Last week, refugees from the Syrian war began arriving in Canada. They were greeted in typical Canadian fashion, with cheers and tears and winter coats and teddy bears in airports in Toronto and Montreal. Our newest neighbours have faced a horrific existence over the last few years, with many having lost loved ones and all material goods. The stories from the refugee camps, with the tent cities stretching across the horizon, paint a picture of despair with little in the way of food, water, clothing, and education for the children.
They come from a part of the world torn apart by war. It is estimated that over a quarter of a million people have been killed during the fighting with some estimates suggesting almost 400,000 have perished.
By the end of the year, the plan is to have 10,000 refugees settled with another 15,000 arriving early next year. Canadians have stepped up by sponsoring families and donating money, and by providing furniture, clothing, food and other essentials.
The vast majority of Canadians have embraced the incoming refugee families by turning their collective backs on racial and religious prejudice. They are moved to welcome the newcomers with open arms, hearts and minds.
I am a third generation Canadian. My grandmother was born in White Russia (now Belarus) on a farm that her family owned. They fled west during the Bolshevik Revolution, abandoning home and wealth. It took them four years before they eventually made their way to Canada. They, too, were refugees. Where would I be if the Canadian borders had been closed in the 1920s?
It is heartwarming to see the excitement people across the country are exuding as more families continue to arrive in their new homeland. I have rarely been this proud to be Canadian.