After months of promises and weeks of preparation, the first planeload of Syrian refugees was headed to Canada on Thursday, aboard a military plane to be met at Toronto’s airport by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
— John Tory (@JohnTory) December 11, 2015
Trudeau’s newly elected Liberal government scaled back the number of Syrian migrants it will accept by year end after the attacks in Paris sparked concern that the election promise to bring in 25,000 by Dec. 31 would not allow enough time for security checks. Some 300 Syrian refugees were expected to arrive on two military flights, the first arriving in Toronto late on Thursday and the second in Montreal on Saturday. Trudeau has said 10,000 will be resettled by the end of the year and a further 15,000 by the end of February. At the airport, privately sponsored refugees have already been arriving on commercial flights in recent days at a separate terminal from the military airlift. Those arriving on Thursday were met by sponsors and ordinary Canadians who had come to the airport to greet the much-anticipated newcomers.
Toronto’s mayor tweeted a welcome, while the Toronto Star, the country’s largest newspaper, covered its front page with a “Welcome to Canada” banner headline in English and Arabic, along with an article explaining Canadian weather, ice hockey and quirky local slang.
The Syrians’ reception in Canada contrasted sharply with that of the neighboring United States, where fear of Syrian refugees following the deadly Nov. 13 Paris attacks spurred opposition to allowing them entry. Some U.S. governors said their states would not accept Syrian refugees.
With security concerns, immigration paperwork and the flight’s late-night arrival, refugees on the military aircraft being met by the prime minister were to be put up at a nearby hotel for the night before meeting their sponsors and resettlement agencies on Friday.
While one provincial premier and some opposition politicians initially said Trudeau was accepting too many refugees too quickly, his decision to push back the timeline by two months silenced much of the criticism.