Canada's Response to Trump Immigration Ban

The emergency debate on Canada's response to President Donald Trump's immigration ban took place on the evening of January 31, 2017 in the House of Commons. My colleagues and I rose to present a very clear action plan for the Canadian government to take. During the debate, including in my opening speech (see video below), I outlined the actions New Democrats would like to see the government immediately take:

1. Lift the cap on privately sponsored refugee applications for 2017

The refugee sponsorship community has gone above and beyond to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis. The outpouring of support, fundraising, organizing, and willingness to help support refugee families fleeing violence and persecution has made so many of us proud to be Canadian. This incredible enthusiasm—this desire to do more—has not subsided. The government should be encouraging and facilitating the humanitarian spirit of these groups, not insisting on an arbitrary cap on sponsorship applications.

2. Fast track refugees whose claims have been cleared in the U.S. or were nearing completion

Countless families have spent years languishing in refugee camps, waiting for resettlement. For those who had previously been accepted for resettlement in the United States, this discriminatory ban leaves them in devastating limbo. In addition to lifting the cap on private sponsorship applications, Canada should fast-track applications that are approved or are in their final stages.

3. Work with the global community to address the shortfall in refugee resettlement

Canada has a duty on the global stage to not just step up, but to work closely with our international partners to ensure these humanitarian shortfalls do not go unaddressed. Lives are at stake.

4. Immediately suspend Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S.

This agreement stipulates that Canada and the US are safe countries for refugees and that, as such, refugee claimants should make their claim in the first of the two countries they reach. This clearly requires confidence in the other country’s record for refugee rights and human rights, yet Trump's discriminatory ban shows that Canada can no longer trust in the US as a safe haven for refugees. My colleagues and I have received an overwhelming number of emails and phone calls from Canadians telling us that they, too, no longer have confidence that the American refugee system meets this threshold.

In addition, since the ban came into force Canada’s leading immigration law and advocacy groups have echoed this message. Statements and open letters written by Amnesty International, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Quebec Association of Immigration Lawyers (ADAAQI), and over 200 of Canada's law professors, just to name a few have called for Safe Third Country Agreement to be suspended.

5. Secure greater assurances for those travelling from Canada into the U.S. who are concerned about crossing the border

Since the passing of the executive order there has been significant concern and confusion amongst Canadian dual-nationals and permanent residents regarding travel to the United States. Despite stated assurances the ban did not apply to Canadian citizens or Canadian permanent residents, there are reports of Canadians being denied entry. During the government’s press conference on January 29 even Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) representatives expressed confusion over how the executive orders would impact Canadians. The government must therefore act immediately to ensure Canadians can travel to the United States with peace of mind.

This action plan presents a clear path forward based on good policy and the values—love, diversity, acceptance, and hope—that Canadians hold dear.