Canada says refugees welcome despite US ban

Canada's prime minister Pierre Trudeau also said he would speak to US President Donald Trump about the success of Canada's refugee program.

Chris Bolin/Reuters
Canada's prime minister Pierre Trudeau on Tuesday.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a message for refugees rejected by U.S. President Donald Trump: Canada will welcome you.

He says he also intends to talk to Trump about the success of Canada's refugee policy.

Trudeau reacted to Trump's visa ban for people from certain Muslim-majority countries by tweeting Saturday: "To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada."

Trudeau also posted a picture of him greeting a Syrian child at Toronto's airport in late 2015. Trudeau oversaw the arrival of more than 39,000 Syrian refugees soon after he was elected.

A spokeswoman for Trudeau said he has a message for Trump.

"The Prime Minister is looking forward to discussing the successes of Canada's immigration and refugee policy with the President when they next speak," spokeswoman Kate Purchase told The Associated Press.

Trudeau is expected to the visit the White House soon.

The prime minister has refrained from criticizing Trump to avoid offending the new president. Canada wants to avoid becoming a target like Mexico has. More than 75 percent of Canada's exports go to the U.S.

Brad Wall, the conservative premier of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, offered his support to Trudeau.

"Sask has welcomed approx 2000 refugees this past year," Wall posted on Twitter. "We stand ready to assist fed gov't re: anyone stranded by the US ban."

Toronto Mayor John Tory also weighed in, noting that the city is the most diverse in the world.

"We understand that as Canadians we are almost all immigrants, and that no one should be excluded on the basis of their ethnicity or nationality," Tory said in a statement.

Trump signed a sweeping executive order Friday that he billed as a necessary step to stop "radical Islamic terrorists" from coming to the U.S. Included is a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen and a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee program.

Trump's order singled out Syrians for the most aggressive ban, ordering that anyone from that country, including those fleeing civil war, are indefinitely blocked from coming to the United States.

White House National Security adviser Michael Flynn told Canada's national security adviser that holders of Canadian passports, including dual citizens, will not be affected by the ban, Purchase said.

"We have been assured that Canadian citizens traveling on Canadian passports will be dealt with in the usual process," Purchase said.

Trudeau later posted the statement on Twitter with the hashtag "ACanadianIsACanadian."

Earlier the U.S. State Department said that Canadians with dual citizenship from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Libya would be denied entry for the next three months.

The Syrian refugee crisis became a major issue in Canada's election in late 2015 because of the haunting image of a drowned 3-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach. The boy had relatives in Canada. Tima Kurdi, the aunt of the boy who became a symbol of the Syrian refugee crisis, called the U.S. ban on Syrian refugees inhumane and said she was proud of Canada.

Trudeau's tweet quickly received more than 150,000 likes. "Welcome to Canada" trended on social media in the country.

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