Ottawa is promising that anyone stranded in Canada as a result of President Donald Trump’s immigration ban on seven Muslim-majority countries will be “accommodated and made to feel welcome.”
But while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has reiterated its commitment to being a safe haven for refugees the world over, it is refusing to criticize or condemn Trump’s executive order, which also indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from the United States, and blocks all refugees for 120 days.
Speaking with reporters on Sunday afternoon, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen provided an update — with the caveat that it was “what we know so far” — but dodged multiple questions asking him to weigh in on, or condemn, the intensely controversial ban.
“We welcome those fleeing persecution, terror, and war,” Hussen reiterated.
Canada intends on settling 25,000 refugees, many of them coming from Syria, in 2017. It has taken in more than 50,000 Iraqi and Syrian refugees in recent years.
But when pressed on the matter, with reporters asking how Trump’s ban makes him feel, given that he is himself a Somali refugee, Hussen refused to engage.
“Canada will continue to be a government that welcomes immigrants,” he said.
Hussen did say that he would look at available policy options to help more refugees to immigrate to Canada, including the ‘Safe Third Country Agreement‘ that technically forbids a migrant from claiming refugee status in Canada if they’ve entered from the United States.
Daniel Jean, the prime minister’s national security advisor, also joined Hussen at the press conference.
Asked whether the Canadian government had been notified or consulted prior to the travel ban, Jean said simply: “No.”
Jean explained that Ottawa had learned of the executive order through the media, and spent Friday trying to confirm that the actual order indeed matched the one published by various American newspapers. The final orders were put online on Friday night.
“We didn’t have any chance to have conversations on that before,” Jean said. He added that he didn’t think the administration even considered the possibility that Canadians could have been caught up in the ban. “I don’t think they saw the consequences,” he said.
Jean and Hussen stressed that they were still trying to figure out details and specifics of the unprecedented travel and immigration ban.
The Trudeau government said Saturday evening that Canadian dual nationals who also hold citizenship in one of the seven Muslim-majority countries would still be allowed into America.
Hussen said Sunday that even Canadian permanent residents from one of those countries, even if they don’t have Canadian citizenship, will be able to travel freely. For those 35,000-plus dual citizens, Hussen recommended they travel with their Canadian passport.
“However, we are aware that the executive order does apply to those from the seven countries transiting through Canada,” Hussen said. “Let me assure those who may be stranded in Canada that I will use my authority as minister to provide them with temporary residency as they need it.”
Jean added that while no Canadian citizens appeared stranded, there were “a few” caught up in the travel prohibition who were referred to Canadian officials through their airlines.
“We’ve made sure that these people would be accommodated and made to feel welcome,” he said.