Count on the Great White North to be an exemplary member of the international community. While by no means just and progressive in all matters — what state or society yet is? — Canada has long been a shinning example of how to create and manage a free, democratic, and pluralistic nation.
Case in point: amid the ugliness and rancor surrounding the accommodation of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, the Canadians have gone above and beyond protocol to welcome and accommodate the first of thousands of new arrivals. The front cover of its largest daily says it all.
As Foreign Policy reports, Canada pulled out all the stops to be hospitable.
Above the photo, large text reads, “Welcome to Canada”, with the Arabic transliteration below: Ahlan wa sahlan. “Welcome”.
This is the cover of Thursday’s Toronto Star, Canada’s largest-circulation newspaper, as the country prepares to welcome the first tranche of Syrian refugees in the newly elected Liberal government’s resettlement program. The front-page photo is accompanied by a heartfelt editorial welcoming the freshly arrived Syrians and briefing them on life in Canada.
“You’ll find the place a little bigger than Damascus or Aleppo, and a whole lot chillier. But friendly for all that. We’re a city that cherishes its diversity; it’s our strength”, reads the editorial. “It’s been a long trek, but you are no longer refugees. Your days of being strangers in a strange land are over”.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who plans to meet the refugees as they arrive, told the House of Commons on Wednesday that the first plane carrying more than 160 refugees was expected to land from Beirut at 9:15 p.m. Eastern Thursday at Toronto’s international airport. A second plane is scheduled to carry more refugees from Beirut to Montreal on Saturday.
What a commendable demonstration of moral leadership. Perhaps at the risk of putting too much weight on this example, I think this approach speaks volumes about Canada’s values — little wonder it ranks so highly in metrics of social and political progress. Now to see if they keep it up, and if other nations — not least of them Canada’s southern neighbor — follows suit.