The federal government moved to clear up confusion that surrounded a U.S. travel ban on citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries by announcing that Canadian citizens and permanent residents with roots in those countries can still cross the border.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said Sunday that the White House has given assurances that permanent residents of Canada can enter the U.S. provided they have a valid Canadian permanent resident card and passport from one of the seven affected countries.
On Saturday night, the prime minister tweeted that the White House confirmed that dual citizens with a Canadian passport are also allowed into the U.S.
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The confusion stemmed from an executive order signed Friday by U.S. President Donald Trump, which said that people from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Libya would be barred entry to the U.S. for three months.
It was initially unclear Saturday whether Canadians who are also citizens of the affected countries would be allowed to cross the U.S. border, as the State Department said that dual citizens were included in the ban. Canada received no prior warning that the ban was to be imposed.
U.S. officials have not publicly commented since on how the ban affects Canada. Instead, they are relaying their position through their Canadian counterparts.
Hussen held a news conference in Ottawa on Sunday to try to clear up some of the confusion created by the American ban.
People still worried
Despite these assurances, there still appears to be confusion on the ground about who can cross the border. Before Hussen's statement on Sunday, several Canadian residents reported they'd been turned away. Even now, some say they don't want to take the risk.
And while people in Canada with roots in the countries involved have expressed relief that they can still enter the U.S., the policy still affects their families.
"After a couple of days of frustration in our community, this is promising news," said Bijan Ahmadi, president of the Iranian Canadian Congress.
He said he's glad to hear that both citizens and permanent residents are free to travel to the United States, but he's still waiting to hear something else from Canadian officials.
"As an organization, we strongly condemn this policy, and we believe that every politician in Canada — from different parties — should condemn the policy," he said.
"This is discrimination against people not because of any specific security threats that a specific person posed to the United States, but because of their race, background and religion," he added.
Why hasn't Canada denounced Trump's order?
Hussen was asked at the news conference about why he hadn't denounced the order.
"Every country has the right to determine their policies. I can only tell you that we will continue our long-standing tradition of being open to those who seek sanctuary," he said.
He said Canada will provide temporary shelter to any people stranded because of the ban, but he noted he doesn't know of anyone stuck in a Canadian airport.
He also noted that Canada will not raise the number of refugees it plans to accept — this year's target is 25,000 — in response to the ban, in spite of widespread speculation that tweets sent out by the prime minister suggested Canada would accept more people.
On Saturday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted, "To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength .WelcomeToCanada."
Hussen said that, as always, cases would be evaluated based on merit.
NDP seeks emergency debate on ban
The NDP has written to the Speaker of the House of Commons requesting an emergency debate on the immigration ban, a day before Parliament is set to re-open after a six-week break. NDP Immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the ban will have "disastrous implications" for thousands of travellers, family members, students, business people and asylum-seekers.
"A ban against individuals based upon race, religion, or country of birth, implemented by our closest neighbour, cannot be tolerated," Kwan said in the letter.
An emergency debate needs to be requested during routine proceedings, at which point the Speaker of the House of Commons will make a decision on whether or not it can proceed.
In a statement to CBC News, Government House Leader Bardish Chagger said, "We believe Members of Parliament should have the opportunity to debate this important issue in the House."
Canadian leaders voice support for refugees
Municipal leaders across the country also expressed their support for refugees affected by the ban.
"I offer any support I can to Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Wall in their commitment to assist people affected by the recent U.S. refugee ban," said Saskatoon mayor Charlie Clark in a Facebook post.
I still cry at every citizenship ceremony I attend. This is and always will be a place of sanctuary, safety, welcome and opportunity. https://t.co/X1GCTJT9zl— @nenshi
The mayors of Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver are among the others who voiced support for refugees.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister's Office said that Trudeau briefed the premiers on how his government clarified the ban's application in Canada.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark, who appeared with Trudeau at Vancouver's Lunar New Year parade Sunday, said she will stand up for Canadian and British Columbian values.
"We believe that people who are seeking refuge around the world should be able to find safe haven here in our province," she said.
Private industry also got involved. Members of Canada's tech community signed an open letter calling for the federal government to offer visas to people whose lives have been left in limbo because of the immigration ban.
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