leaves lit­tle room for co-op­er­a­tion of any kind. The Con­ser­va­tives, for their part, are them­selves in a jam: Two of their per­ceived lead­er­ship front-run­ners, Kel­lie Leitch and Kevin O’Leary, have hitched their brand wag­ons to Trump’s — Leitch via her hos­til­ity to im­mi­gra­tion, O’Leary via his brash style and out­sider sta­tus. With Trump veer­ing into ex­trem­ity so spec­tac­u­larly and so soon, those gam­bits look frag­ile in­deed.

Nei­ther Leitch, O’Leary, nor fel­low front-run­ner Maxime Bernier, had a pub­lic word to of­fer Satur­day about Trump’s bans. Sun­day af­ter­noon Bernier pro­duced an un­pre­pos­sess­ing se­ries of tweets whose sub­stance was, es­sen­tially, that it’s none of Canada’s busi­ness. In­terim party leader Rona Am­brose ex­pressed broad, generic sup­port for im­mi­gra­tion. Nu­mer­ous other typ­i­cally vol­u­ble Con­ser­va­tives were silent. The NDP, seek­ing to carve out some kind of con­struc­tive role, has called for an emer­gency de­bate in the House of Com­mons — which, un­der the cir­cum­stances, seems a good idea.

But the bot­tom line is, this is an out­landish sce­nario, in which there is no ob­vi­ous path for­ward for Canada but the one the Lib­er­als have cho­sen — that is, to seek to pre­serve U.S. mar­ket ac­cess, while also as­sert­ing Cana­dian core val­ues, when the White House veers into ir­ra­tional, un­fair, self-de­feat­ing or il­le­gal ter­ri­tory. Trump has of­fered no ev­i­dence that any refugees to Amer­ica, or any vis­i­tors from the seven banned na­tions, pose a threat to U.S. cit­i­zens.

In the space of a week, the pres­i­dent who would “make Amer­i­can great again” has dis­man­tled its re­la­tion­ship with trusted ally and vi­tal trad­ing part­ner Mex­ico; se­ri­ously roiled re­la­tions with nu­clear-armed China; and smashed its his­toric sta­tus as a bea­con of plu­ral­ism in the world.

The Trudeau gov­ern­ment is thread­ing a nee­dle. It is un­clear, at this early junc­ture, what any main­stream politi­cian of any stripe can add — which ex­plains the eerie quiet.


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