Canadian PM Justin Trudeau Premier Kathleen Wynne, Toronto Mayor John Tory and other dignitaries welcome first government plane of Syrian refugees.

TORONTO (Canada) — The first large group of Syrian refugees coming to Canada by government aircraft arrived in Toronto late Thursday night, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on hand to welcome them at a temporary processing centre at Pearson International Airport.

Trudeau was joined by the ministers of immigration, health and defence, as well as Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, local mayors and opposition immigration critics.

“They step off the plane as refugees, but they walk out of this terminal as permanent residents of Canada with social insurance numbers, with health cards and with an opportunity to become full Canadians,” Trudeau said just prior to the plane’s arrival.

“This is something that we are able to do in this country because we define a Canadian not by a skin colour 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.”

More than 400 refugees have already arrived on commercial flights since the Liberals took office on Nov. 4.

The Canadian forces plane carrying 163 privately sponsored refugees touched down at Pearson International Airport just before midnight, its passengers met by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premiere Kathleen Wynne and other dignitaries.

“I can’t explain my closure, my feelings,” one man told reporters soon after arriving at the hotel.

Trudeau and Wynne greeted the first two families to come through processing and gave them winter coats.

The first family was a couple with their 16-month-old girl and the second was a man and woman with their three daughters, two of whom are twins. Both families said they were happy to be here.

All of the Syrians on board are sponsored by private groups, many of whom had filed the necessary paperwork months ago in order to bring in some of the estimated 4.3 million Syrians displaced by the ongoing civil war in that country.

Canada's PM Justin Trudeau speaks with a young girl as he greets a family of Syrian refugees during their arrival at Pearson International airport, in Toronto, on Friday morning. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau speaks with a young girl as he greets a family of Syrian refugees during their arrival at Pearson International airport, in Toronto, on Friday morning. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)