Canadian Immigration Minister Will Do ‘Opposite’ Of U.S.

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
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While Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has adopted a low-key response to Canadian immigration in the last week, his immigration minister has declared an open door policy for immigrants and refugees.

Ahmed Hussen told CBC Radio’s “The House” on Friday night that Canada will continue to take “the opposite approach” of countries like the United States when it comes to its border and travel policy.

Last weekend, one of Trudeau’s tweets suggested Canada would not turn down anyone “fleeing persecution, terror & war” because “Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength.” Despite this, for the last week he has refused to criticize President Donald Trump’s temporary halt of immigration from foreign nationals traveling from seven countries, sticking to a talking point of “I will defend Canadian values.”

Hussen was born in Somalia, one of the countries subject to Trump’s travel freeze, and has increasingly been strident in his criticism of U.S. policy.

“As more and more countries are taking a different approach, of closing their borders, or not being open to new people or ideas, we’ve chosen the opposite approach, which is being open to ideas, being open to people, being open to talent, being open to skills and investments and we’ll continue to have that tradition,” he said.

Hussen made the comments on the same day that a report released from his own department showed that 310 undesirables tried — ranging from terrorists to war criminals — were caught at the Canadian border in 2016.

Hussen resurrected Trudeau’s week-old tweet, which the prime minister has yet to clarify as a policy directive or a simple message of goodwill. “I think the prime minister expressed the clear sentiments of Canadians. It was an expression of our progressive tradition of being an open country, a welcoming country,” said Hussen, who came to Canada as refugee himself.

“We spread that message throughout the world, not just to one country. We have programs in place to attract and retain skilled immigrants and international students and we will work harder to do that. We will also continue to remain committed to being an open country to those seeking protection.”

In a debate in the House of Commons earlier in the week, Hussen vowed that Canada will not budge on this year’s quota of accepting 40,000 refugees. That angered Conservative Party immigration critic Michelle Rempel who said the Liberal government has “failed to prioritize” its refugee policy and should be first rescuing those most vulnerable to genocide.

Hussen said he is also looking into reports that some Canadians with easy border access Nexus cards might have them revoked.

“We’re working very, very closely with our American counterparts. There is rightly some concern expressed by Canadians and permanent residents,” he said.

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