We Spoke With the Canadians Who Shut Down a US Consulate To Protest Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban
“We will not let history repeat itself.”
Over the weekend, US President Trump's ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries sent the world into chaos. Detainment, deportations, and absolute confusion from the ambiguity of Trump's executive order put airports across America on high alert. In response, protests—arguing against the constitutional basis for the ban—spread like wildfire across the United States.
Since then, outrage at Trump's executive order has spurred protests across the globe. Canada in particular—reeling from a terrorist attack Sunday night that left half a dozen Quebec mosque-goers dead—saw a large protest at Toronto's US consulate Monday morning, actually causing the office to shut its doors in advance. In a statement posted online, the consulate advised Visa-holders and those seeking consular services to come back the next day.
Despite being the city being smothered in -18 C weather and the office being closed, hundreds showed up to the event. VICE spoke to some of them to hear why they came out and how they feel about Canada's role in handling the unfolding US immigration crisis.
VICE: Why are you here today?
John: I'm here because of Trump's policies. I do not agree with them—the immigration, the pipelines, the hate. It's that simple.
How do you feel about what happened this weekend—the travel ban, the detainment, the Muslim discrimination?
I think it's wrong. It's absolutely disgraceful. No matter where you are from, anybody should be able to come here—the US or Canada. This is a land of immigrants.
Do you feel like Justin Trudeau has a greater responsibility to take on Trump directly? Some say he's been too neutral on the matter.
You gotta expect that from him. The US is our biggest trading partner. That's just the way politicians are. It is their primary interest—to protect money.
What needs to happen next?
People. People are coming out and rising up. We need to let Trump know we do not stand for his policies. We definitely will not stand for him.
Joe Cressy, 34
Toronto City Councillor
Mr. Cressy, you've been very vocal about Trump's presidency. Why are you out here today?
Cressy: I think as residents of an international world, we all have a role to play. Whether that's condemning hatred all over the world, or hatred here in the city that we live in. This city, all cities, are a response to how we choose to live together. We must stand up and let everyone know that Toronto is here to welcome them.
Most Canadian politicians have avoided directly criticizing Trump—both at the federal level and here in the city. How do you feel about that?
The City of Toronto is a welcome city and a sanctuary city—with or without documentation, you can access public services without fear. Has everyone on the local level been as vocal about supporting this? No, unfortunately they haven't. But the principle is here, and many of my colleagues stand beside me in this fight.
On the federal level, politicians are saying that people are welcome here and our borders are open. As some have said, that may not be enough, but people are here to hold us to account for that.
Do you think Toronto is doing enough to make sure that we welcome refugees and those in fear because of their ethnicity, race, or religion?
Well, this week, there is a motion coming forward in city council to reaffirm our place as a sanctuary city, and to strengthen our resolve in making sure that everybody is welcome here. We need to do more to help settle newcomers, and protect those who are persecuted—both locally and abroad.
Why are you here today?
From the Muslim ban to the attack in Quebec yesterday, I felt like it was a moral obligation for me to be here. Something like this shouldn't happen in the 21st century. The Holocaust happened, and I don't ever, ever want to see a repeat of something like that.
A lot of Canadians like to say that Canada doesn't have the same issues as the US—racism, bigotry, discrimination. Does that bother you?
It's very unsettling. Canadians like to take a moral high ground when it comes to immigration or human rights, but our country is founded upon those same wrongdoings. We had residential schools, we had colonization, and we still have racism. It has no border. If we're going to stand against something like this, we need to look at it here as well. We can't pretend those same feelings aren't growing here in Canada.
Are you worried that Canadians might not see that?
I am, especially because there's this idea that we need to do polite politics. This idea that there are subtle ways to address Islamophobia, and racism, and bigotry. I want to see stronger stances like this. I don't think that the Canadian government, or Justin Trudeau, will do enough without being pushed.
Naomi, 19; Maria, 21; Kaitlyn, 18; Ana, 18
University of Toronto students
VICE: Why are you guys here today?
Naomi: We wanted to make it clear we're not going to stand for the kind of discrimination we've been seeing this last week. It's not acceptable.
The travel ban has affected a lot of people. Have any of you personally been affected or moved by what's happened so far?
Naomi: I'm Jewish. My grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. I'm seeing the cultural and political climate, and I'm seeing a lot of similarities. I'm scared for a lot of people, and I know that it's my duty as a person—who has the power to stand up—to come out here.
Maria: Forget the fact that we may be from whatever religion, this is just inhumane and heartbreaking. People are coming to us for shelter and refuge from horrible atrocities, and we're spitting at them. It's so disgusting.
Kaitlyn: I'm seeing it with my friends and my family. Look around us. The majority of the people here are of visible ethnic or religious minorities. The people affected are just like us. We all feel it.
Ana: I just ask myself, "Why is that I'm lucky enough to be born here and am free? " It's that simple. It's wrong.
Justin Trudeau has tweeted and said a lot of things, but he hasn't stood up to Trump. Do you guys feel like he's doing the right thing by playing it cautiously?
Maria: I get that he is trying to maintain good relations, but this isn't a normal scenario. Trump isn't like another president from before. He needs to be more vocal. We're behind him, the people in the US are behind him. He can't lead in fear.
Ana: Yeah, what we're doing right now says that. Everybody is out here. People are ready to speak up.
Communist Party of Canada
What brought you here today?
I—we are here to protest the fascist and racist policies that are being pushed by the United States, and we're here to say that attacks on Muslims or immigrants or anybody, are not acceptable. The other reason I'm here are to oppose US wars of aggressions—the ones that caused the refugee crisis in the first place.
Do you think that Canada is doing enough to combat Trump's policies?
Well, we are a country that is principally different than the US. We are a country that accepts immigrants and refugees. That said, we still participate in the process that enables this hatred elsewhere. We participate in wars against Middle Eastern countries. We do not enforce or stand behind the idea of sanctuary cities as much as we should. We need to do more than feel good about being better—we need to actually work harder than we are now to rise above what is acceptable and what is passable.
Follow Jake Kivanc on Twitter.