Advocates urge Canada to step up after Trump's refugee halt
Immigration advocates are urging Canada to open its doors to more asylum-seekers following sweeping action by U.S. President Donald Trump to restrict them.
“Canada needs to take the opposite route to show that we’re opposed to discrimination (and) that we are welcoming towards refugees,” Janet Dench, executive direction of the Canadian Council for Refugees, told CTV News.
On Friday, Trump signed an executive order imposing a 120-day suspension on the entire U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, a move aiming to keep “radical Islamic terrorists” out of the country.
"We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas," Trump told the crowd gathered at the Pentagon. "We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people."
The order also imposes a 90-day ban on all entry to the U.S from Muslim-majority countries such as Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen and an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria.
Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration is likely to make the often perilous task of finding a new home more difficult for some of the 65 million people displaced by conflict and political crises worldwide.
On Friday alone, around 1,000 asylum-seekers were rescued during nine different rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea.
Under former president Barack Obama, the U.S. was scheduled to accept 110,000 refugees in the 2017 fiscal year.
“The impact is absolutely huge – incalculable -- in terms of what this is going to mean for refugees around the world,” Dench said.
That’s why advocates are urging countries like Canada to accept those turned away by the U.S.
“Whatever Trump is going to do with the American immigration policy is going to have an equal and opposite effect on what happens on our Canadian border to the north of the United States,” said immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann.
Canada, advocates say, has proven that it is up to the task, despite the strain this might cause on resources.
“Obviously our system is only resourced to a certain capacity, so it’s going to mean that people who are already in the system are going to have to wait longer for their hearings, but eventually even they will get their hearing and they will be given a fair decision,” said Toronto-based immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges.
Since November of 2015, Canada has settled nearly 40,000 Syrian refugees -- more than double the 16,000 refugees accepted into the U.S. during the same time.
So far, the federal government says it isn’t planning to make any changes to Canada’s refugee policy in response to Trump’s actions, but emphasized its commitment to staying open to newcomers.
“We view diversity as being our strength,” Immigration Minister Ahmen Hussen said at a news conference in Nova Scotia on Friday. “We’ll continue to pursue that policy and we’ll make sure that we keep our tradition of being open and welcoming to newcomers.”
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations announced on Friday that it will challenge Trump’s moves in court.
With a report from CTV’s Omar Sachedina and files from The Associated Press