OTTAWA — Jason Kenney, the former federal immigration minister now running to lead the Alberta Progressive Conservatives, called President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration a “brutal ham-fist act of of demogagic theatre.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent out two tweets that went viral with hundreds of thousands of pickups, both of which signalled Canada’s continued commitment to take in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees even as Trump suspended the processing of all Syrian refugees.
“It was a very important re-stating of our long-standing tradition” said Ahmad Hussen, the rookie Somalia-born MP who became Trudeau’s immigration minister. “They illustrate our long-standing tradition of openness and welcome to those who seek protection and sanctuary and refuge and those who flee persecution and war, regardless of their faith.”
Trudeau’s tweet garnered significant international attention as well as attention in his own country. Several Liberal MPs pushed Trudeau’s comment around their social networks.
But the small-c conservative premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, joined Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley in putting out their own tweets expressing similar support for Canada’s refugee program and goals.
The mayors of Canada’s biggest cities — Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, and Winnipeg — did the same.
Some Conservatives went further, dumping on Trump’s plan. Calgary Conservative MP Pat Kelly called the ban “odious,” Quebec Conservative MP Gerard Deltell said “we unreservedly oppose this ban,” and Kamloops, B.C., MP Cathy McLeod said she “unreservedly condemn(s)” the ban.
The opposition leader, Conservative Rona Ambrose, though, was more cautious.
“Immigrants and refugees from all over the world have greatly added to Canada’s success and prosperity,” Ambrose said on Twitter. “(I’m) relieved to hear all Canadian passport holders are being exempted from U.S. travel restrictions. Countries like Canada and the U.S. need to shelter ISIS persecuted groups from genocide — Yazidis, Assyrians, Christians and Muslims alike.”
Conservative leadership contenders Kellie Leitch and Maxime Bernier both declined to comment on the appropriateness of Trump’s ban, suggesting it would be inappropriate meddling in another country’s domestic affairs. Both Leitch and Bernier have already proposed reforms to Canada’s immigration and refugee system and used the events south of the border to remind Canadians about those plans.
“(The) Trump decision is US internal matter. Should not impact our own debates about who and how many refugees and immigrants we welcome,” Bernier said.
Kevin O’Leary, the TV celebrity seen as the leading contender in the Conservative race, was largely silent, offering up just one Twitter response when asked if he agreed with Trump’s ban and plans to build a wall along the Mexican border, saying, “I’m half Lebanese, half Irish. I wouldn’t be here if Canada was a place with walls.”
Chris Alexander, the former MP and former immigration minister under Stephen Harper now running to be Conservative leader, seemed to signal disapproval of Trump’s approach when he said, on Twitter, “We can ignore genocide, bring jets home, put up walls and ban people from our countries, or we can get out there, do good & help save lives.”
Leadership candidate and MP Erin O’Toole was more equivocal, posting this tweet: “A blanket ban is both unfair & ineffective for security. Hope our PM is on the phone and not just on Twitter. #MuslimBan.”
Trump’s executive order, though, is not a “ban on all Muslims,” as Trump had promised during the election campaign, but to both his supporters and detractors it was the next best thing. Each country on the “banned list” has majority Muslim populations.
But notably, so does Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other countries left off Trump’s ‘banned’ list.
In any event, the ban had the effect of, for example, preventing Iraqis who had assisted the U.S. military and were in transit to the United States from reaching safety on American shores. Executives of major U.S. corporations such as Apple and Google who were issued visas from some of the countries on the ‘banned list” were also said to be affected.
Conservative leadership candidate Michael Chong appeared to disagree with Trump’s suspension of the United States refugee program, including the suspension of Syria refugees, “Canada and U.S did away with race-based immigration policies in 60s. That’s the way it should stay #RefugeeBan,” Chong tweeted.
Federal New Democrats believe the situation so serious that they will seek an emergency debate in the House of Commons Monday.
“This ban will have disastrous implications for thousands of innocent travellers, family members, students, business people, indeed travellers of all kinds, but most disturbingly, the men, women and children who are seeking asylum and fleeing persecution,” said NDP MP Jenny Kwan, who represents a downtown Vancouver riding.
Liberal MPs and ministers, by and large, expressed support for Trudeau’s tweets and Facebook posts.
Those tweets and Facebook posts were picked up by international new outlets from the New York Times to Al Jazeera and Bloomberg, some of which interpreted Trudeau’s tweets as signalling a change in Canadian immigration policy or as a direct rebuke to Trump.
Hussen, in his Sunday press conference, said there were no plans to change the immigration or refugee targets for the current year though he said the government was prepared to provide temporary residence permits to any non-Canadians stranded in Canada as a result of Trump’s executive order.