At a time when there are those in the United States embracing presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s xenophobic proposals, Canada has gone another route.
The first planeload of Syrian refugees, many with small children, touched down today in Toronto Thursday night with new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of his Cabinet on-hand. Canada’s new accelerated entry program, which has experienced widespread popular support, will allow for flights to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees into Canada by the end of this month. By March, that number could rise to least 25,000.
Prime Minister Trudeau personally welcomed the 163 refugees arriving saying, “Tonight they step off the plane as refugees, but they walk out of this terminal as permanent residents of Canada.”
The refugees arrived in Canada after a two-hour delay and then a 16-hour flight from Beirut. Another plane of refugees is expected to arrive Saturday. Canada has a proud tradition of opening its boarders to refugees in times of crisis, such as those from Kosovo in the 1990s, and airlifts from Uganda and Vietnam in the 1970s.
Trudeau made it quite clear that these refugees enter his country with social insurance numbers, health cards, and the opportunity to become full Canadian citizens. Trudeau also said, “This is something that we are able to do in this country because we define a Canadian not by a skin color 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.”