Justin Trudeau has met his younger Syrian namesake.
The Canadian Prime Minister came face to face with two-month-old Justin Trudeau Adam Bilan – the son of a Syrian couple who fled war-ravaged Damascus to start a new life in Canada.
The boy’s parents, Muhammad and Afraa Bilan, named their newborn son after the Prime Minister to pay tribute to his open refugee policy and show their gratitude for the offer of refuge.
The get-together took place at the Calgary Stampede on Saturday where the baby snoozed contently while Mr Trudeau held him.
The couple arrived in Montreal in February of last year in the midst of Canada’s bitterly cold winter accompanied by their daughter Naya, who is 4, and their son Nael who is 3.
Mini Trudeau was born in Calgary – a city near the Canadian Rockies which is home to around 1,000 Syrian refugees – in May of this year.
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The family’s opportunity to flee Syria came five years into the atrocities of the war. After learning Canada was starting to take in Syrian refugees after Mr Trudeau became Prime Minister, they jumped at the chance to leave.
Just over 40,000 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Canada since Mr Trudeau took office in November 2015. In December 2015, the world leader personally welcomed the first planeload of Syrian refugees at Toronto airport and was seen handing out winter coats.
But adjusting to life in Canada has not been devoid of obstacles. Syrian families have discussed the difficulty of finding jobs and learning English or French. What’s more, some settlement agencies have condemned the federal government for not going far enough to help refugees settle into their new lives.
Last year, John McCallum, Canada’s minister for immigration, refugees and citizenship, said the government had boosted money for language training to tackle nationwide shortages.
He said: “And what makes me proud is not just that we got the job done, which we did – but there is still more to do – but really that if you compare Canada with other countries around the globe which are tending to close their doors to refugees, Canadians responded so overwhelmingly positively to the refugees.”
After President Donald Trump sought to introduce his hard-line immigration ban, Mr Trudeau vocally restated the country’s open-door refugee policy. He wrote on Twitter: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength”.
In total, roughly 12.5 million Syrians – six out of 10 – are displaced from their homes.