IMG_5439 by Ryan (CC BY 2.0)

IMG_5439 by Ryan (CC BY 2.0)


Never Again: A Comment on U.S. Immigration and The Need for a Canadian Response

This blog is normally limited to digital law and policy issues, such as privacy, copyright and the Internet. Not today. These are not normal times. The events in the United States over the past few days involving the creation of an executive order with a thinly-veiled Muslim ban demand a response. While some politicians have tried to avoid comment by arguing that this is an internal U.S. matter, the far-reaching implications for the world and for the millions of people whose lives are at stake does not allow for such an easy out. There may be a cost to Canada for speaking out – some have suggested that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should avoid angering U.S. President Donald Trump – but if so, it is a price worth paying.

With the exception of the indigenous peoples in Canada, we all trace our family history to immigration. In my case, I am the grandson of holocaust survivors and a family that fled the Nazis by running east to Siberia and beyond. Both families were largely wiped out. My grandfather’s wife and two children were murdered along with virtually all of his siblings, parents, and extended family members. He and my grandmother survived the concentration camps, met after the war, gave birth to my mother, and were given the opportunity to start a new life in Canada. The same is true for my father’s family, who also came to Canada in the early 1950s. My family story is not unique. Millions of Canadians can also tell stories of fleeing war, religious persecution, or searching for new economic opportunity. While we often think that it is health care or hockey that bind us, it is really our common story of a largely immigrant society searching for a better life for future generations.

Canada’s record of admitting Jews during the war, chronicled in the book None is Too Many, speaks to the incredible harm caused by immigration policies focused on race or religion (the same is true for those turned away by the U.S). To see some of this replicated in the U.S. in 2017 is exceptionally painful. I am proud of Prime Minister Trudeau, Jason Kenney, and the many premiers and mayors that have tweeted out Canada’s openness to refugees and immigration. The initial response from Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen indicating that Canada will permit temporary residence for anyone traveling to the U.S. that is left stranded is a good start, but much more is needed.

From the federal government, Canada should consider expanding our refugee target for 2017.  There are obviously cost and security constraints, but if the U.S. closes its doors, others will need to open theirs even further.

Moreover, the government should work closely with both the technology and education sectors to expand opportunities for foreign workers and students. Hundreds of people in the Canadian technology community have signed a public letter emphasizing that diversity is our strength and calling on the government to institute an immediate and targeted visa program for those displaced by the U.S. Executive Order. With the U.S. tech sector increasingly vocal in its opposition to the U.S. developments, Canada should stand ready to provide an alternative for global technology workers.

The news is also filled with reports of professors, researchers, and students that are blocked from entering or re-entering the United States. Canadian universities (including my own) have indicated a desire to explore accepting displaced professors and students. We should move quickly to offer visiting professorships as needed and partner with U.S. institutions to allow graduate students to continue their studies in Canada. There is a need to accommodate students that have yet to begin their studies and now find themselves blocked from doing so. Further, universities must consider whether they can continue participating in conferences and joint programs in the U.S. that may bar the participation of their own students.

But even more difficult will be the response to the U.S. government. In the weeks leading up to the inauguration of Donald Trump, there was much discussion about the need to create a team that would mesh well with the new president given the uncertainty of new trade talks and policies. No doubt a close relationship based on friendship and mutual self-interest is preferred. However, with Trump signing an executive order eliminating Privacy Act protections for Canadians, the Canadian government must now stand ready to re-consider information sharing programs with the U.S. With Trump signalling his support for torture, the Canadian government must be ready to stop programs that could implicate Canadians in the same activity. With Trump instituting immigration policies that run counter to fundamental values of equality, the Canadian government must be prepared to say so. And when words are not enough, we must be ready to act.


  1. Always on point.

  2. no irsh, jews or blacks.
    the armed camp and neighborhood watch.

    mostly death by gossip. Put up more (public) cameras, Ok?

    oh, I’m 4th gen CN irish. worked there myself; live in a a highly muslim neighborhood. I’d put more cameras up…

    (The above link is worth a gander, by the way, You’ll like it.).


  3. At this point, I’m strongly recommending US companies with suddenly-stateless employees send them to Canada: we’re nearby, in compatable timezones and have historically good relations with the US.

  4. Thank you for sharing your story, Michael. Indeed, these are not normal times — quiet diplomacy will only get us so far. And now, waking up to hear about the Quebec mosque shooting, I find myself struggling to believe that all this is, in fact, reality and not one terrible, dragging nightmare..

  5. Brian Landon says:

    Before the anti-Trump Hysteria, some facts NOT being reported by the main stream media and being touted by special interest group.


    And if you actually do some reading, you’ll discover the same information on US government websites /

    • That’s a true fact and has been reported. No one is debating that. Hysteria for example is saying other countries are stealing your jobs, when we know that 7/8 of those jobs are being taken by technology. Hysteria is broadly assigning different cultures extreme characterists, such as saying they are rapists and then stating your intent in blackmailing a country into paying for a wall that won’t work. Hysteria is saying global warming is a hoax despite the entire scientific community agreeing that it’s real. Hysteria is saying America should torture “waterboarding and worse” people and keep open an illegal detention center that goes against UN resolutions. Concern is called for. Hysteria denounced. You sure you know where it’s coming from?

  6. Keith Douglas says:

    (Long time lurker, but I felt moved to post this time.)

    Thank you for your moral and professional courage, Professor Geist. May we have many more like you.

  7. James Fernandes says:

    I strongly disagree with you on this, Michael. It is the president’s duty to protect his people from harm. It makes no sense for a country to take the risk of accepting people from extremist hotbeds. How it that good for the native population? If immigration is needed to support the economy, why not look at places without those problems? There are one billion Chinese people that could be accepted, and they come without the terrorist and Islamic risks.

    Furthermore, President Trump has not instituted an indefinite ban. This is temporary; it will last until vetting measures are put in place to ensure that people can be properly screened. This seems like common sense to me. I do not understand the outrage.

    As a Canadian, I am saddened that we have such a weak PM who does not put the interests of Canadians first. Seeing blog posts like this one, it is quite apparent that there is a strong contingent of progressive Canadian thinkers who operate in a bubble that is rife full of virtue signaling and naivety. Here’s hoping you reconsider.

    • Devil's Advocate says:

      So, in other words, you’ve bought into the “War on Terror” and the anti-Muslim BS that goes along with it, and believe you can call yourself a “progressive Canadian thinker”?!

      In the words of your new hero… “Sad!”

      • James Fernandes says:

        You are wrong. It is not BS. Take a look at what’s happening in Germany. Huge increases in thefts, rapes and other crimes since the influx of migrants. Take a look at what’s happened in Sweden over the last number of years . Sweden is now the rape capital of the western world. Stop peddling your politically correct drivel and call a spade a spade. Don’t believe me? Google it.

        Our PM is an air head. He espouses empty platitudes such as “diversity is our strength.” This needs to be implemented in Canada asap. The fact that Canadian tax dollars are being use to bring problems to our land disgusts me. All of these Islamic refugee apologists should have to take the refugees directly into their home. Then they can let us know how that works out for them.

        If you don’t like it, keep crying. I will enjoy the next 4 years watching you bitch and moan while positive changes unfold.

    • First off, Great blog post Michael. It is time that good people stand up for what is right.

      Very sad too see a response like this to your blog post. Absolutely nothing progressive about your views. So closed minded.

      If this was about banning people from countries with Extremist views then why are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan not on the list, these are the countries the 9/11 hijackers came from. Also no country that Trump’s business’s owns property in or does business with is on this list such as United Arab Emirates.

      But Trump doesn’t want to anger his Saudi friends, couldn’t do that. And he sure doesn’t want to interfere with his business interests, can’t have that.

      I am confident that you do not represent the majority of Canadians who are not afraid of people just because they have a different skin color or practice a different religion.

      You say our PM is weak, He is PM to the whole country, not just White Christians.

      Our country needs to stand up too Trump and show the world that not all western countries share his views.

      NEVER AGAIN!!!!!!!!

      • Devil's Advocate says:

        “…why are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan not on the list, these are the countries the 9/11 hijackers came from. ”

        That’s if there even were any hijackers.

        To this day, we’ve yet to see proof of:
        – the “19 hijackers” (7 of which turned up alive)
        – the actual flights involved (Part numbers for specific flights were never verified, and flight numbers were on record still making flights after 9/11. )
        – actual passenger planes (all witness accounts reported “military” or similar. Even supposed new footage failed to illustrate planes from AA or UA.)
        – participation from anyone in the Middle East (Osama bin Laden even went on record stating he had no hand in it.)

        The world was lied to about 9/11, just as they’ve been lied to about everything from Vietnam and Pearl Harbour to Iran’s “weapons of mass destruction”.

        The reason why the Saudis and others were not included is because they are a few of the “allies” used by the U.S. to keep the Middle East in turmoil. The States sells $billions in weapons to the Saudis, which is then supplied to “rebel” forces in places like Yemen and Syria, in order to attempt “regime change” in those countries.

  8. Devil's Advocate says:

    The U.S. has been illegally warring and interfering with countless countries, in their quest for “regime change”, control of oil, and empire. Their military forces are all over the globe, and the chaos they’ve unleashed on the world has resulted in millions of deaths and millions of refugees.

    This, while everyone else is expected to deal with the resulting refugees caused by the Americans’ insane “missions”. I don’t get why the whole international community isn’t taking the U.S. to court by now, and holding this criminal enterprise responsible.

  9. Prof Geist, Thank you for your story and call for response. Lowell Winger (BTW, almost two decades ago we co-taught a UOttawa SITE course.)

  10. Professor Geist: I’ve been following you, professionally (ISP world) for quite some time, now; The moral strength and justness of your post further reinforces why it has always been such a good idea to pay attention to your words. Thank you, sir!


  11. Given the apparently Muslim-on-Muslim terrorist attack we just had, your timing couldn’t be worse.

    • Get the Facts says:

      Not that it matters, but reports indicate that there is a single suspect shooter. Not Muslim, but a known antagonizer of Muslims online and a Trump supporter.

    • By12:42 EST , the suspect was identified as Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, a rabid anti-immigrant nationalist. You were a little behind…

  12. Look carefully everyone. We are conflating issues. A country wants to take pause and review its immigration procedures. The executive order doesn’t have to do with not respecting or not wanting diversity. It is not about stopping immigration. It is about reflecting on the current immigration process.

  13. “I am proud of Prime Minister Trudeau, Jason Kenney, and the many premiers and mayors that have tweeted out Canada’s openness to refugees and immigration.” Acknowledged. I do not have a family history of hell, such as Michael’s, that I know of. One side of my family derived from United Empire Loyalists. No biggy. They had ships and the freedom to simply said into Ontario and settle in Oshawa. So what. I acknowledge Trudeau’s tweet reaction. That’s all. I could never be proud of a leader who smiles in a group photo with nazis and whose ministers eagerly do selfies with war criminals like Henry Kissinger. If you weren’t “proud,” Michael, would your point be any less appropriate and welcome? I say ‘no’.

  14. My bad. That should have been ‘simply sailed into Ontario’.

  15. Lorraine King says:

    Excellent editorial!

  16. I’m with Michael on this one. Let’s not buy into the American propaganda. We can do better.

  17. Craig Wilson says:

    Put in a post of reply to one right wing denier comment above, but it seems to have disappeared. The tactic of distorting an incident to rationalize right wing exclusionary views has been refuted consistently by the facts on the ground. The brave stances by Germany and Sweden to take on relatively far more refugees than Canada, has been demonstrated already to be a forward looking decision to boost long term growth and productivity; while most ‘terrorist’ incidents continue to be perpetrated by home grown destabilizers. Pandering by Trump about supposed Swedish problems yesterday in Orlando got firm pushback today (
    Heartily endorse continued firm stand on transparency and accountability by Prof Geist, whether IP foibles of digital globalization, or covert racism and exclusionary animus of distorted fear stories about immigration.

  18. So, in other words, you’ve bought into the “War on Terror” and the anti-Muslim BS that goes along with it, and believe you can call yourself a “progressive Canadian thinker”?!