Friday, December 11, 2015

Canada welcomes its first Syrian refugees

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with Canada's Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship John McCallum, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, and the Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne, were at Toronto's Pearson airport late last night to welcome the first of the Syrian refugees to arrive in Canada. 

"Welcome to your new home," Prime Minister Trudeau said.
 
163 refugees arrived on a gunmetal-grey Canadian Forces military transport and were in-processed, receiving Permanent Resident certificates, along with social insurance numbers, with health cards giving them access to the national health care system, given the opportunity to live, work, and educate themselves in Canada, and given something even more valuable: an opportunity to become Canadian citizens.

Canadians hope these refugees will choose to stay in the communities that welcome them, and to build new lives that tie them to other Canadians, nearly all of whom are immigrants (like myself) or descended from several generations of immigrants.

This is the cover of yesterday's Toronto Star:



In Arabic,the printed phrase is translated as "Welcome" but it is literally translated as "like family and comfortably."

A Muslim friend told me that means a lot more than 'Welcome".  in Arabic culture, it means "Welcome to my home ... what is mine is also yours." It is an expression of a deeply-held Muslim attitude toward guests or strangers.

And it's a belief that resonates with many Canadians; I believe most Canadians.

Canadians have been dusting off this old Tim Horton's ad and sharing it.


"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.”

 – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, 10 December, 2015