Dear Prime Minister,
As a native-born, Canadian male who happens to be married to an immigrant male who once fled a military dictatorship, I was heartened by your initial response to the U.S. ban on our Muslim neighbours. “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war,” you Tweeted, “Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada”. Such admirable sentiment, however, is not enough to prevent injustice unless backed up with policy.
Efforts to expedite visa and refugee applications from the seven countries affected by the ban would be seriously undermined, if not rendered impossible, by the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). That agreement, which has banned Canadian applications from refugees who have traveled through or in the United States since 2004, will block untold numbers of Muslims in this category while forcing many of them, and others, to attempt a riskier path into Canada. So I am calling on the federal government to revoke this agreement immediately.
Under your leadership, Canada has stated that we have a moral obligation to refugees, and specifically Muslims. But the urgency of this obligation will only increase as our U.S. and global neighbours continue to suffer the effects of Donald Trump’s racist executive orders. As Canadians, we must show our moral leadership by offering refuge to both American Muslims and Muslims abroad at once.
I understand the government’s desire for Canada to continue working with the U.S. based on our traditional relationship as allies. But given the license for official bigotry with which this new U.S. president presumes to govern, it seems ridiculous understatement to call these extraordinary times. At such moments in history, human decency requires that we choose the hopeful path of building bridges and opening doors rather than submitting to the grimness of fear and ignorance that can lead a lost nation to erect walls and fortresses. Shrugging off the injustice of the latter option is, I hope you will agree, not a morally acceptable position for Canada.