The heart of tech is coming to the heart of the Mediterranean. Join TNW in València this March 🇪🇸

This article was published on January 29, 2017

Canada’s startup community slam Trump’s travel ban

Canada’s startup community slam Trump’s travel ban
Matthew Hughes
Story by

Matthew Hughes

Former TNW Reporter

Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Follow him on Twi Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Follow him on Twitter.

The Canadian tech community has issued an open letter criticizing the decision by the Trump administration to ban passport holders from seven Muslim-majority countries – namely Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen.

The letter – which has been signed by hundreds of Canadian entrepreneurs, CEOs, and technology leaders – condemns the “marginalization of people based upon their race or religion” and affirms the belief that pluralistic, open societies produce more innovation.

The Canadian tech community comprises many different nationalities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, mental and physical abilities, and perspectives. We believe that this diversity is a source of strength and opportunity.

On this topic, we are united.

Canadian tech companies understand the power of inclusion and diversity of thought, and that talent and skill know no borders. In choosing to hire, train, and mentor the best people in the world, we can build global companies that grow our economy. By embracing diversity, we can drive innovation to benefit the world.

The 21st century will be driven by pluralistic economies powered by pluralistic societies.

The letter also calls on the Canadian government to intervene by introducing a temporary visa specifically for those displaced by Trump’s executive order.

The Canadian tech community also calls on the Canadian federal government to institute an immediate and targeted visa providing those currently displaced by the US Executive Order with temporary residency in Canada. This visa would allow these residents to live and work in Canada with access to benefits until such time as they can complete the application process for permanent residency if they so choose.

Many of the signatories to the letter have shared their own stories of how they came to Canada, either as an immigrant or a refugee. Michael Serbinis, CEO of healthcare startup LEAGUE INC, said:

“I am here because Canada admitted my Father (and not the US) who was leaving civil war torn Greece for hope of a better life. Macedonians were persecuted by the Greek government, and while he did have a hard time leaving the country, Canada welcomed him with open arms. I’m here for that reason. I’d like to help someone like my Father today. The principle of inclusion, acceptance of diversity, living in harmony with people of all walks – these are Canadian values, they are our values. This is a time to speak up loudly, and act vigourously. I’m happy to do my part.”

Hongwei Liu, CEO of MappedIn, added:

“I was born in China and moved to Ottawa when I was 7. The best part about our country is that if you come looking for a better life (like my parents did), you’re welcomed. And from that I got a better education, life, and now a chance to build my own business. Trump’s policies mean the American Dream may now be emigrating for elsewhere.”

In recent years, the Canadian startup scene has increased in visibility, largely thanks to the stratospheric growth of so-called ‘narwhal’ companies like Slack, HootSuite, and Shopify. This is in addition to the countless smaller startups that don’t get as much attention, yet still do interesting stuff. Companies like Atomic AI, Rumble Video, and LEAGUE INC.

Ironically, Trump’s reprehensible Muslim ban will likely be of benefit the Canadian technology scene. In addition to a sizable amount of homegrown talent, which is nurtured in top colleges like McGill University, the University of Toronto, and McMaster University, Canada has also shown an openness to foreign tech workers and entrepreneurs.

Abdullah Snobar, Executive Director of Ryerson University’s in-house accelerator, expressed his concern about the executive order, saying:

“The Canadian tech community is inclusive, diverse and conscientious. At the DMZ, we’re greatly concerned about the impact of this order and any proposals that would marginalize a group of people. As a united tech community, we’ll continue to make our views on these issues heard.”

Canada also boasts one of the world’s most successful visa programs aimed squarely at attracting early-stage technology companies. Every year, around 250 thousand people emigrate to Canada, all of whom have contributed to a prosperous and diverse society.

Navid Nathoo, founder of the Box-acquired AirPost, and current CEO of The Knowledge Society said:

Our future as a global community relies on building pluralistic economies, for which Canada has become a clear role model. It is based on the belief that together we are stronger, regardless of the geography we were born in or what language we speak. In fact, those differences have made Canada into the proud nation it is today.

For those who are being marginalized, know this: Our Canadian companies gladly welcome those who are skilled, driven, and kind. Our Canadian schools will invest in your children’s education. And our Canadian government will empower you to create a home for your families for generations to come.

While the Canadian technology community have looked at Trump’s bigoted decision to bar millions with disgust, there’s also a palpable sense of welcoming aimed at those the order will impact.

If the brightest and best from Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iraq, Iran, and Yemen aren’t welcome in the United States, they need only look further North. There, they’ll be accepted with open arms.