Quebec woman calls for 25,000 toques to help welcome Syrian refugees

A Quebec woman is hoping that Canadians from across the country can do their part to give a warm welcome to the 25,000 Syrian refugees coming to the country by the end of February.

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Danielle Letourneau originallycame up with the idea to challenge her Facebook friends to knit as many toques as possible for the refugees who were set to arrive in the middle of the frigid Canadian winter.

Theplan has since exploded, and Letourneau is now asking Canadians for their help of reaching their goal of knitting 25,000 toques.

"We give newborns each a hat when they come into the world, and it seemed to me it was the normal thing to do when someone comes here as well," she told CTV News.

"They are getting a fresh start so they need a hat like a newborn."

The Quebec native first came up with the idea after hearing about the backlash to the federal government's plan to bring the refugees to Canada in the days following the deadly attacks in Paris last month. She hoped to counter some of the negativity and show the newcomers that they're welcome.

And Canadians have responded.

The donations first started pouring in from Quebec, where community centres and schools help chip in for the cause.

"People really jumped on this opportunity to show who they are as Quebecers, and that they really welcome people," said Lisa Di Fruscia., who co-owns the Montreal knitting store Espace Tricot.

But soon knitters from across the country, and even around the world, pulled out their needles and yarn, spending hours stitching toques for the refugees, who started arriving in Canada late last week.

So far, Letourneau and her group have collected more than 3,000 winter hats, and there are now 50 drop boxes across the country that continue to accept donations.

"I feel at home because they are welcome," she said.

"I know the spirit of the people I live with."

The refugees who landed in Montreal on Saturday were the first to receive the heartwarming gifts, which came with notes in French, English and Arabic, each explaining that they were handcrafted by Canadian citizens.

The Red Cross volunteers who were been charged with handing out the toques said that each one is like a personal message from Canadians showing that they care.

"It is a cold country. We need to stay warm, and when we work together to stay warm it works," said Rima Naim, a team leader for the Canadian Red Cross.

With a report from CTV's Montreal bureau chief Genevieve Beauchemin


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