'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

  • Brexit deal cleared by EU Parliament; U.K. set to leave Friday

    World News CTV News
    BRUSSELS -- Britain's departure from the European Union was backed by European lawmakers Wednesday, after a debate that mixed warm words of love with hard-headed warnings to the country not to seek too many concessions during upcoming trade talks on a future relationship. Source
  • This Ontario teen was 12 when she became a caregiver. She's not alone

    Canada News CBC News
    Samiha Rahman became a young caregiver at the age of 12 after her mom was diagnosed with ALS. The 2011 life-changing prognosis meant Raham had to begin preparing meals, feeding her mom and keep her moving, while passing up on fun with her friends. Source
  • Chinese Canadians, health officials taking stand against 'unfair stigmatization' during coronavirus outbreak

    Canada News CBC News
    Amid growing fears around an outbreak of a new coronavirus, Chinese Canadians and public health officials in Toronto say more must be done to avoid a recurrence of the racism and xenophobia experienced during the 2003 SARS outbreak. Source
  • 'A little anxious': Expat family expecting baby hopes to get out of China

    Canada News CTV News
    A teacher who is living with his pregnant Canadian wife and child in a city that is the epicentre of China's coronavirus outbreak is hoping to get out of the country on a British flight. Source
  • Independent panel report calls for more Canadian streaming content and an ad-free CBC

    Canada News CBC News
    A sweeping new report on Canada's broadcasting and telecommunications sector is calling for widespread regulatory reform — including mandated Canadian content on streaming services and an ad-free CBC. The report, commissioned by the federal government and released today, was drafted by a seven-member panel led by Janet Yale, a broadcasting and telecommunications industry veteran. Source
  • Caregiver failed to provide 'necessaries of life' to B.C. woman with developmental disability: RCMP

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- A Metro Vancouver caregiver has been charged following an investigation into the death of a woman with a developmental disability. The woman was found dead in a private home on Oct. 13, 2018, Mounties in Coquitlam said Wednesday. Source
  • France, EU raise cautions about U.S. peace plan for Middle East, as U.K. welcomes it

    World News CBC News
    Days before it leaves the European Union, Britain put itself at odds with European allies on Wednesday in warmly welcoming U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan while France and the wider EU warned that it must respect international law. Source
  • BBC to cut hundreds of newsroom jobs in cost-cutting drive

    World News CBC News
    The BBC said on Wednesday it will axe 450 jobs from its news division in a cost-saving plan that will result in cuts at the World Service and its 5Live radio station and in fewer reports being made by analysis show Newsnight. Source
  • 536 fishermen rescued in Russia after being stranded on giant ice floe

    World News CBC News
    In a nearly seven-hour operation, Russia's emergency services rescued 536 ice fishermen after they got stranded on a giant ice floe that broke off the island of Sakhalin in eastern Siberia, officials said. Around 60 more people were able to get back on the shore on their own Tuesday evening, emergency officials said. Source
  • 206 Japanese evacuees return home from Wuhan

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO -- The first group of Japanese evacuees from a virus-hit Chinese city arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday, a dozen of them with cough and fever including two who were later diagnosed with pneumonia. Five of the 206 evacuees were taken to designated Tokyo hospitals specializing in treating infectious diseases, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliamentary session, adding that they were still checking if any passengers were ill with the virus. Source