In the early morning hours today, 163 Syrian refugees arrived at Toronto's Pearson International Airport. They're the first of 35,000 Syrian refugees the Canadian government has pledged to accept by the end of next year.
"I am so happy, thank you very much. I am looking for safety, a beautiful future and a new future," Shadi Mardelli, one of the Syrians who arrived this morning, told CBC News.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among the officials there to welcome the refugees:
“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 with an opportunity to become full Canadians,” Trudeau told reporters while waiting for the plane to arrive this morning.
“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,” he said.
The response to the government's decision to accept 35,000 Syrians is in sharp contrast to the debate around accepting refugees in the U.S., where several state governors have said they won't accept Syrians, even if the federal resettlement program requires them to, citing security fears after the Paris attacks despite a stringent vetting process for all accepted refugees.
“After full consideration of this weekend’s attacks of terror on innocent citizens in Paris, I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” Alabama Gov. Robert J. Bentley said the week after the Paris attacks. “As your Governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way.”
Canada's Immigration Minister said every Canadian province is willing to take Syrian refugees. "This is a great moment for Canada," he told the BBC. "This shows the way we really are. It truly is a non-partisan, national project."
U.S. President Barack Obama committed in September to accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year. In Germany, meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that 57,000 Syrians have been accepted as refugees as of November this year—with tens of thousands more Syrians expected to be accepted in the coming months.