Canadian Ministers, mayors, and more give statements on tech open letter

Minister Navdeep Bains

Yesterday, BetaKit published an open letter from Canada’s tech community affirming its support for people of all races, religions, sexual identities, and mental and physical abilities. The letter was a response to US president Donald Trump’s executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations, and suspending refugee admissions for 120 days.

At the time of the letter’s publication on Sunday morning, it included 150 signatures from Canada’s tech leaders, including Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke, Vidyard CEO Michael Litt, and Wattpad founder Allen Lau. Since then, the letter — drafted and revised by the community — has grown to over 2,000 signatures, with over 1,000 companies signed.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen said in a press conference on Sunday that Canada would maintain its target of letting 300,000 immigrants into the country this year, rather than increasing these levels. Canada is also offering temporary residency permits to travelers stranded by the executive order, though Hussen said on Sunday that no one is stranded at its airports.

Many other government leaders across Canada have spoken out in response to the open letter. Below are their statements.

“I am aware of the open letter from the Canadian technology community. I remain a strong advocate of the role of diversity and inclusion in innovation. Canada has a proud tradition of welcoming immigrants and refugees, who make positive and lasting contributions to our country, including creating jobs for Canadians. With my cabinet colleagues, we continue to monitor the situation very closely. In the meantime, Canada will offer temporary residency to travellers who are stranded in this country as a result of the U.S. executive order.”

– Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development

“Part of the reason the Toronto-Waterloo technology sector is such a powerful force is the strength and diversity of its leadership, as demonstrated in todays’s open letter‎. As Mayor, I’m committed to supporting this sector and continuing to foster the inclusive, accepting culture that helps drive innovation in the Toronto Region. I will continue to work with all levels of government to make sure our country remains a safe haven for those in need, and a place of opportunity for people around the world.”

– Mayor John Tory, Toronto

“Today, the technology and innovation sectors within the Toronto – Waterloo Region corridor have once again demonstrated the strength of their diverse voices within Canada and around the world.

“As an immigrant and now mayor of Kitchener, the biggest city in Canada’s 10th largest metropolitan area, I am committed to working with the leadership of these sectors to ensure that our community and our country continues to be at the forefront of global innovation. Together with my colleagues in Waterloo Region, I will work with both the provincial and federal governments to make sure we continue to welcome and accept a diversity of people from around the world into our safe and inclusive communities.”

– Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, Kitchener

“As Mayor of Waterloo, I am so proud of our tech community for the open letter. The phrase “Diversity is our strength” is one that I often use, as products are now intended to serve the global community, and must embed cultural diversity within them, to be successful.

“The messaging in the Open Letter is exactly right. In Waterloo Region, we’ve been actively fostering “a sense of belonging” thanks to an initiative of the Kitchener-Waterloo Community Foundation that started a decade ago. Diversity is our strength, and everyone should feel they belong here.

“FYI, the local Mayors are working on a letter as well, as a response to the changes south of the border, and inspired by the open letter.”

– Mayor Dave Jaworsky, Waterloo

“Recent immigration policy changes in the United States undermine the work Vancouver does for diversity, inclusivity and being a welcoming, multicultural city. Vancouver’s Muslim community has a long history of helping those in need including opening a mosque to be an emergency winter shelter for the homeless during last month’s brutal cold snap.

“We’re proud to be the first city in Canada to bring in an Access Without Fear policy to guarantee that all residents – regardless of immigration status – have access to City services.”

Part of a statement from Mayor Gregor Robertson, Vancouver

“I am very proud of our tech community’s efforts to stand united against discrimination based on race, religion, and place of birth, and I join them in their call to reaffirm Canada’s inclusive and accepting nature.

“Their efforts are reflective of the rich diversity and acceptance we find in Ottawa’s tech sector and throughout our community. These prominent business leaders realized long ago that exceptional talent grows in every country around the world; that innovation and good ideas are not unique to our own backyards.

“I wholeheartedly agree with them: our community’s diverse workforce has only made us stronger, and we can only be strengthened by welcoming those who need it in their time of need. I commend Canada’s tech sector for their leadership on this matter.”

– Mayor Jim Watson, Ottawa

“I’m very proud of the Canadian tech community for taking this stand. Our success and strength as a community is rooted in our diversity and our commitment to pluralism and multiculturalism. As it becomes fashionable to close hearts and minds and borders, Calgary and Canada are prepared to be unfashionable.

“We will continue to be open to the world, open to all people, open to all ideas, and open for business. The unified message of the Canadian tech industry reflects the unified message of Canadians.”

– Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Calgary

“Over the past 24 hours, as the world has watched America’s borders be closed to refugees and chaos break out at airports and across diplomatic channels, closer to home, an organic tour de force within Canada’s tech community has been mobilized.

“Canadian tech workers, from all backgrounds and of all titles, have stood in solidarity against President Trump’s threats to the Canadian values of diversity, pluralism, and equality.

“The outpouring of support from Canada’s tech community is remarkable; we are seeing Canada at its best. In the face of adversity, of blatant discrimination, and of the horrific realities faced by refugees trying to start a new life, Canada’s tech community has spoken as one voice: diversity is our strength.

“CCI supports the noble efforts of Canada’s tech community, and stands behind all efforts to advance the rights of all refugees in this time of need.”

– Benjamin Bergen, executive director at CCI

– Brad Duguid, Ontario Minister of Economic Development & Growth

BetaKit has also reached out to Bardish Chagger (Minister of Small Business and Tourism), Denis Coderre (Mayor of Montreal), Ahmed Hussen (Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Tourism), and Ian McKay (CEO of the Vancouver Economic Commission).

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang

Freelance tech writer. Former BetaKit News Editor.

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