WASHINGTON — As the world processed the impact of President Donald Trump's immigration and visa orders Saturday, tens of thousands of Canadian citizens — possibly including the country's immigration minister — were told they were suddenly barred from entering Canada's closest neighbor and ally.
Trump's executive action signed Friday bans citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days, even if they are also citizens of another nation. Trump's actions on Friday also suspended the entire US refugee program for four months and indefinitely halted the resettlement of Syrian refugees.
The bans caused mass confusion on Saturday as dual citizens and governments across the globe tried to assess the full impact of Trump's actions on international travel and immigration systems.
But in a statement released late Saturday night, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the White House had reassured his office that Canadians would not be affected by the ban after all.
"I understand that the press gallery, like the Canadian public, is seeking clarity on the executive order issued by President Trump," wrote PMO spokesperson Kate Purchase. "Senior officials have been working to seek clarity for Canadians from the US Department of Homeland Security and US Department of Transportation, amongst other counterparts."
Purchase said Daniel Jean, Trudeau's national security advisor, had been in touch with his American counterpart, Michael Flynn, throughout the day "to seek further clarification."
"NSA Flynn confirmed that holders of Canadian passports, including dual citizens, will not be affected by the ban," Purchase said. "We have been assured that Canadian citizens travelling on Canadian passport will be dealt with in the usual process."
The PMO did not immediately say why Canadians sharing citizenship with one of the seven barred countries will be excluded from the ban.
There were 35,000 Canadians who shared citizenship with Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya or Yemen in 2011, according to Statistics Canada data. Another 75,000 people born in those countries live in Canada but are not full Canadian citizens.
Those numbers all come from the 2011 census and would all-but-certainly be higher today. The 2016 census data will start to be released next month.
One person who was thought to be potentially affected by the travel ban was Ahmed Hussen, who was appointed Canada's minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship earlier this month. Hussen came to Canada as a Somali refugee in 1993. He eventually became a lawyer and human rights activist before being elected as a member of Parliament in 2015.
Earlier on Saturday, the Prime Minister's Office told BuzzFeed News it was "not concerned about the ability of the Minister to travel." But it was unclear whether Hussen would only be able to travel to the US using a diplomatic passport while on government business.
As news of Trump's bans spread Saturday, Hussen tweeted from a citizenship ceremony he was attending.
Trudeau has not directly addressed the immigration ban, but also tweeted a message that appeared to respond to Trump's executive actions.
Meanwhile, Canadian airlines stopped allowing passport holders from the seven listed countries to board flights to to the US, even if they had green cards or visas.
Canada and the US share the longest undefended border in the world. Tens of thousands of trucks and hundreds of thousands of people cross the border every day. Passports were not even needed to drive across the border until after the 9/11 attacks.
The ban could have significantly affected trade and the mobility of Canadian citizens. Transport Canada spokesperson Delphine Denis had said the department was in touch with US officials "to get more information on the impacts."
The ban also runs contrary to the worldview Trudeau has championed. Whereas Trump has banned all refugees from entering the US for 120 days, one of Trudeau's first acts in office was drastically increasing the number of Syrian refugees coming to Canada.
Trudeau is reportedly planning on talking to Trump about Canada's refugee resettlement program in the near future.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley echoed Trudeau's tweets on Saturday, saying her province would continue to welcome "those seeking refuge."
Brad Wall, the conservative premier of Saskatchewan who often butts heads with Trudeau, went a step further than Notley, saying that his province is ready to help the federal government with "anyone stranded by the US ban."
Jason Kenney, Canada's former Conservative immigration minister, also called upon the federal government to assist those affected by Trump's executive actions.
"This is not about national security," Kenney tweeted. "It is a brutal, ham-fisted act of demagogic political theatre. Now we are hopelessly polarized between the false choice of open-border naïveté and xenophobia."
Michael Chong, a leadership candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada, also appeared to take aim at Trump's executive action on Saturday night.
The Canadian Immigration, Foreign Affairs, and Public Safety departments did not respond to a request for comment.
Paul McLeod is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Paul McLeod at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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