Local tech companies sign open letter opposing Trump travel ban

Leaders at local technology companies have signed an open letter calling on the Canadian government to offer an "immediate and targeted visa" to people affected by the U.S. President's travel ban so they can live and work in Canada.

Leaders at Shopify, Macadamian Technologies, among signatories calling on the Canadian government to intervene

Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke grew up in Germany before moving to Canada. 'Ever since arriving here I have been inspired by Canada's idea of multiculturalism,' he Tweeted this week. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Leaders at local technology companies have signed an open letter calling on the Canadian government to offer an "immediate and targeted visa" to people from seven predominantly Muslim countries affected by the U.S. President's travel ban, so that they can live and work in Canada.

The letter, which was posted online late on Jan. 28, had garnered more than 2,000 signatures from people in the technology sector by midday on Jan. 30.

It describes how people working in technology in Canada come from a range of ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and religions, and how that diversity helps drive entrepreneurship and innovation.
Fred Boulanger, CEO of software and design company Macadamian Technologies in Gatineau, says Trump's travel ban might end up being an opportunity for Canadian high-tech companies. (Steve Fischer/CBC)

"As a community, we stand together in opposition to the marginalization of people based on their birthplace, race, or religion," the letter states.

"When I look around here — my friends, people I work with — a vast majority are from immigrant backgrounds," said Fred Boulanger, CEO of Macadamian Technologies in Gatineau.

"I think we're better for it. I think we're going to be going further with those people on our side."

High-tech companies see diversity as an asset

Like the letter, Boulanger praised a message that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted to Twitter on Jan. 28.

"It speaks to me," said Boulanger.

The CEO of fast-growing Ottawa-based Shopify, Tobi Lütke, also commented on Trudeau's tweet. He grew up in Germany.

Lütke signed the tech community's open letter along with more than thirty Shopify employees, including chief operating officer, Harley Finkelstein.

"My dad was an immigrant when Canada let … 40,000 Hungarians into the country during the Hungarian revolution in 1955. Our family is here because of Canada's inclusive policies and warmth. I'll never forget that," said Finkelstein in a statement provided by the company.

Finkelstein described how Shopify values inclusion and diversity of thought.

"Talent is not defined by borders and if they choose to come to Canada, the entire ecosystem will be better for it."

Chance to lure talent

Boulanger of Macadamian Technologies also sees Trump's travel ban as an opportunity for Canadian high-tech companies to poach some talented employees who can contribute to both the economy and the country's cultural fabric.

"In the U.S., they're thinking about if they're even welcome there and should continue to stay there because the future is very uncertain now," said Boulanger.

The federal government has not yet said whether it would offer temporary visas allowing people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to work and live in Canada.

On Sunday, Canada's new immigration minister Ahmed Hussen said only that the executive order was still very new and the government is studying its policy options.