With much coaxing, a tired and bewildered little girl finally managed a sweet smile for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as she was handed a teddy bear.
“Welcome to your new home,” Canada’s Prime Minister told her and her family as they were surrounded by government workers and volunteers who seemed nearly as excited to see them as they were to finally make it Canada.
Trudeau personally greeted more than 160 refugees after they landed in Toronto late on Thursday night. They are some of the first arrivals as Canada plans to take in an estimated 25,000 refugees by the end of February.
“You are home. Welcome home,” Trudeau told the refugees, video from the scene showed.
The Prime Minister was clearly savoring the moments at the airport as relieved refugees with wide smiles uttered their thanks to him, with some saying simply, “I’m very happy.”
By Friday morning, #WelcomeToCanada was the top trender on Twitter as Canadians across the country tweeted their approval and warm wishes to the new arrivals.
“This. This is awesome.” tweeted Rob Trembinski as he retweeted an article featuring a photo of a toddler and Prime Minister Trudeau.
For weeks, Canadian schoolchildren have been preparing letters and signs and posters to welcome their new neighbors to Canada. One woman confessed on Twitter that there were more than a few tears as she looked at all the kind tweets.
The feeling seemed to be mutual as many refugees, still fatigued after a 24-hour journey and weary after years of terror and grief, expressed their gratitude to Trudeau. One refugee arriving with his family at the airport was heard telling the Prime Minister through an interpreter, “Now, we feel as if we got out of hell and we came to paradise.”
Trudeau was on hand as the new arrivals were given donated winter coats, gifts and toys. They also were screened one more time at the airport and given permanent residency documents and health cards giving them access to free health care.
During Canada’s election campaign in the fall, which Trudeau won handily, he insisted that asylum seekers would immediately be entitled to free health care without having to wait for it, reversing a policy of Canada’s former Conservative government.