Canada welcomed 163 Syrian refugees under its new accelerated entry program late Thursday night in Toronto. The new arrivals are the first of 25,000 Canada has committed to accepting by early next year.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne were on hand at Pearson airport to greet the refugees.
“You are home,” Trudeau said to the first passengers to disembark after a 16-hour flight from Beirut on a Canadian military aircraft. “You’re safe at home now.” Wynne helped the family pick coats from piles of donated clothing.
After landing in Toronto, the new arrivals were given warm coats, social insurance numbers and health cards after a security and health screening at a special airport terminal renovated for their arrival. After processing, they were bused to an airport hotel to rest.
Under a plan announced by the Prime Minister’s new government, a series of flights will bring 10,000 Syrian refugees into Canada by the end of this month and a total of at least 25,000 by the end of February 2016.
The widespread embrace of the plan by the Canadian public stands in stark contrast with the controversy raging over the issue in the United States. South of the border many politicians, especially on the right, have called for bans or restrictions on the admission of Syrian refugees.
“Tonight they step off the plane as refugees, but they walk out of this terminal as permanent residents of Canada,” Trudeau said to reporters at the terminal.