The first plane carrying Syrian refugees landed last Friday night at Pearson International Airport. They met with Canadians who welcomed them with food, gifts, and uplifting signs. Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne, Toronto mayor John Tory, and the ministers of defence, immigration, and health all accompanied Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, welcoming the refugees as they landed in Toronto.
“You are home; welcome home,” Trudeau announced.
One hundred sixty-three refugees arrived Thursday, and another planeload arrived in Montreal on Saturday. Private groups are sponsoring all Syrians arriving, and after being processed, they will settle throughout Canada.
This watershed moment marks the beginning of the government’s pledge to bring 25,000 refugees by the end of February 2016. Canada intends on receiving 10,000 Syrians by the end of December, and an additional 15,000 by February.
While leaders in other countries have shut down their borders and have adamantly refused refugees entry to their country, Canada shines as a bright light as an exemplary humanitarian country. Trudeau’s speech upon the arrival of the refugees reflects what Canada is all about.
“This is a wonderful night,” he said. “We get to show not just a planeload of new Canadians what Canada’s all about but we get to show the world how to open our hearts and welcome in people who are fleeing extraordinarily difficult situations.
“Tonight they step off the plane as refugees, but they walk out of this terminal as permanent residents of Canada, with social insurance numbers, with health cards, and within opportunity to become full Canadians. This is something that we are able to do in this country because we define a Canadian not by a skin colour or a language or a religion or a background, but by a shared set of values, aspirations, hopes, and dreams that not just Canadians but people around the world share.”
To the Syrians who are now in Canada, I believe I speak for all Canadians when I say: may you find happiness and prosperity in Canada, and may there soon be peace in Syria.