Gov. Gen. David Johnston thanks Canadians for their compassion in his New Year's address as the country accepts thousands of refugees fleeing civil war in Syria.

"I thank all of you for showing such generosity to these newest members of our Canadian family," he says in his annual message.

Hundreds of refugees have already arrived and have settled across the country, the first of the 25,000 the federal government has committed to accept by the end of February.

"Let's continue to demonstrate to the world what a smart and caring nation can look like in the 21st century," Johnston says in his address.

The Governor General also praises the country for its innovation, noting that he would be handing out the first-ever Innovation Awards in 2016.

"In a world of rapid and profound change we must continually adapt and improve — and part of doing that successfully means fostering a culture of innovation and celebrating those who lead the way," the Queen's representative says.