Canada welcomes first planeload of refugees

Canadian prime minister greets refugees as they arrive in Toronto

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (2nd R) arrives with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne at Toronto Pearson International Airport to welcome refugees

First Canadian government plane carrying Syrian refugees has arrived at Pearson International Airport in Toronto late on Thursday.

About 163 refugees were greeted by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, as well as members of the opposition, including the Conservative Party.

"This is a wonderful night, where we get to show not just a planeload of new Canadians what Canada is all about, we get to show the world how to open our hearts and welcome in people who are fleeing extraordinarily difficult situations," Trudeau said at the airport.

Together with a second flight, which is expected to arrive in Canada’s Montreal on Saturday, there will be some 300 refugees arriving in Canada.

Trudeau addressing the crowd said the Syrians might "step off the plane as refugees but they walk out of this terminal as permanent residents of Canada."

He said "How you receive these people tonight is something they will remember for the rest of their lives."

Trudeau's Liberal government promised to take in 25,000 refugees by the end of the year before the October elections, but the Paris terror attacks triggered security concerns.

Now Canada is planning to take in 10,000 refugees by the end of year, and 15,000 more until the end of February.

All provinces of Canada support taking in refugees.

For Canadians who want to show support and help, the airport authority requested that they should not come, saying "We're so proud that our community wants to help, but such a response would be very overwhelming for those arriving."

Still some Canadians showed up at the airport, holding “Welcome to Canada” signs in Arabic and English.

Shai Reef, 20, was among them.

"I'm here to show my solidarity for and support of the Syrian people going through genocide in Syria," Reef said.

"As Jews, we were also locked out, I know what it feels like."

Thursday’s refugees arrived in a plane that departed from Lebanon. Every day 800 refugees are screened by security and health officers in Lebanon and Jordan.

Canada has welcomed some 5,000 refugees from Kosovo in the 1990s, 5,000 from Uganda in 1971 and 60,000 from Vietnam in 1979-80.

TRTWorld and agencies