Support for Syrian refugees in Canada is overwhelming, nonpartisan, and inspiring.
'You're safe at home now,' the Canadian prime minister tells Syrian refugees.
Louisa Taylor, director of Refugee613 in Ottawa, Ontario, has an interesting problem.
Her organization is so inundated with donations and support for Syrian refugees that they're stretched to their absolute limits.
"Our phones are ringing off the hook, our inboxes are overflowing with offers of help," she told me. "[I have] more requests than I can meet."
Her organization is getting ready for the arrival of 25,000 Syrian refugees who will soon call Canada their home.
Part of that process, Taylor explained, is simply having to manage the incredible generosity of Canadians. "We are inundated with offers to volunteer, to donate clothing and furniture, to create new programs, and it all takes work to manage that."
The refugee program, which is Canada's most ambitious since the Vietnam War , officially became a reality late Thursday night, Dec. 10, 2015, when a plane carrying 163 Syrians landed in Toronto.
The refugees were greeted personally by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. And he wasn't alone in embracing them.
All 163 refugees were given winter coats, and they were warmly welcomed by volunteers and a slew of politicians from across the political spectrum.
"It truly is a nonpartisan, national project," said John McCallum, Canada's Immigration Minister.
So nonpartisan, in fact, that among the people helping to welcome and process the refugees were members of the opposition party and notable Trudeau critics.
A second government plane arrived in Montreal just two days later, on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, bringing an additional 161 refugees.
The program, or "programme" if you speak Canadian, also has overwhelming public support .
All of the refugees who arrived on the first flight were sponsored to come to Canada by small groups or individuals, who've raised over 28,000 Canadian dollars (just over $20,000) for each family.
One organization, "Yukon Cares," was able to raise $46,000 to sponsor a family, helping them with food, rent, clothing, and furniture. They did so in three months.
It's hard not to be inspired by Canada's support and frustrated by the lack of it here at home.
Canada's program isn't perfect and, in fact, the overall timeline has been scaled back from bringing in 25,000 refugees before January, to 25,000 before March, but it's still leagues better than any resettlement plans here in the U.S.
America is due to take in 10,000 refugees over the next year, a significant increase from the 2,000 originally promised. Yet governors in 31 states have flatly refused to let in any refugees at all, citing what they believe to be a risk of Islamic terrorists entering the United States.
Anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States isn't helping either. With everyone from politically charged uncles at Thanksgiving to prominent presidential candidates taking the time to bash Muslims for being Muslim, public support for Syrian refugees is dismally low .
Canada is showing the world that Syrian refugees aren't going to bite.
"There's a whole new generation of Canadians seeing the power that comes from unleashing compassion," said Louisa Taylor. "It's a beautiful sight."
The refugees are being welcomed personally by the Prime Minister and with open arms by the Canadian public. They're being taken to hotels and will soon be set up in homes sponsored by Canadian families and charitable organizations.
They've escaped an unimaginably terrifying circumstance and have entered a country that has the courage, fortitude, and generosity to hand them a coat and tell them they're safe now.
Or, as one refugee put it :
"We feel as if we got out of hell and we came to paradise."
And if Canada is anything like I hope it is, those refugees will soon be enjoying moose rides through the park and swimming in pristine lakes of maple syrup.
Not bad, Canada. Not bad.