Trudeau: 31,000 Syrian Refugees Have 'Brought Together Canadians'

President Obama and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embrace after addressing the Leaders' Summit on Refugees at the United Nations on Sept. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he hopes that tens of thousands of Syrian refugees admitted into his country “will be soon able to join our middle class” through “offering them the same things we offer to all our citizens, a real and fair chance at success for everyone.”


In his Tuesday speech to the UN General Assembly, Trudeau said that to allay the anxiety of people everywhere “we need to create economic growth that is broadly shared, because a fair and successful world is a peaceful one.”

“We need to focus on what brings us together, not on what divides us. For Canada, that means reengaging in global affairs through institutions like the United Nations,” he said. “It doesn’t serve our interests or the world’s to pretend we’re not deeply affected by what happens beyond our borders.”

The prime minister said Canada “got a very important thing right… we see diversity as a source of strength, not weakness.”

“And make no mistake, we’ve had many failures from the internment of Ukrainian, Japanese, and Italian Canadians during the world wars, to our turning away of boats of Jewish and Punjabi refugees, to the shamefully continuing marginalization of indigenous peoples. What matters is that we learned from our mistakes and recommit ourselves to doing better,” he said.

“To that end, in recent months Canadians have opened their hearts and their arms to families fleeing the ongoing conflict in Syria. And from the moment they arrived those 31,000 refugees were welcomed, not as burdens, but as neighbors and friends as new Canadians.”


Trudeau said the admittance of Syrian refugees “has brought together Canadians.”

“In an almost unprecedented way the government has been working with business people, with committed citizens, with civil society to assist the new people coming to our country to adapt themselves to their new country, but our efforts will only be successful once these refugees have been well established as full members of the Canadian middle class,” he continued.

“…While our people have felt anxiety, Syrians faced catastrophe. Do you want to know where the Syrian middle class is? They’re living in refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. They’re moving across Europe looking for a place to set down roots, to get their kids back into school, to find steady work and to become productive citizens. Refugee camps are teeming with Syria’s middle class, doctors and lawyers, teachers and entrepreneurs. They’re well-educated. They work hard. They care about their families. They want a better life, a safer and more secure future for their kids, as we all do.”

By comparison, the United States is resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees this year, President Obama told the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, “a goal we’ve exceeded even as we’ve upheld our rigorous screening.”


In his own UN address, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country was the most welcome and humanitarian to Syrian refugees. However, Human Rights Watch criticized Turkey in April for shooting at Syrians trying to flee ISIS, trapping civilians between the border wall and ISIS fighters.

“Refugees running away from death and tyranny and oppression unfortunately face degrading treatment in many European cities,” Erdogan told the General Assembly.

“Five million of those found refuge in other countries. Two point seven million of those refugees are currently in my country. They were forced to leave behind their homes and those Syrians were welcome in our homes. We never ask why they ended up in Turkey. Our doors are wide open. We haven’t shut their doors in their faces because they were fleeing their own homes,” he said.

“The West may not, the rest of the world may not, but we will keep on admitting them in because we are human beings and in the face of such an atrocity, we are obliged to keep our doors open to all those fleeing tyranny and oppression. We have opened our doors. We keep our doors open, and we will keep on opening our doors in the future,” Erdogan added. “The international community have unfortunately remained indifferent to the suffering of the people in the conflict zones.”


The Turkish leader proceeded to criticize “all of my European friends who believe that Syrian refugees are a threat and a clear danger for them.”

“The barbed wires and the high walls will never provide you with the safety, and security, and peace of mind that you seek out for,” Erdogan said. “It’s an effort in vain.”


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