Thursday’s airlift is the first transport of Syrian Refugees since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party won the October 19 election, marking a clear shift in immigration policy.
Harjit Sajjan says seeing the children arrive and greet family and other Canadians waiting to welcome them brought back memories.
All 10 of Canada’s provincial premiers support taking in the refugees and members of the opposition, including the Conservative party, attended the welcoming late on Thursday.
“You are home”, Trudeau said as the first few passengers landed after their 16-hour flight from Beirut.
Trudeau also shared a touching moment with the family when he managed to make the family’s young daughter smile after gift her with a teddy bear.
This first group of 163 refugees arrived from Lebanon by Royal Canadian Air Force jet.
The warm welcoming for the refugees stands in stark contrast next to the opinion of many governors in the U.S. who have been outspoken about banning refugees entry into the country.
The refugees arrived just weeks after Canada’s newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country would pull its fighter jets from a US-led coalition targeting Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria. The prime minister stated that the Canadian government will be resettling 10,000 refugees this year and an additional 15,000 by the end of February next year.
“We’re not going to sleep until they get here”, she said outside a Travelodge hotel near Pearson International Airport around 2 a.m.
“We suffered a lot”.
A second flight is set to arrive in Montreal on Saturday.
The “new Canadians”, as Trudeau called them, were processed in the terminal and were given public health insurance cards, winter clothing and other supplies they might need to begin their new lives. The refugees will go through various levels of screening, including by Canadian immigration and security officials, before getting on a plane to Canada.