A Vancouver-based immigration lawyer says Canada has an important role to play internationally in handling the fallout from U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order banning citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

On Friday, Trump signed an order which imposed a 120-day ban on refugees entering the U.S. and a 90-day ban on all entry to the U.S. from citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

The implementation of the order led to widespread chaos at airports on the weekend. Some passengers were forced to turn back during transit or were held in detention.

Immigration lawyer Fadi Yachoua, who is Syrian-Canadian, says the timing of the ban was "disheartening," especially for refugees.

"To see institutional barriers being put up in the way the United States, one of the primary countries that resettles refugees, is a terrible precedent in a time when we're trying to mobilize and lobby to resolve this ongoing humanitarian crisis," he said.

Canada should be at the 'forefront'

Yachoua said Canada has an important role to play both domestically and internationally on the refugee issue.

"We really need to be at the forefront and we already are," he said.

"Domestically, we have the capacity to increase our intake. Internationally, we should lead the effort and figure out how to redistribute the refugees the United States could have taken."

But Yachoua pointed out it's not just Trump's ban that is negatively affecting refugees. The Canadian government announced on Jan. 25 it had already reached the 2017 cap for 1,000 privately-sponsored Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

"This is an opportunity to call on the government to re-evaluate the limit of 1,000 on Syrian and Iraqi refugees because there is significant interest and drive within our communities to continue to assist," he said.

He also suggested re-examining Canada's "Safe Third Country" agreement with the United States. That agreement restricts refugees who arrive in the U.S. first from claiming refugee protection in Canada.

"It ought to be re-evaluated because the presumption of that agreement is the United States is a country that respects its international obligations," he said.

"In light of this executive order, we ought to be very careful that if the United States is not a safe country, then this agreement will be in violation of international law."

At a news conference Sunday, Canada's immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, said Canada will not raise the number of refugees it will accept.

With files from The Early Edition


To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Vancouver-based immigration lawyer on Trump's travel ban