Amid the chaos of Trump's illegal ban on refugee claimants and other migrants from Muslim-majority nations, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted "To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada."
Observers at the time noted that Trudeau's tweet was long on feel-good rhetoric, short on meaningful action. Canada has an agreement with the USA that prevents refugee claimants that the US rejects from trying again in Canada before being deported back to their home countries where they face imprisonment, torture and death.
Trudeau's government was given the opportunity to revise this policy, allowing refugee claimants rejected by Trump to have their claims heard in Canada. They did not make this revision.
The National Post used public records request to measure the effect of this ultimately empty rhetoric on refugee claimants around the world and discovered that Trudeau's message created chaos everywhere, but especially -- and most cruelly -- in countries that the Trump administration had blacklisted.
Consular staff and immigration authorities sent urgent messages seeking clarity on the meaning of Trudeau's tweet, as they were bombarded with queries from prospective migrants and refugees.
An IRCC official told diplomats on Feb. 2 that the lines, approved by the Privy Council Office, were also being shared with officials at the Canada Border Services Agency. The suggested response started with: “We are working with the United Nations Refugee Agency, U.S. officials and our missions abroad to clarify the current situation and determine what our next steps might be.”
Trudeau ultimately stood by the message in his tweet but began adding, during public appearances, that “there are steps to go through” to be considered a refugee. Canada did not change the number of refugees it would accept through resettlement programs. But Conservative politicians would go on to blame the tweet for encouraging an uptick in irregular crossings by asylum seekers at the Canada-U.S. border, particularly in Manitoba and Quebec.
Trudeau tweet caused influx of refugee inquiries, confusion within government, emails reveal [Marie-Danielle Smith/National Post]
(Image: Lorie Shaull, CC-BY-SA)