As chaos reigned at American airports one day after President Donald Trump barred all refugees from the United States for four months, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a starkly different message.
Soon, politicians of all stripes were expressing their support for helping out anyone affected by the sweeping American ban, which also indefinitely barred Syrian refugees specifically and closed the border to citizens of seven Muslim majority countries, even those carrying dual citizenship. The #WelcometoCanada hashtag quickly started to trend on Twitter.
Canada has accepted more than 39,000 Syrian refugees since Trudeau took office, with the prime minister making international headlines when he personally welcomed the first plane load of government sponsored Syrians fleeing the war torn country.
While Trudeau’s promise was met with acclaim online, actually turning words into action might be tougher. Under Canadian immigration law, “refugee claimants are required to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in,” a Citizenship and Immigration website explains — meaning that any refugee who lands in America, but is turned away, is technically ineligible for refugee status in Canada, barring some exceptions. VICE News reported earlier Saturday that calls are growing to scrap that rule.
That’s not the only headache for Trudeau. Under Trump’s rules, it’s possible that two of his ministers — Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, born in Somalia; and Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef, born in Iran to Afghan parents — would be banned from entering America. Scores of Canadian dual citizens from the singled out states could be caught by the ban as well, although the Prime Minister’s Office told reporters late Saturday that Canadian dual citizens can travel freely to the US.
The mayors of Toronto and Edmonton both voiced their concerns on Saturday afternoon, vowing to keep the doors open for refugees — especially those coming from Syria. Even Brad Wall, the Conservative Saskatchewan premier who was initially the loudest skeptic of the Syrian plan, put out a statement.
Toronto mayor John Tory said in a statement that he had reached out to Canada’s citizenship and immigration minister to see if there was anything the city could do “in light of recent events.”
“Toronto will continue to welcome refugees and new Canadians,” he said.