Syrian Refugee Volunteer Recognition Event
Toronto, Ontario, Wednesday, May 18, 2016
What a pleasure it is to be here in Toronto to recognize your volunteer efforts to help settle Syrian refugees.
Together, you have helped settle more than 1,900 Syrian newcomers to this city.
What an achievement! And what a difference you’ve made to the lives of people in such desperate need.
Last December, when we hosted a refugee settlement forum at Rideau Hall, I spoke of the arrival of refugees as both a challenge and an opportunity for Canada.
Since that time, you have been working hard, bringing your compassion, your generosity and your enthusiasm to the task.
You know better than anyone what the challenges are to refugee settlement, but you also understand the wonderful benefits these individuals and families bring to our communities. What wonderful people they are.
This is something we must never lose sight of.
This has been a defining moment for Canada and a defining moment for this city.
A moment to reflect upon our fundamental values as Canadians;
to test the depth of our commitment to diversity, inclusiveness and tolerance;
and to demonstrate our willingness and our ability to help people in need.
And all of you have come together to define that moment in the best terms.
You have donated your time by volunteering. You have made financial and in‑kind donations. You have helped with refugee sponsorship.
You answered the call to action because you knew it was the right thing to do, and that knowledge is worth more than any other kind.
Not only are you providing critical assistance to refugees, you are providing hope to so many people around the world.
The importance of this sense of hope is not to be underestimated. In March, I met with Filippo Grandi, the new United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees at Rideau Hall, and I can tell you how grateful the United Nations is for the show of solidarity Canadians are displaying towards refugees.
Showing solidarity is no small task. And yet it’s not enough to just express solidarity.
Solidarity must be demonstrated.
You understand this. The urgent needs and the tight timelines have placed considerable stresses upon you as individuals and upon your organizations.
You have specific strengths and offer unique services that together have done the job remarkably. You have truly excelled together.
I know your work is far from done. The refugee crisis is far from over. The needs of refugees, so new to this community, so far from home, remain high.
But you have opened your arms in such a smart and caring way, and you have given them the best possible welcome.
And for that, I thank you, on behalf of all Canadians.
Congratulations on this deserved honour. Please keep up your important work.