TORONTO – Canada was caught up in a wide-reaching American travel ban that has barred citizens of seven countries from entering the United States, including some Canadian dual citizens.
The Canadian government didn’t immediately offer any direct comment after the American State Department confirmed that dual citizens of the affected countries would not be allowed to enter the U.S. over the next several months.
But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted Saturday, “To those fleeing persecution, terror (and) war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith.”
He followed it up by tweeting a photo of himself greeting a young Syrian refugee, but made no reference to the Canadian citizens and permanent residents barred from crossing the border.
His office said later Saturday that Trudeau was “looking forward to discussing the success of Canada’s immigration and refugee policies” with U.S. President Donald Trump when they next speak.
Trump’s executive order, which prevents citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Libya from entering the country in the next three months, also banned refugees from Syria indefinitely, pending a review of the application process.
The U.S. State Department didn’t immediately say how the ban on dual citizens would be enforced, as Canadian passports don’t disclose dual citizenship. They do include a person’s place of birth, but that is not necessarily related to citizenship.
According to the most recently available data from Statistics Canada, in 2011 there were about 35,000 people born in the seven affected countries who were Canadian and held at least one other citizenship. Representatives from Citizenship and Immigration did not immediately respond to requests for updated statistics.
Bijan Ahmadi, president of the Iranian Canadian Congress, said he’s outraged by the new policy.
“It’s unacceptable. It’s very unreasonable,” he said. “It’s very discriminatory to target people based on their race, their religion, the country of their origin and the country of their birth. And the community has that same outrage.”
“Everybody’s nervous, everybody of Somali origin and Muslim origin,” said Osman Ali, the Toronto-based director of the Somali Canadian Association of Etobicoke. “The community feels that it’s a way of targeting the Muslim community, the African community and the black Muslim community.”
An official in Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s office said officials are in contact with U.S. Homeland Security and the Department of Transportation to get more information on how the executive order may affect Canadians.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who has been a vocal critic of Trudeau’s environmental and health care policies, offered his support to the federal government in the face of Trump’s ban.
“Sask has welcomed approx 2000 refugees this past year, Wall posted on Twitter Saturday. ”We stand ready to assist fed gov’t re: anyone stranded by the US ban.“
An American law enforcement official told The Associated Press there was an exemption for foreigners whose entry is in the U.S. national interest, but it was not immediately clear how that exemption might be applied.
WestJet and Air Canada say they were waiving cancellation fees for people who hold passports from the affected countries, though a representative from Air Canada declined to say how the company is dealing with dual citizens.
Air Canada said it expected that only a small handful of its passengers would be affected.