Manitoba

Iranian U of M med student cancels plans for coveted conference in U.S.

Aman Montazeri was full of anticipation after he won a coveted award and was invited for a paid trip to one of the top neurology conferences in North America.

Aman Montazeri is a permanent resident but is worried about the confusion around travel ban

Aman Montazeri decided not to go to a coveted conference in the U.S. after President Trump signed an executive order last Friday. (John Einarson/CBC)

Aman Montazeri was full of anticipation after he won a coveted award and was invited for a paid trip to one of the top neurology conferences in North America.

Those hopes were soon to be dashed and replaced with confusion for the University of Manitoba student after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order last Friday which said people from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Libya would be barred entry to the country for three months.

Montazeri is a permanent Canadian resident originally from Iran.

"I wasn't surprised actually because he kind of announced these things from before he became president," Montazeri said.

"I was expecting him to do something like this but I wasn't expecting him to do it so soon, just one week after he became president."

This conference is important for me but is not the most important thing in life.- Aman Montazeri 

Montazeri came to Winnipeg more than eight years ago to complete his master's degree in science. He's currently a second-year medical student.

At the start of January, he found out that he had received an award from the American Academy of Neurology and was invited to their conference in Boston in April.

"I was so happy. Neurology is one of the fields that I like, that I was thinking about for my residency," he said. "I was so happy to be able to investigate more at … the most important conference of the field."

When he heard about the ban last week, Montazeri said he didn't really understand what it meant for him. There was a lot of confusion over the weekend with people being detained at airports across the U.S.

Canada received no prior warning about the ban and it was initially unclear whether Canadians who are also citizens of the affected countries would be allowed to cross the border. The prime minister later tweeted that the White House confirmed that dual citizens with a Canadian passport were allowed in.

Montazeri doesn't even have his citizenship yet.

"First it was kind of chaos. I think they didn't even know themselves what they were doing," he said.

By Sunday, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the White House had given assurances that permanent residents of Canada could enter, provided they had a valid Canadian permanent resident card and passport from the country affected by the ban.

For Montazeri, it was too late. He had already come to the conclusion that he should just cancel the trip. With all of the confusion, he said there were no assurances how the ban would work, or not work, come April.

"I don't think there is a clear future for this ban to be removed or something. I think this ban, for most of the people like me, would be something mandatory at least while he's in power," he said.

Montazeri also wanted to stand in solidarity with his Iranian friends in the U.S. who were left in uncertainty.

"This conference is important for me but is not the most important thing in life," he said.

"What made me really frustrated and maybe disappointed was there are many Iranians there. There are lots of my friends in the US — some of them are visa students and some are work visas — and I don't know what will happen to them."

With files from Erin Brohman

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