'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

  • Chinese man guilty of defrauding Apple out of 1,500 iPhones

    World News CTV News
    SALEM, Ore. -- Over the span of two years, a Chinese national in Oregon sent devices that looked like iPhones to Apple, saying they wouldn't turn on and should be replaced under warranty. He didn't just submit a couple of the devices -- he delivered in person or shipped to Apple around 3,000 of them. Source
  • Indigenous teen questioned by Mountie speaks out: 'It ruined my trust in police'

    Canada News CTV News
    A young Indigenous woman who was questioned by an RCMP officer in a video that has been widely denounced by Parliamentarians has spoken out for the first time, saying she’s still coping with the incident. Source
  • Canadian D-Day survivor, 94, returning to Normandy for 75th anniversary

    Canada News CTV News
    One of the last surviving veterans of the Battle of Normandy is heading back to the French beach for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Alex Polowin of Ottawa is now 94 years old - but joined the Royal Canadian Navy just before his 17th birthday all those years ago, telling CTV News that having family in Lithuania inspired him to “do his part to help end the war. Source
  • 74-year-old woman pushed to ground by police outside Trudeau-attended fundraiser

    Canada News CTV News
    A 74-year-old woman was knocked to the ground by a police officer during an anti-pipeline protest on Wednesday. The dramatic incident, which was captured on camera by CTV Vancouver, happened outside a lunchtime Liberal fundraiser attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Source
  • Rocks, rubber bullets fly in 2nd night of post-election clashes in Indonesia

    World News CBC News
    A clash between Indonesian security forces and protesters angry over the result of last month's presidential election raged for a second night Wednesday, turning central Jakarta into a battlefield of tear gas, rubber bullets, rocks and firecrackers. Source
  • Rallies for and against abortion fire up around the South

    World News CTV News
    MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Abortion opponents held a rally Wednesday at the Alabama Capitol, savoring victory after the state's governor signed the nation's most stringent abortion ban into law last week. Elsewhere in the South, abortion-rights supporters occupied much of a city block in New Orleans, chanting 'My body! My choice!" Source
  • 'There's a lot of anxiety': Author and activist Arundhati Roy on what's terrifying her about India's election

    World News CBC News
    "India is fighting for her soul." Arundhati Roy spoke those words in New York City — during her speech at the PEN literary festival — on the very day she could have been voting in India's mammoth general election. Source
  • Defendant says he doesn't recall if he shot 8 at church

    World News CTV News
    NASHVILLE -- The man accused of fatally shooting one person and wounding seven others at a Nashville church in 2017 testified Wednesday that he can't remember if he did it. In a Nashville courtroom, a prosecutor repeatedly asked 27-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson about his testimony that he had spotty-at-best memories of what happened at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, and the moments before and after the shooting. Source
  • Pink cocoa creators want treat recognized as new chocolate

    Canada News CBC News
    A mysterious pink-hued treat made from cocoa beans is officially debuting in North America this week. But don't call it chocolate just yet. In Canada, there are officially only three types of chocolate: milk, dark and white. Source
  • Pipeline protester interrupts Trudeau fundraising speech in Vancouver

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- An Indigenous protester opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion interrupted a speech by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a Liberal fundraiser on Wednesday. Will George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in North Vancouver stood up and called Trudeau a liar and a weak leader. Source