'We came to paradise': Syrian refugees arrive in Canada on government plane

TORONTO - Outfitted in new winter coats and clutching their yawning 16-month-old daughter in the wee hours of Friday morning, a Syrian refugee family on the first large government flight began their new life in Canada - or, as they call it, "paradise.

See Full Article

"

"We really would like to thank you for all this hospitality and the warm welcome and all the staff - we felt ourselves at home and we felt ourselves highly respected," Kevork Jamkossian told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"You are home," Trudeau said. "Welcome home."

His wife held their daughter Madeleine, clutching a teddy bear the little girl took with a shy smile from Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne as the politicians helped find suitable winter clothing for them.

The family - the father is a blacksmith and the mother a sales clerk - was the first through processing in the wee hours of Friday morning after the government aircraft landed following a long flight from Beirut.

The family fled Syria, spent eight months in Lebanon and now they came to Canada because here, Madeleine will have many opportunities, the family said.

"We suffered a lot," Jamkossian said. "Now, we feel as if we got out of hell and we came to paradise."

Trudeau and Wynne were on hand to welcome the first two families from the plane that brought 163 Syrian refugees to Canada. They were joined by the ministers of immigration, health and defence, as well as local mayors and opposition immigration critics.

While there would be less fanfare for the arrival of the rest of the families, all were welcomed by a large contingent of staff at Toronto's Pearson International Airport and given winter coats, boots, hats and gloves before resting a few hours in a hotel.

Starting Friday, 116 will head to new homes in the Toronto area. Another four will go to Windsor, Ont. Sponsors in Kelowna, B.C. will welcome four, three will go to Coquitlam, B.C. and one to New Westminster, B.C. Twenty are bound for Calgary, Alta., and the final 15 to Edmonton, according to statistics released Thursday by the Immigration department.

A second flight is set to arrive in Montreal on Saturday.

Trudeau told the assembled staff moments before the plane arrived Thursday night that those arriving would step off the plane as refugees but would walk out of the terminal as permanent residents with social insurance numbers, health cards and the opportunity to become full Canadians.

"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.

"So I thank you deeply for being a part of this because this matters. Tonight matters, not just for Canada but for the world."

All of the Syrians on board are sponsored by private groups, many of whom had filed the necessary paperwork months ago in order to bring in some of the estimated 4.3 million Syrians displaced by the ongoing civil war in that country.

More than 400 refugees have already arrived on commercial flights since the Liberals took office on Nov. 4.

Canadians eager to show their support for the newcomers weren't deterred by the fact that they couldn't do so face to face.

A handful of people gathered at the international arrivals gate at Pearson bearing signs and gifts.

Stefania Dunlop and Lubna Altaher dropped off dozens of bags brimming with snacks and plush toys for the children, as well as hats and mittens for the adults. The pair said they had made arrangements with airport security to have the items -and several hundreds more bags - brought to the designated terminal where the government flight landed.

Andrew Harris, 51, said he wanted to counter the fearful messaging about Muslims that has circulated since the Paris attacks.

He held up a large yellow sign that read "Welcome to Canada," saying that even if the arriving refugees don't see it, the positive words won't go unnoticed.

Where they're going

The first flight of 163 Syrian refugees will be headed to three different provinces. Here is a list of cities where they're expected to be housed.

Ontario

  • Willowdale: 58
  • Toronto: 33
  • Scarborough: 16
  • Etobicoke: 5
  • Windsor: 4
  • Hamilton: 4

British Columbia

  • Kelowna: 4
  • Coquitlam: 3
  • New Westminster: 1

Alberta

  • Calgary: 20
  • Edmonton: 15

- with files from Paola Loriggio



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Kids born to opioid-addicted moms seem to fare poorly in school

    World News CBC News
    Neonatal abstinence syndrome occurs when addictive drugs such as opioids or sedatives pass through the placenta during pregnancy. (Torsten Mangner/Flickr) Children exposed to addictive drugs in the womb may be more likely to perform poorly in school, Australian researchers report. Source
  • Ethics watchdog investigates Trudeau's vacation in the Bahamas

    Canada News CBC News
    Canada's ethics commissioner has launched an investigation into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's family vacation to the Aga Khan's private island home in the Bahamas. In a letter to Conservative ethics critic Blain Calkins that is stamped "Confidential" and was obtained by CBC News, Mary Dawson said she is "satisfied" the issues he has raised about Trudeau's travel meet the requirements for an investigation. Source
  • New Brunswick university establishes new cybersecurity institute

    Canada News CTV News
    FREDERICTON -- The University of New Brunswick opened a new cybersecurity institute Monday in hopes of establishing an educational hub for one of the most pressing issues in the information age. University officials, industry partners and members of the federal and provincial governments announced the launch of the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity in Fredericton. Source
  • World’s 8 richest men own as much as 3.6 billion poorest

    World News Toronto Sun
    DAVOS, Switzerland — The gap between the super-rich and the poorest half of the global population is starker than previously thought, with just eight men, from Bill Gates to Michael Bloomberg, owning as much wealth as 3.6 billion people, according to an analysis by Oxfam released Monday. Source
  • Average house price in Canada rises at slowest annual pace in 2 years in December, up 3.5%

    Canada News CBC News
    The average price of a Canadian home continues to move higher, but there are signs of a slowdown, according to figures from the Canadian Real Estate Association. CREA said Monday that the average sales price in December was $470,661 — 3.5 per cent higher than the same month a year earlier. Source
  • Woman who blasted Trudeau gets online threats [Photos]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The woman who told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau she could barely afford to eat after paying her carbon tax and hydro bills now says she’s been receiving threats online. Kathy Katula, the 54-year-old mother of four and grandma of three, said after she was featured in the Toronto Sun about her Peterborough townhall appearance with Trudeau on Friday, trolls and haters have been flooding her Facebook wall with negative comments. Source
  • Ivanka Trump to continue working on women's issues

    World News CTV News
    DES MOINES, Iowa -- She may not be working in the White House, but that doesn't mean Ivanka Trump is staying out of politics. Although she has said she will have no official role in her father's administration, Ivanka Trump has been quietly laying the groundwork for an effort that could make her perhaps the best-connected policy advocate in Washington. Source
  • Police: 5 killed in shooting at nightclub at Mexican resort

    World News CTV News
    CANCUN, Mexico -- A gunman killed at least five people and wounded more than a dozen others Monday at a nightclub in the Caribbean coast resort of Playa del Carmen, police said. The shooting occurred in the early morning hours outside the Blue Parrot nightclub, which was hosting an event that was part of the BPM electronic music festival. Source
  • Canadians among dead in Mexico nightclub shooting

    World News CTV News
    CANCUN, Mexico -- A shooting attack at an electronic music festival in Mexico's Caribbean coast resort of Playa del Carmen on Monday left five people dead, including two Canadians, an Italian and a Colombian, authorities said. Source
  • 2 Canadians among 5 dead after Mexican nightclub shooting

    World News CBC News
    Two Canadians, an Italian and a Colombian are among five people dead following a shooting and stampede at an electronic music festival in Mexico early Monday, authorities say. Miguel Angel Pech, the attorney general of Quintana Roo state, says several of the dead appear to have been part of the security detail at the 10-day BPM electronic music festival. Source