As It Happens

Vermont city clerk extends invitation to Canadian turned back at U.S. border

After our interview with a Muslim woman who was turned away from the U.S. border, a local official in Montpelier, Vt., offers to show her around his city and buy her lunch. As it Happens guest host Helen Mann speaks with City Clerk John Odum.
Earlier this week, Canadian citizen Fadwa Alaoui, left, told As It Happens how she was turned away by U.S. border officials. City clerk John Odum, right, says she's welcome in Vermont. (Left: Salimah Shivji, Right: John Odum)

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After a Canadian woman was turned away from the U.S. border, a city official in Vermont has offered to give her a tour of his city and buy her lunch.

Montpelier City Clerk John Odum says he was "furious, embarrassed and depressed" after learning what happened to Fadwa Alaoui — a Moroccan-born Canadian citizen who lives in Quebec.

Fadwa Alaoui, a Canadian citizen, told CBC she was turned away from the U.S. border after being asked detailed questions about her religion and her views on U.S. President Donald Trump. (Fadwa Alaoui)
"It shocked me. It embarrassed me. It horrified me. But, I honestly cannot say it surprised me. I almost wish I could. Given the rhetoric, given the political environment we find ourselves in, I think I would be foolish to have been surprised," Odum tells As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.

This past weekend, Alaoui and her family were trying to cross into the U.S. to do some shopping, but they were not allowed through.

On Wednesday, she told As It Happens that border officials questioned her for hours — asking her about her religion and her thoughts on U.S. President Donald Trump. Alaoui, who is Muslim, said officials also questioned her about prayers that she had on her phone.

After he heard this interview, Odum sent an email to the show with the hopes of getting in touch with Alaoui and inviting her to Vermont.

In the email, which is posted below, Odum wrote, "Obviously, I can't guarantee they'd let her through, but I'd be happy to drive up to the border myself to meet her. After an official invitation from a municipal official, it would make an even bigger stink if they pulled this on her again."

An As It Happens producer reached out to Alaoui after receiving Odum's email. Alaoui said she would consider the offer.

I'd also just express my sincere apologies of what she and her family were put through.- Montpelier City Clerk John Odum

In response, Odum said, "That's very flattering and humbling that she would even consider my offer. Certainly, there's no pressure to come down and visit. But, if you do… I think you'll find the populous of Montpelier, and Vermont, happy to host you, happy to have you. I'd also just express my sincere apologies of what she and her family were put through — just at a personal level."  

Here's the email As It Happens received from John Odum on Friday afternoon:

Hello,

Like a lot of folks on Vermont, I'm furious about the incident at the border with Fadwa Alaoui, but I also feel powerless to do anything about it. It occurs to me, though, that as an elected official in the capital of Vermont (even if I am just an elected bureaucrat!), maybe I could make more than my share of a fuss if I wanted to.

To that end, I was thinking about extending a personal invitation to Fadwa and her family to come to Montpelier, where my wife and I could show them around the city and even buy them lunch, just to make the point that most of us down here are on her side (my wife is the Director of the Vermont Commission on Women… I haven't run this idea by her yet, but I'm sure she'd be into it). Obviously, I can't guarantee they'd let her through, but I'd be happy to drive up to the border myself to meet her. After an official invitation from a municipal official, it would make an even bigger stink if they pulled this on her again.

So, anyway- I can't figure out how to contact her! I thought I might reach out to you after your interview in the hopes that you could send me her contact info, or even pass my email along...

Thanks. Difficult times, to be sure.

John Odum

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