11/29/2013 01:27 EST | Updated 01/29/2014 05:59 EST

Exiled Tibetans start move to Canada under resettlement plan

The first group of Tibetans to relocate to Canada under a new federal program will arrive in Ottawa and Toronto on Friday.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced in 2010 that Canada would take in as many as 1,000 Tibetans living in exile in the northern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. 

When they met in 2007, Tibet's spiritual leader in exile, the Dalai Lama, appealed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper for Canada to invite in more Tibetan exiles. That meeting prompted a rebuke from the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa.

The new resettlement program isn’t the first of its kind by the federal government. A refugee program established in 1972 saw 230 Tibetans relocate from northern India.

China claims Tibet as part of its territory, and Canada officially recognizes China as the government of Tibet.

In 2006, the House of Commons voted to give the Dalai Lama honorary Canadian citizenship. That move also drew criticism from China.

Tibet is an autonomous region of China. The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in northern India since 1959.