Ottawa

2 U of O law students drop out of course due to U.S. travel ban

Two University of Ottawa law students have dropped out of a course that would have required travel into the U.S. because they might be affected by President Donald Trump's travel ban, and the university says it's trying to come up with solutions.

University trying to make sure students, academics potentially caught up in U.S. ban are not excluded

University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist says universities need to come up with strategies to avoid excluding students who may be affected by the U.S. travel ban. (CBC)

Two University of Ottawa law students have dropped out of a course that would have required travel into the U.S. because they might be affected by President Donald Trump's travel ban, and the university says it's trying to come up with solutions.

The professor supervising the students, Michael Geist, said he can't blame the student partners for not wanting to take a chance by crossing the border right now. One of them is originally from a country included in the ban.

Late last week, Trump signed an executive order temporarily barring visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Libya.

One of Geist's students, who declined to be interviewed, became concerned when some of her family members faced detention issues at a U.S. border despite having Canadian passports, Geist said.

U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order to impose tighter vetting of travellers entering the United States on Jan. 27. The executive order imposes a four-month travel ban on refugees entering the United States and a 90-day hold on travellers from Syria, Iran and five other Muslim-majority countries. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

'Questions around exchange programs'

This and similar incidents across the country are illustrating the trickle-down impact of the U.S. policy on academia, he said.

"Given how many joint programs Canadian universities have with U.S. counterparts, it really is going to start raising, more and more, some of the questions around exchange programs that we run and some of the other conferences and activities we have that could have the effect of excluding students," said Geist.

This week, universities across the country have spoken out against the new U.S. policy.

On Sunday, Universities Canada issued a statement condemning the ban and the negative effects it will have on students, staff, visiting academics and academia generally.

Administration advising students

On Wednesday, University of Ottawa administrators sent out a release advising students and professors to reach out to its international office for advice regarding future travel plans.

The university currently has about 200 students from the seven banned countries, and according to Gary Slater, associate vice-president of student and international affairs, it has another 300 permanent residents of Canada who were born in those countries.

The university is trying to figure out if any of its students or faculty members are currently travelling or planning travel through the U.S., Slater said.

Geist said he's glad his school is stepping up with solutions.

"There have been assurances that dual citizens holding Canadian passports will be able to cross the border, but that's not true for dual citizens holding passports of more than one country," said Geist.

University opens doors

The university has also announced new measures to attract students at American universities who might be caught up in the ban, including an accelerated admissions process and a tuition fee exemption program to allow students to study at the same tuition rates as Canadian students.

"We expect [there] to be a big wave of requests over the next few days," said Slater. "The deadlines for admissions at the university is coming up. I think it's going to be a rush and we'll do what we can to accommodate as many students as we can."

Shortly after releasing the new measures, Slater said he received an email from a student seeking enrolment information for his wife who is currently studying in the U.S.

"He's asking us to bring his wife to Canada and help her resettle in Ottawa and study at the University of Ottawa. This happened within 60 minutes of us announcing this," said Slater. "It gives you an idea of the stress out there that these students are going through."

If his university can't help, Slater said he'll also work with other schools, including Carleton University, to see if there are appropriate programs available. Other universities, including Carleton, are expected to announce similar measures in the coming days. 

"I think there's unquestionably an opportunity. It's an opportunity we'd prefer not to have," said Geist. "Some of these talented people are going to go somewhere and Canada in many ways is a logical place to go."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Ireton

Senior Reporter

Julie Ireton is a senior reporter who works on investigations and enterprise news features at CBC Ottawa. She's also the host of the CBC investigative podcast, The Band Played On. You can reach her at julie.ireton@cbc.ca

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