January 26, 2017 9:59 pm
Updated: January 26, 2017 11:52 pm

How Donald Trump’s immigration policies could impact Canada

A Halifax immigration lawyer says Donald Trump's policies could be a "brain gain" for Canada.

The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck
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An immigration lawyer in Halifax says her office has been getting more and more calls from Americans and people in the U.S. seeking options to move out.

READ MORE: Haligonians react to Donald Trump presidency

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Several of them work on both sides of the border by virtue of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), an agreement President Donald Trump has said he will renegotiate.

“That makes people uneasy,” Liz Wozniak told Global News Thursday.

She said there is concern over whether people with current work visas will lose their visas or face other difficulties.

Only one week into Trump’s presidency, Wozniak said it may be too soon for people to start thinking about moving.

“At this point we’re telling those people generally, stay put, you’re not a refugee to Canada yet,” Wozniak said.

She added that her office has also fielded calls from people belonging to religious minorities, as well as members of the LGBTQ community.

VIDEO: Trump immigration policies could impact Canada

Wozniak said there was “irony” in the expected executive orders that would block visas to people from countries including Syria, Iraq and Somalia

“[The order] actually almost mirrors our Canadian list of moratoriums on removal countries,” Wozniak said. “So where they’re banning entry to the U.S. for those certain countries, we’re actually banning the removal of people to those countries because there’s a humanitarian crisis happening over there.”

Some people often get into the U.S. with a visa before heading into Canada to seek refugee protection, Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, told Global News.

“Some of them are at risk of life and limb because of conditions crossing in the winter,” Dench said.

Dench added that people have to sneak in because of the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which can require claimants at the border to request protection in what is considered the first “safe” country they arrive in.

She said there are also an estimated 11 million people living without citizenship status in the U.S., a number that could change depending on Trump’s new policies.

READ MORE: Donald Trump’s move to halt immigration from 7 Muslim-majority countries sparks furor

“So if only a small proportion of those decide they need to seek protection in Canada, then that could make a big impact in terms of claims in Canada,” Dench said.

Canada’s immigration minister Ahmed Hussen said in an interview he wouldn’t “prejudge the United States administration” in terms of their policies, but he said immigration for Canada is something they value.

“We value immigrants as driving our economic growth and, at the same time, being open to the concept of providing sanctuary and refuge for those who seek protection,” Hussen said.

While Canada waits to see how the U.S.’s new policies impact immigration and other issues, Wozniak says the change could result in a so-called “brain gain.”

“I think this could actually be a really good thing for Canada,” Wozniak said. “Canada’s kind of a beacon of security and stability and protection of human rights, respect for people of all different walks of life, so I think this could be very good.

“Not necessarily for the right reasons but I think it’s potentially a positive for Canada if we can gain some well-educated contributing citizens, great.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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