The United Nations estimates that approximately nine million Syrians have been displaced by war since 2011, a number which will only increase with the continued fighting in Syria.
Until Prime Minister Trudeau’s election, the Canadian government had been among many Western countries that had responded to the refugee crisis with more apprehension than compassion. Mr. Trudeau campaigned on more compassionate refugee platform. After he was elected, he changed the previous government’s position by ordering his government to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year.
Many images of the Middle East refugee crisis shown in the media this year are haunting. These include the heart wrenching photo of Aylan Kurdi, a lifeless 3-year-old boy who drowned at sea and washed up ashore on a beach in Turkey in September.
The simple but powerful words with which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada greeted the first group of Syrians resettled under an expedited program stood in sharp contrast to the misery and injustice the images represented in the media in earlier months.
A Syrian refugee thanked the prime minister “for all this hospitality and this warm welcome,” and said the Canadian government had made him and his fellow refugees feel “highly respected” as they applied to be settled.
Mr. Trudeau made a brief speech at the airport, where the refugees had arrived on a Canadian military plane saying, “We get to show the world how to open our hearts and welcome in people who are fleeing extraordinarily difficult situations.”
Even though Canada’s resettlement program is small compared with the magnitude of a crisis that will take years to solve, Mr. Trudeau’s personal warmth and leadership can serve as an example for others.
Canada’s response to the refugee crisis also puts to shame the callous and insensitive behavior of the American governors and presidential candidates who have argued that the United States, for the sake of its security, must shut its doors to all Syrian refugees. The Canadian model is a beacon that all western countries should embrace.
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