The image of prime minister Justin Trudeau greeting Syrian refugees at the Toronto airport with warmth and kindness travelled the world last week.
More importantly, it stood in sharp contrast with the indelible images of the ongoing refugee crisis such as the three-year-old boy who drowned at sea and washed up ashore on a beach in Turkey.
While many countries are shutting their doors to the tide of migrants – building bigger fences or toughening immigration laws – and perhaps not knowingly spreading fear and hatred, Canada is now playing a leading role in this refugee crisis.
Trudeau’s actions were symbolic but powerful, which is why they resonated with people all over the world. A New York Times editorial published last week, titled ‘Canada’s warm embrace of refugees,’ says the flood of international news coverage of Trudeau greeting Syrian refugees has prompted commentators in the U.S. to draw comparisons with the anti-refugee politics in the U.S.
More than half of U.S. governors have said Syrian refugees are not welcomed. In addition, several republican presidential candidates pounced on fears that Islamic extremists could infiltrate the country, including frontrunner Donald Trump, who has called for the U.S. to bar all Muslims from entering the country.
“Canada’s generosity — and Mr. Trudeau’s personal warmth and leadership — can serve as a beacon for others,” says the New York Times editorial. “In the meantime, it puts to shame the callous and irresponsible behavior of the American governors and presidential candidates who have argued that the United States, for the sake of its security, must shut its doors to all Syrian refugees.”
I think it’s safe to say that Trudeau made all Canadians proud last week (well, at least the vast majority), and that world leaders have much to learn from our prime minister’s warm embrace of refugees.
“This is something that we are able to do in this country because we define a Canadian not by a skin color or a language or a religion or a background, but by a shared set of values, aspirations, hopes and dreams that not just Canadians but people around the world share,” Trudeau said last week.
But the warm welcoming of Syrian refugees is not the only reason Trudeau has been attracting worldwide attention. His optimistic personality and his attempt to restore the “sunny ways” of Canadian politics are also making world headlines. Last week Vogue published an online version of their profile on Canada’s “youthful and optimistic” new prime minister.
“A fit six feet two, the onetime actor greets me at his office door and—no desk guy—leads us to the sofa to chat. He’s loosened and turned up his sleeves but not, alas, quite high enough to reveal the huge tattoo on his left arm: a Haida tribal raven that he got on his fortieth birthday,” reads the article.
Focusing on his personal life, the article also talks about his relationship with Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, who reveals what Trudeau said after their first date, “I’m 31 years old, and I’ve been waiting for you for 31 years.”
Vogue also calls his father, Pierre Trudeau, “the most glamorous prime minister” Canada has known. The New York Times also published a profile on Canada’s new prime minister last week. Titled ‘Trudeau’s Canada, again,’ the article draws comparison to his father, who occupied the same office for 16 years during the 1960s, 70’s and 80’s.
According to the New York Times, Stephen Harper’s defeat at the hands of Pierre Trudeau’s son had “obvious dramatic dimensions of the classical Greek variety,” redeeming not just the family name but also Pierre’s view of the nation.