MONTREAL -- Canada's response to the Syrian refugee crisis is an example of compassionate leadership, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Friday as he praised the country's "huge solidarity" with the international community.

Ban, who on a visit to Ottawa on Thursday applauded the country's decision to re-engage with the United Nations, told reporters in Montreal, "I'm back (on Canadian soil) because Canada's back."

He said the 25,000 Syrian refugees who are coming to Canada may represent a small number, "but it's a huge (international) solidarity."

"I deeply appreciate and highly commend such a compassionate leadership and generosity as shown by the Canadian government in accommodating 25,000 refugees."

Ban called on other developed countries to alleviate some of the burden on poorer nations by doing more to help the millions of Syrians who have either fled the country or been internally displaced by civil war.

He added he met about 40 Syrian refugees during his state visit to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa.

"They were very relieved knowing that their lives have been assured and protected and promoted," he said while on a visit to Montreal's city hall. "Their human dignity has been supported and I think this is what the international community should show."

When asked if Ban's comments about "Canada is back" were an insult to former prime minister Stephen Harper, whose government had been cooler to participating at the UN, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said he is more interested in what lies ahead.

"I'm not looking at the past," Coderre said. "But the future is promising. Because we have a government (now) that believes in a multilateral approach. We had lost that reputation for a certain time."

The Conservative government had been criticized internationally for what was perceived as its refusal to take climate change seriously or to fully participate at United Nations-sponsored conferences.

After his meeting with Coderre, Ban addressed students at McGill University and was then to visit the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization before meeting with Premier Philippe Couillard.

On Saturday, he is scheduled to visit an anti-radicalization centre with Coderre.