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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Canadian CEOs Urge Trudeau to Take Rejected US Tech Workers

Jan. 30, 2017
Up North, dozens of tech CEOs sign a letter urging the Canadian government to “embrace diversity” in order to “drive innovation to benefit the world.”

Canada’s technology community is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to snap up industry workers caught in U.S. President Donald Trump’s sweeping border crackdown, saying embracing diversity drives innovation and the economy.

As chaos reigned in U.S. airports after Trump signed an executive order barring citizens from seven mainly Muslim nations, dozens of Canada’s tech CEOs — including Shopify Inc.’s Tobi Lutke, an immigrant from Germany, and Hootsuite Media Inc.’s Ryan Holmes — signed a letter asking Canada to offer immediate entry visas to those hit by the order.

“In choosing to hire, train, and mentor the best people in the world, we can build global companies that grow our economy,” the letter said. “By embracing diversity, we can drive innovation to benefit the world.”

The letter follows a move by Trudeau’s government last year to create a fast-track visa program that would let tech companies bring international workers into the country in two weeks rather than having to deal with the usual months-long bureaucratic slog.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. all have sizable offices in Canada. Immigration already plays a key role in their presence: the companies have been known to bring workers to Canada from South Asia or Eastern Europe to get them closer to headquarters while they wait for them to clear more stringent U.S. visa requirements.

U.S. tech leaders have also condemned the ban, saying that engineers and software coders brought in by immigration are essential to driving their businesses and entrepreneurship; 51% of U.S. companies valued at more than $1 billion had an immigrant co-founder, according to a paper by the National Foundation for American Policy.

In addition to the border ban, Trump’s team has drafted an order aimed at overhauling visa programs that allow tech companies to hire foreign workers. Companies would have to try to hire American first and if they recruit foreign workers, priority would be given to the most highly paid, according to a copy reviewed by Bloomberg News. That may prompt more companies put more of their employees in Canada. As many as 85,000 workers are allowed into the U.S. annually under the programs.

Hours after the open letter from the Canadian tech leaders, Canada’s Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen — an immigrant from Somalia, one of the countries on Trump’s list — said that any traveler stranded in Canada because of the order would be granted a temporary residence permit.

And Trudeau himself signaled Canada would continue to take another tack than Trump on immigration, tweeting:

By Gerrit De Vynck

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Licensed content from Bloomberg, copyright 2016.

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