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Prime minister warmly greets first of 25,000 Syrian refugees

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, greets Georgina Zires, 16-month-old Madeleine Jamkossian, and Zires’ husband, Kevork Jamkossian, refugees from Syria.

Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, greets Georgina Zires, 16-month-old Madeleine Jamkossian, and Zires’ husband, Kevork Jamkossian, refugees from Syria.

"You are home — welcome home," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in greeting the first planeload of Syrian refugees to Canada on Friday.

Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne were at Toronto's Pearson International Airport as the first military flight of 163 Syrians arrived from Beirut.

The new Liberal government said it will resettle 25,000 refugees escaping Syria's civil war by the end of February.

Upon arrival, they were given winter clothing and were housed in an airport hotel before being transported this weekend to sponsored housing in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

During processing in Toronto and Montreal, the new arrivals are being given Social Insurance Numbers so they can work, government health-insurance cards for "free" medical care and become permanent residents.

First to be greeted was Kevork Jamkossian, his wife, Georgina Zires, and 16-month-old daughter, Madeleine.

"We suffered a lot but now we feel as if we got out of hell and we came to paradise," he said.

Trump's remarks produce backlash

There are calls for the Trump Tower in Toronto and Vancouver to be renamed over remarks by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

Toronto City Councilor Josh Matlow and Brent Toderian, a former planner for Vancouver, led the demands to reject the Trump brand name.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said he has invited Trump to visit the city's Canadian Museum for Human Rights for insight into tolerance and multiculturalism.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton visited Winnipeg last January and called on Canada to continue fighting the "ideology of hate" and extremist propaganda that fuels terrorism.

News in brief

• Canadians will be looked on as "cowards" should the new Liberal government pull out of the combat mission in the Middle East, the opposition Conservatives say. Prime Minister Trudeau said the government will withdraw its fighter jets and to concentrate on humanitarian measures, including training local forces. If so, "they would be seen on the world stage as cowards," said Conservative Kellie Leitch.

• Safeguards, such as higher down payments, are being put in place by the federal government to ensure stability in the housing market. Homebuyers will have to make at least a 10 percent down payment for houses costing more than $500,000, but lower-priced properties can continue with 5 percent down. Financial institutions will have new capital requirements to keep pace with the growing risk of real estate markets.

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar has slumped to 72.79 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.3736 in Canadian funds, before bank and credit card exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate remains at 0.5 percent while the prime lending rate is 2.7 percent.

Lower oil and commodity prices pulled markets lower, with the Toronto Stock Exchange index at 12,851 points and the TSX Venture index 501 points.

The average price of gas is lower at 98.04 cents a liter nationally or $3.72 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.

Lotto 6/49: (Dec. 9) 4, 20, 26, 37, 45 and 46; bonus 6. (Dec. 5) 10, 11, 17, 24, 26 and 29; bonus 12. Lotto Max: (Dec. 4) 8, 15, 24, 25, 27, 36 and 43; bonus 32.

Regional briefs

• There were massive traffic tie-ups in downtown Toronto Wednesday as hundreds of taxi drivers protested the competing ride-hailing Uber service. Cabbies blocked streets to demand the city enforce its bylaws. Mayor John Tory called the action "dangerous and disruptive" and said the city is working on updating laws governing such services.

• After weeks of protest, the Alberta government approved a controversial farm safety bill. Farmers and ranchers believe the legislation that specifies workers' compensation and health and safety rules will hamper their operations. The bill was approved after amendments to exempt families and neighbors where the farm doesn't have paid workers.

• There are concerns about Canada's primary maple syrup industry due to warmer El Niño weather. Production has declined the past two years and next year could be even worse, said University of Guelph food researcher Sylvain Charlebois.

Contact Jim Fox at

Prime minister warmly greets first of 25,000 Syrian refugees 12/11/15 [Last modified: Saturday, December 12, 2015 6:31pm]
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