Confusion, consternation in Montreal over Trump travel ban
'Things are not clear,' Montreal director of the Syrian Canadian Council says in wake of new policy
President Donald Trump's decision to block incoming refugees and temporarily bar travellers from seven predominantly Muslim countries is having reverberations in Montreal, where some residents worry the policy will make it difficult to do business and see family south of the border.
Faisal Alazem, Montreal director of the Syrian Canadian Council, said many people he knows plan to avoid travelling to the United States, even if they hold dual citizenship.
"The more we are reading about the story, the more we are getting the sense that even for public servants it's vague for them," he said. "Things are not clear."
The executive order, announced Friday, just one week after Trump was sworn in, bars entry for at least 90 days for anyone from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia.
But in an apparent about-face Saturday night, U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn said Canadian passport-holders — including dual citizens — would not be affected by the ban.
The White House added to the confusion on Sunday, when the president's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said green-card holders would also be exempt from the measures. Priebus also said that border guards would have "discretionary authority."
'A human problem'
Those reversals and qualifications did little to stem widespread concern from Canadians who share citizenship with countries on the list
Elaheh Saadat, a 25-year-old Iranian-born Montrealer, said she doesn't plan to visit family in New York and California any time soon, despite clarification of the policy.
"I don't want to take the risk of making travel plans and not being able to go," Saadat said.
Trump's ban has also been condemned by Quebec politicians, including Premier Philippe Couillard, Mayor Denis Coderre and Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée, who called it "odius."
On Saturday, a few dozen protesters gathered in downtown Montreal to denounce the policy.
Lexi Searcy, an American student studying at Concordia University, called on Canadians to speak out.
"I've heard a lot of people saying they don't feel Canadians should speak out because it's not their country. But it's a human rights issue," she said.
"This is a human problem."
Another demonstration is planned for noon Monday at the American Embassy.
with files from Emily Brass, Radio-Canada and Associated Press