Why you should care
Because this is Trump’s new world order, but many of us are just traveling through.
One hour, 29 minutes. That’s how long it’ll take me to travel from Canadian soil to your backyard today. I do not want to go. On the surface, I feel like we’ve grown worlds apart — even though I fear otherwise.
On Saturday, our prime minister responded to your president’s executive orders banning certain citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations from traveling to your country by saying we will welcome refugees. On Sunday, more than 150 members of our tech community signed an open letter noting how “diversity is our strength,” and our workweek kicked off with the U.S. consulate in Toronto closed as hundreds gathered to protest your president’s new rules. Part of me is proud of our country’s stance. #WelcomeToCanada has a quaint, dreamlike ring to it, eh? It gels nicely with the image of Ahmed Hussen, who showed up here in the Great White North as a 16-year-old refugee from Somalia. Today he’s our minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship — sworn in just weeks before your new president included Somalia on his executive order.
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 28, 2017
But, soon, will we face economic threats of the kind our North American sister country (and NAFTA partner) has absorbed south of your border? If penalties are coming, where might they, combined with what some are calling our own failing economic policies (see: carbon tax), lead financially disenfranchised Canucks— especially struggling fisheries workers in the Maritimes and oil-industry employees in the traditionally conservative province of Alberta? Part of me is scared of the domestic backlash our multicultural stance might unleash: What happens if Kellie Leitch successfully taps into undercurrents of racism present in our provinces (see: Québec) and territories as the member of parliament tries to clinch leadership of the Conservative Party in May? Her populist platform includes screening immigrants and refugees for “anti-Canadian” values, and she’s patriotically proud of it.
READ this article where I discuss my proposal to screen immigrants for anti-Canadian values LIKE & SHARE if u agree https://t.co/kqUDdLdIZU
— Kellie Leitch (@KellieLeitch) September 7, 2016
I’m not a refugee, nor am I Muslim. But growing up in a small prairie town, I had a dream — one fed by my Indo-Canadian parents, who, like some others in their new home and native land, believed that to really make it big, you should move below the 49th parallel. America was seen as diverse, full of opportunity and the land of the free. Yep, as odd as it may sound in 2017, for some young Canucks, the ultimate Canadian dream was the American one.
I lived it, off and on for about a decade, starting with graduate school in the Big Apple before working a series of jobs that helped me amass a collection of visas and work permits like they were trading cards: F-1 (student), OPT (optional practical training), H-1B (full-time gig) and, most recently, the NAFTA-friendly TN (temporary entry). I followed your rules. I honeymooned in your wine country. I became a godfather to a boy in your Garden State, born to parents originally from England. And, yes, I paid my share of taxes too, even though that meant filling out an IRS form for “certain nonresident aliens” in my early days there — and knowing that if I ever lost my job, I’d need to pack up tout de suite, unable to collect unemployment benefits I had put money toward. But I gladly paid that price, and so much more, to live out my childhood dream in the States.
With the travel ban implemented recently, it seems more apt than ever for Canadians to restrict freedom of movement accordingly, in solidarity …
Josh Neufeld, University of Waterloo professor
As time went on, though, I grew more critical of your policies and stances on health care, education and LGBTQ rights, well aware of the growing divide created under the governments of both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. That’s why when time came to leave or apply for a green card, then, eventually, citizenship, I chose the former. I was craving a different kind of perspective, one beyond North America, and one that would allow me to push beyond my comfort zone. An opportunity arose to move to the Middle East; I took it. The Arab Spring became my classroom, and I learned about Muslim-majority countries that I frankly knew little to nothing about before I landed there. I eventually returned home — to Canada — which is certainly far from perfect, but as close to my kind of perfect that I know.
I spent last year helping our team at OZY cover the U.S. election with a Canadian perspective, following Donald Trump both on the campaign trail and at the Republican National Convention. This past weekend, though, I contemplated a personal travel boycott to the U.S., like the one our neighbor Josh Neufeld — a microbial ecologist and professor at the University of Waterloo — announced after your president’s inauguration speech. “Although boycotting travel to the United States has personal and professional costs to me, and to those I am now unable to visit in person, I think it is essential that this decision and its short-term costs be used to draw attention to unacceptable values and policies of a Trump administration,” Neufeld wrote to me before publishing this post. “With the travel ban implemented recently, it seems more apt than ever for Canadians to restrict freedom of movement accordingly, in solidarity with countless refugees and citizens of targeted Muslim countries.”
Difficult decision but I am boycotting all travel to the USA for four years under @POTUS. Apologies to seminar and conference organizers.
— Josh Neufeld (@joshdneufeld) January 21, 2017
Yet, for me, refusing to visit my neighbor after all this time just doesn’t feel right — not after all these years. So today, I will scan my brown-faced passport, board my flight and hope that in the 89 minutes it takes me to get from here to there that some new executive order doesn’t surprise me the way it did for Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi. This is Trump’s new world order, after all; we’re all just traveling through.
A Concerned Neighbor