TORONTO – Syrian refugees Shadi Mardelli, his wife and son, have spent the past year and half in Lebanon but are now elated to begin a new future in Canada.
“We faced very hard procedures in Lebanon, but now in Canada,” Mardelli told reporters at Toronto’s Pearson Airport early Friday morning.
“I can’t imagine my feeling here. I’m so happy. Thank you very much. I’m looking for safety and beautiful future.”
Mardelli and his family were part of the group of 160 privately sponsored Syrian refugees who landed in Toronto late Thursday evening on a government aircraft which departed from Beirut earlier in the day.
VIDEO: Newly-arrived refugees offer their thoughts on the journey and their new lives as Canadians
They are the first batch of privately sponsored Canadian newcomers to arrive and were welcomed at the airport terminal by senior officials including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“This is a wonderful night,” Trudeau said. “We get to show not just a planeload of new Canadians what Canada’s all about but we get to show the world how to open our hearts and welcome in people who are fleeing extraordinary difficult situations.”
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who was also present at the airport, said the border processing procedures and paperwork were lengthy but the Syrians showed no signs of frustration.
“It is so uplifting. It is so inspirational. They are so grateful to be here. They keep thanking us for our hospitality and taking them in and giving them this opportunity to build a new life and keep them safe,” Crombie said.
The Ontario government announced on Friday it is boosting financial support to Syrian refugee settlement agencies with an additional $3.7 million investment.
The province had already promised to allocate $8.5 million over two and a half years. The extra cash will go towards language training, support for women and youth, trauma counselling, housing assistance and employment services.
According to the Canadian government’s latest numbers, more than 2,600 privately sponsored refugees are expected to settle in Toronto with several hundred more spread across Southern Ontario.
Canada will be welcoming 10,000 refugees by the end of the year and another 15,000 are expected to arrive by the end of February,
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