Prime Minister's Office allays fears saying Canadian dual citizens not affected by U.S. travel ban
'I can't believe this is happening,' said Iranian-born Canadian dual citizen before before policy reversal
Confusion, fear and panic.
Those were just some of the emotions weighing on Canadian dual-nationals as news emerged that they might be denied entry to the United States as part of President Donald Trump's ban on refugees and travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
On Saturday, the U.S. State Department confirmed Canadians with dual citizenship with any of those countries would be among those refused entry. The executive order, announced just one week after Trump was sworn in, halts the processing of all Syrian refugees and barred entry for at least 90 days on anyone travelling 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.
"We have been assured that Canadian citizens travelling on Canadian passport will be dealt with in the usual process," the PMO told CBC News after it says Flynn's Canadian counterpart sought clarification from the U.S.
The reversal followed an outpouring of concern from many Canadians who share citizenship with countries on the list, worried about the impact it would have on them.
"I can't believe this is happening," one Iranian-born Canadian woman living in the U.S. told CBC News. "I feel really scared. I think a lot of people do"
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The woman, who asked not to be named because she feared for her safety, says she and her husband were planning a trip to Toronto along with their children during their February school break.
'We don't know what to do'
They thought it would be a good chance to visit family.
"Now we don't know what to do."
Despite the fact that she holds a green card and her children are born in the U.S., the woman feared she would be barred from re-entering the country after their visit to Canada.
"If we leave the country they'll all be able to come back, including my husband, but I would be denied entry," she said by phone. "Even though I went through this whole vetting process, they interviewed me, we had to show all these documents."
"If I didn't have kids I would just leave and not want to come back. But I have kids and they go to school here. And I can't just say, 'OK, we'll go' and risk it.
Canadian politicians emphasize openness
News of the ban prompted political reaction in Canada from the likes of the Prime Minister all the way to Toronto Mayor John Tory.
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WelcomeToCanada?src=hash">#WelcomeToCanada</a>—@JustinTrudeau
"We understand that as Canadians we are almost all immigrants, and that no one should be excluded on the basis of their ethnicity or nationality," Tory tweeted Sunday, adding that he has "reached out" to Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen to offer help "in light of recent events."
My statement on immigration and refugees <a href="https://t.co/QTfGPxvrPD">pic.twitter.com/QTfGPxvrPD</a>—@JohnTory
Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne echoed the sentiment in a tweet about Ontario's openness.
The warmth and openness of Ontarians makes us strong. So many of us come from other places and we welcome the world. <a href="https://t.co/EFX4h17nyt">pic.twitter.com/EFX4h17nyt</a>—@Kathleen_Wynne
But many others called for that sentiment to turn to action.
Calls for action
"We have heard nothing from our government about what they plan to do next," Toronto's Walied Khogali told CBC News.
Khogali said his sister, who was born in Sudan, is in the final year of a medical science program at a U.S. school and was anxiously trying to figure out what the policy would mean for her.
"Why have they not taken a stand in defence of Canadians impacted by the ban? They can stop sharing our personal information. Also they can not co-operate by removing any indicators on our passports to make it difficult for Americans to operationalize the ban."
In an email to CBC News, a Transport Canada spokesperson said: "We are in contact with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other partners to get more information on the impacts. We will be providing further information to Canadians as available."
For her part, the Iranian-born U.S. resident who CBC News spoke with said she wasn't taking any chances.
"Unless I don't care about coming back, I'm not going to leave the U.S."
With files from Lorenda Reddekopp