MPs to hold emergency debate on Trump travel ban Tuesday

MPs will hold an emergency debate in the House of Commons Tuesday on the impact of a travel and immigration crackdown in the U.S.

House of Commons will discuss impact of travel restrictions on 7 Muslim-majority countries

Thousands of people protest against the U.S. immigration policy of the Donald Trump administration, at the United States embassy in Ottawa, Monday, Jan. 30, 2017. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

MPs will hold an emergency debate in the House of Commons Tuesday on the impact of a travel and immigration crackdown in the U.S.

House Speaker Geoff Regan granted the request from NDP MP Jenny Kwan, who said the executive order imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday will have "disastrous" implications for travellers around the world, including those fleeing persecution, conflict and war.

"Canadians are staunch defenders of human rights, and they reject a ban based on race, religion or country of birth implemented by our closest ally and neighbour," she said, noting the matter needs the "immediate attention" of the House.

The debate will begin at approximately 7:30 p.m. ET Tuesday. (Read more and follow the debate live here.)

Trump touched off mass confusion and global outrage by signing an executive order Friday that barred people from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Libya from entering the U.S. for three months.

The federal government has been working to clarify the rules around Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have roots in the Muslim-majority countries.

Permanent residents allowed entry

On Saturday night, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the White House had confirmed that dual citizens with a Canadian passport could travel to the U.S.

The next day, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen held a news conference to provide further assurance, advising that travellers with a passport from one of the seven affected countries can enter the U.S. if they have a valid Canadian permanent resident card. Hussen repeated that information in the House of Commons Monday.

"U.S. authorities have assured us very clearly that anyone with a Canadian passport and permanent resident card holders will be allowed entry into the United States," he said.

Demonstrators yell slogans during protest against the travel ban imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order, at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday. (Ted Soqui/Reuters)

But Mitch Goldberg, president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, worries that verbal directives may not be conveyed between state departments and frontline border officers.

He urged the federal government to seek assurance in writing in light of the mass confusion and lack of communication and coordination to date.

Until then, he said people from the seven affected countries should delay travel.

Travel concerns

"Dual nationals and permanent residents should be very careful and very cautious, and I would recommend for them not to be travelling to the U.S. until we get more clarity," he said.

Refugee lawyers, human rights and civil liberty groups are also calling on the federal government to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement.

B.C. NDP MP Jenny Kwan requested an emergency debate on the impact of a U.S. crackdown on immigration and travel. (CBC)

Under that pact, someone entering Canada through the U.S. to make a refugee claim at the border is returned to the U.S. based on an agreement that both countries consider each other "safe" for asylum-seekers.

"It means people from those seven countries won't have basic human rights and rights to protection," Goldberg said. "We don't think Canada should be respecting an agreement which is built on the foundation that both are safe for refugees."

Kwan said the emergency debate will allow parliamentarians to offer the government suggestions to develop a response strategy. In addition to providing shelter to asylum-seekers in need, she urged the government to lift the cap on privately sponsored refugees.

"Canada must do its part to address this urgent situation, and an emergency debate will greatly help begin that process," she said.