Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was moved to tears during a round-table with Syrian refugees and sponsors, when one of them recalled the time he first met the premier when he arrived in Canada a year ago.
Speaking with Trudeau among a small group of people, gathered at a Toronto restaurant last week to reflect on the first year of the Syrian refugee programme, Vanig Garabedian spoke about stepping onto a Toronto-bound plane in Beirut, Lebanon, where he shook hands with a Canadian who was greeting passengers as they boarded.
“He shook hands with me and said, ‘Go and make Canada a better place.’ So that was the very last person I shook hands with in the Middle East. Then we landed at Pearson airport, and the very first person we shook hands was the prime minister,” Garabedian said, prompting Trudeau to tear up.
For Garabedian, landing in Toronto meant that him and his family were safe, but it also enabled them to take on “the responsibility of joining the Canadian family and trying to build this Canada, this country, this great nation.
“When I met Mr. Prime Minister at that moment, he said two words: ‘Welcome home.’ So imagine you are living in a warzone, you are leaving your home and you are welcomed by two words: welcome home,” said Garabedian, a gynecologist.
“So my memories of that moment went back to Syria before war, our life, our happiness there, and the horrible moments we went through during war. So I felt myself that I’m proud to be here.”
Vanig Garabedian was among the Syrian refugees that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greeted at Toronto’s Pearson airport in December last year.
Addressing Garabedian Trudeau said: “Watching you and your girls walk through this airport toward me was a moment in which I understood just the kinds of things that we can do as a country and that I get to help this country do.”
“You wouldn’t have been walking on Canadian soil that night if I hadn’t said, ‘We can do this together’ and made it done. And that for me was as strong and clear a reinforcement that I was going to be okay in this job. It was, on a personal level, it was very, very touching for me.”
Answering a question for CBC, Trudeau said it was very important for him to be at the airport to greet all the refugees upon their arrival on December 10, 2015. He said the Syrian refugee programme “was something I knew that all of Canada was involved in, that making the commitment to bring over 25,000 and more Syrian refugees was something that the government couldn’t do on its own.”
“I felt that being there in the name of all Canadians to welcome people was really important,” he said.
This article originally appeared on CBC