British Columbia

Metro Vancouver Persian community reacts to new Trump travel ban

Iranian-Canadians from Metro Vancouver's large Persian community are reacting with dismay to an executive order banning residents of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.

Trudeau government clarifies late Saturday that Canadians with dual citizenship not affected by the ban

A small group of people in front of the Trump Tower in downtown Vancouver protested against a ban on people entering the U.S. from some Muslim-majority countries. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

Iranian-Canadians from Metro Vancouver's large Persian community reacted with dismay to an executive order issued by U.S. President Donald Trump Friday. 

The order imposes 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.

Earlier on Saturday the U.S. government had said the three-month ban also applied to Canadians with dual citizenship from those countries, shocking many in B.C.

But later in the day the Trudeau government clarified that they would not be affected by the travel ban.

Leena Yousefi, an Iranian-Canadian lawyer in Vancouver, says she's 'saddened' by a new travel ban imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump. (Leena Yousefi)

"I'm deeply saddened and offended. We came from Iran because we wanted to get away from that kind of mentality. We wanted our freedom," said Leena Yousefi, a family and immigration lawyer in Vancouver. 

"My father was going to be a multimillionaire in Iran. He gave up everything and he brought myself and my sister here so we could have a better future and have freedom."

Yousefi, 34, said she often travels to the U.S. and was hoping to start a new law firm there because she often works with Americans looking to immigrate to Canada.

"We're just completely shocked," she said. "We have family in the United States. We've never had a problem with American people."

Yousefi said she's had a flood of calls from friends in the Persian community who were equally concerned about the ban. 

There are 36,950 Iranians living in Canada who do not have Canadian citizenship, according to 2011 numbers from Statistics Canada.

Families separated

The travel bans means some families were suddenly separated, unable to cross the border to see each other. 

Permanent resident Mehran Shirazi, a PhD engineering student at Simon Fraser University, said he doesn't know when he will be able to see his brother living in New York City.

"We'd hoped to see each other but it's not going to work because he cannot come here because then he cannot come back to the U.S. and I cannot visit him," Shirazi said.

Shirazi's parents haven't seen their son in six years and had planned to visit to New York this spring.

"Now they cannot do that. They don't know when — if at all — they can see him again," he said.

Shirazi's situation isn't unique. He said he's heard from many families in similar situations, including husbands and wives. 

"Everyone is shocked," he said.

"It's a very discriminatory rule and it's a little bit racist to just select people based on where they were born."

The ban is in effect for 90 days. Shirazi said many in the Iranian community are hoping the ban won't continue past then. 

Protesters at Trump Tower

Meanwhile on Saturday, a boisterous group of about 30 protesters gathered in front of the Trump Tower in downtown Vancouver.

​"I just wanted to stand here in Vancouver and have a small part in resisting [the ban]," said Neda Ahmadi.

"I don't agree with what's happening and I feel really disheartened about how things are going and I don't want to stand by and for myself feel like this is normal."

​B.C. Premier Christy Clark tweeted later in the day that the province will work with the federal government to support stranded refugees.

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler


Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at