Last week, President Trump signed an executive order that halted immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries and suspended the refugee resettlement program. Though Trump later insisted that the Justice Department had approved the order, reports indicate that everyone from top White House advisors to Trump's own picks for crucial national security roles were neither consulted nor aware of the directive's details until it was released to the public.
But its constitutionality and haphazard execution aside, the human toll exacted by this executive order is already on display. Green card holders were held at airports as they tried to reenter the country. Refugees, thoroughly vetted for up to 36 months, were detained by U.S. custom officials.
The backlash was swift. Thousands descended on international airports across the country to protest, and armies of attorneys offered their services to the distraught families of those refused entry. Multinational corporations announced that they would do their part in helping refugees and civil rights organizations fighting for them.
But perhaps the most constructive response from abroad came from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who announced that Canada would take in the refugees turned away by the U.S. Days later, Air Canada followed up with a moving video of a Syrian refugee family reuniting in the country. "Meet one of Canada's newest families," read the video's title.
The video documents the reunion of a Syrian family, some of whom had been apart for 35 years. Arriving in Montreal after spending 18 months in a refugee camp in Turkey, Air Canada brought the family to Victoria, British Columbia, where their extended family members were waiting to bring them to their new home.
"We came to Turkey from Syria. We suffered greatly there, but thank God we started our refugee claim," the father says in the video. "Because Canada accepted us with open arms."
This family's experience is representative of the struggle that others from conflict-ridden countries go through in their search for a better life. Many European nations have cracked down on asylum seekers that pass through their borders. Even in Germany — whose government has welcomed refugees with open arms — Islamophobia and xenophobia are on the rise.
Canada, however, has largely set itself apart from its peers in the west. In the years following the Syrian refugee crisis, Canada resisted the sweeping Islamophobia that its neighbors have succumbed to. Canadians have so actively, enthusiastically welcomed refugees that immigration minister John McCallum told the New York Times last year, "I can't provide refugees fast enough for all the Canadians who want to sponsor them" — a stark contrast to the U.S.' treatment of refugees under the current administration.
"We came to Canada because I wanted my family to be safe," the family's matriarch says in the video. "We feel like we are reborn."