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Anas Francis is reunited with his cousin Laila Beylouneh, a Syrian refugee, in Montreal on Sunday.

CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/REUTERS

Only a small fraction of Canada's expected Syrian refugees arrived last week, but the fanfare around their welcome prompted a slew of headlines – and policy comparisons – around the world.

To New York Times editors, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "spoke unmistakably to a broader audience" when he personally greeted refugees stepping off Canada's first government-organized flight, which landed in Toronto late Thursday night.

"Canada's generosity – and Mr. Trudeau's personal warmth and leadership – can serve as a beacon for others," said a Saturday editorial in the newspaper.

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"In the meantime, it puts to shame the callous and irresponsible behaviour of the American governors and presidential candidates who have argued that the United States, for the sake of its security, must shut its doors to all Syrian refugees."

The Thursday planeload to Pearson International Airport, along with a second flight that arrived in Montreal on Saturday, brought just 324 of the 25,000 refugees the Trudeau government has promised to help resettle, including 10,000 by the new year.

But video of their arrival drew hundreds of thousands of views in Canada and elsewhere. The flights coincided with controversy in the United States after Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump announced a proposal to ban entry of all Muslims to the country.

With many state governors opposing refugee resettlement, several American news organizations noted the widespread support among Canadian leaders for the federal plan.

The Los Angeles Times spoke to Perrin Beatty, the chief executive of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and a former Tory defence minister, who is working with Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff to support the government's effort.

Mr. Beatty was quoted as saying that Mr. Trump's "rancid" comments would "drive Canadians in the other direction," increasing their support for the refugees.

Britain's Daily Mail wrote that all of Canada's premiers support the refugee plan, and that members of the opposition, including Conservatives, attended the airport welcome, along with the ministers of Immigration, Health and Defence.

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The British government has said it plans to resettle as many as 20,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2020, and the U.S. government plans to take in at least 10,000 next year.

More coverage followed at Newsweek, the BBC, NBC, Paris Match, CNN, and the Guardian and Independent newspapers in Britain. The American magazine GQ called Mr. Trudeau a "sparklepile of progressive sunshine" at a time when U.S. politics is "a clown show of ventriloquized garbage bags."

However, The Washington Post noted that recent polls show a similar level of public support in Canada and the United States for welcoming refugees, despite a drastically different tone of public debate south of the border.

A Forum Research poll conducted this month found that 48 per cent of Canadians approve of Mr. Trudeau's refugee plan and 44 per cent are opposed. The Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute found late last week that 53 per cent of Americans support refugee resettlement, while 41 per cent are opposed, the Post wrote.

News organizations in other countries that have opened their borders to a flood of refugees, particularly in the Middle East, also published articles exploring the significance of Canada's fledgling program.

"Canada's programs are an expression of support to Syrian refugees, but importantly for us they are a demonstration, too, of solidarity to countries in the region hosting more than four million Syrian refugees," Adrian Edwards, a United Nations spokesman, said in a Reuters article published in the Arab News, an English outlet in Saudi Arabia.

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The federal government hasn't released the dates of upcoming airlifts, but a spokeswoman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said the first two flights went very smoothly.

"The first two flights have proceeded as planned and no major logistical changes are in the works," Theodora Jean wrote in an e-mail.

In total, 882 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since Nov. 4, according to federal statistics. An additional 1,545 have been issued permanent resident visas but haven't yet arrived in Canada.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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