Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, greeted the first planeload of Syrian refugees to reach Canadian soil under his open-armed refugee policy with handshakes, hugs, and warm puffy coats. “You are safe at home now,” a beaming Mr. Trudeau told the deplaning Syrian families.
Trudeau’s welcome party at the Toronto airport that night reflected a campaign pledge he’d made in the fall campaign to open Canada to up to 25,000 Syrian refugees within months–and to double that to 50,000 by the end of 2016.
But behind that campaign pledge was something deeper, a national ethic and tradition of welcoming the victims of the world’s conflicts that contrasted sharply with the much more modest goals and contradictory–and even vociferously negative–responses to Syrian refugees in the United States.
When Trudeau visited the White House on a state visit, President Obama may have asked him why Canada was able to meet Trudeau’s target of greeting 25,000 Syria refugees in just two months–when Mr. Obama’s comparatively diminutive pledge to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees this year (US population: 10 times that of Canada) was met with a chorus of outrage from largely Republican governors and anti-immigration groups.
In Canada’s case, the bighearted welcome reflects a number of both intrinsic and practical factors: Canadians generally pride themselves on an openness to the world and a desire to share their national good fortune with the world’s less fortunate. On a practical level, Canada has for decades welcomed refugees under a three-tiered national system of public, private-sector, and individual responses. Read more