Toronto

'Stand in solidarity': Canadian residents open their homes to those stranded by U.S. travel ban

Toronto resident Karim Kanji, a child of Ugandan refugees, is one of countless Canadians who's offering up his home to anyone who might be stranded at airports here at home as a result of the U.S. travel ban on citizens of a slew of Muslim-majority countries.

Hundreds take to social media with open hearts and offers of help to house those affected

Karim Kanji, left, was born in transit as his parents made their way to Canada fleeing from Uganda in the early 1970s. Now he's one of hundreds opening his home to those who may be stranded in Toronto as a result of a U.S. travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. (Submitted: Karim Kanji)

When Karim Kanji heard about the sweeping order barring travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, he knew he needed to act.

Kanji, a resident of Toronto's Scarborough area who is himself the child of Ugandan refugees, is one of countless Canadians who took to social media to offer up his home to anyone who might be stranded at airports here at home as a result of the executive order.

"These are things that I remember learning about in history class in high school, where people, because of where they're from or how they pray, were persecuted," he told CBC News. "Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would be alive in a time where we started making these same mistakes again."

So in the spur of the moment, he offered up his sofa bed.

"The least I could do was tweet out that if anyone needs something, I'm here."

And he wasn't alone.

As news of the ban spread, so did the offers.

Offers pour in

University of Toronto student Hiatt Differ launched a Facebook group together with three of his friends, all second-year students, to co-ordinate offers from across the city of housing and accommodation for those who might need shelter as a result of being redirected to Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

Launched just 24 hours ago, it already has more than 300 members.

(Trump's Executive Order Housing Help - Toronto, ON/Facebook)
(Trump's Executive Order Housing Help - Toronto, ON/Facebook)

"Our deepest hope is that no one needs it, that no one is stranded," organizer Differ told CBC News.

But if they do, he said, he hopes the offers will mean "no one will have to go through the added burden of having a place to stay."

Trump team insists no apologies necessary

The executive order signed by U.S. President Donald Trump Friday suspends the processing of Syrian refugees to the U.S. and imposes a three-month ban on citizens of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia. But the new rules caused mass confusion for travellers over the weekend as foreign governments tried to grapple with how the rules would affect their citizens.

Critics described widespread confusion, with an untold number of travellers being held in legal limbo because of ill-defined procedures. Meanwhile Chief of Staff Reince Priebus insists there wasn't chaos at U.S. airports and that he would "apologize for nothing."

News of the ban sent many Canadians who share citizenship with countries on the list into a panic until, more than 24 hours later, the prime minister's office confirmed that Canadian dual citizens and permanent residents were exempt.

At a news conference in Ottawa on Sunday, Canadian Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said he is not aware of anyone currently stranded at Canadian airports as a result of the ban, but that the government will offer temporary residency to anyone in Canada because of it.

'Flying while Muslim' not a new problem

"It's absolutely appalling as an American citizen," Zeyneb Shahrar told CBC News heading home from Toronto's Pearson airport on Sunday. 

But she added, "Flying while Muslim has been a problem not since just yesterday; it's been a problem for a decade, to be honest with you. ... It has to take people of good conscience to really overturn this."

Canadian Robert Baggs, who was travelling to Charlotte, N.C., from Pearson airport on Sunday, said news of the order has left him feeling helpless.

"I think it's absolutely terrible. It just unfortunately leaves you with that feeling not knowing what to do even though it's wrong," he said. "Realistically what can you do?"

From helplessness to action

Monika Rola's response is: "Stand in solidarity."

The Toronto resident is among those who sprang into action to offer up her home.

"We cannot, as people, be turned against each other," Rola said.

It's a message she wants her two daughters to hear as well.

"I want to be able to look them in the eye and say I didn't just sit idly by as people were persecuted and banned."

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