The federal government moved to clear up confusion that surrounded a U.S. travel ban on citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries by announcing that Canadian citizens and permanent residents with roots in those countries can still cross the border.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said Sunday the White House has given assurances that permanent residents of Canada can enter the U.S. provided they have a valid Canadian permanent resident card and passport from one of the seven affected countries.
He said the White House also confirmed that dual citizens with a Canadian passport are allowed into the U.S. as well.
The confusion stemmed from an executive order signed Friday by President Donald Trump, which said that people from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Libya would be barred entry to the U.S. for three months.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen fields questions at a news conference in Wolfville, N.S. on Jan. 27, 2017. (Photo: Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)
It was initially unclear Saturday whether Canadians who are also citizens of the affected countries would be allowed to cross the U.S. border, as the State Department said that dual citizens were included in the ban.
U.S. officials have not publicly commented since on how the ban affects Canada. Instead, they are relaying their position through their Canadian counterparts.
Hussen held a news conference in Ottawa on Sunday to try to clear up some of the confusion created by the American ban.
Groups calling for stronger message from Ottawa
And while people in Canada with roots in the affected countries have expressed relief that they will still be able to enter the U.S., the policy still affects their family.
"After a couple of days of frustration in our community, this is promising news," said Bijan Ahmadi, president of the Iranian Canadian Congress.
He said he's glad to hear that both citizens and permanent residents are free to travel to the United States, but he's still waiting to hear something else from Canadian officials.
"As an organization, we strongly condemn this policy, and we believe that every politician in Canada — from different parties — should condemn the policy,'' he said.
"This is discrimination against people not because of any specific security threats that a specific person posed to the United States, but because of their race, background and religion," he added.
"After a couple of days of frustration in our community, this is promising news."
— Bijan Ahmadi, Iranian Canadian Congress
Hussen was asked at the news conference about why he hadn't denounced the order.
"Every country has the right to determine their policies. I can only tell you that we will continue our long-standing tradition of being open to those who seek sanctuary," he said.
He said Canada will provide temporary shelter to any people stranded because of the ban, but he noted that there are currently no people stuck in Canadian airports.
Canada won't raise number of refugees it will accept
He also noted that Canada will not raise the number of refugees it plans to accept — this year's target is 25,000 — in response to the ban, in spite of widespread speculation that tweets sent out by the prime minister suggested Canada would be accepting more people.
On Saturday afternoon, Justin Trudeau tweeted, "To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada."
Hussen said that, as always, cases would be evaluated by his ministry based on merit.