PM tells Antigonish refugee family story at UN

By Lois Ann Dort    

ANTIGONISH – What happens when the Prime Minister of Canada tells your story at a United Nations Summit? Your phone starts ringing.

That is what happened to Tareq Hadhad last Tuesday after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the UN at the Leaders Summit on Refugees in New York, relaying the recent history of the Hadhad family of Antigonish to the summit participants and to the world.

The Hadhads immigrated to Antigonish last January with the help of S.A.F.E. (Syrian Antigonish Families Embrace), a group of citizens from in and around the Antigonish area that formed in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. The family fled from Syria after several years of war left them with no livelihood and in fear of their lives.

Not long after arriving in Canada, the Hadhad family started a small business making chocolates. Before war tore life apart in Syria, this had been the family’s main occupation.

The Hadhad’s business, Peace by Chocolate, started off as a table at the Antigonish Market and from there has grown into an independent outlet located next to the family home, which officially opened in August. Since then the business has received orders from out-of-province and the Hadhad’s look forward to continued growth. With the latest publicity, they may have to expand sooner than expected.

The Hadhad story has received much media attention both provincially and nationally since their arrival in January, but the Prime Minister’s mention catapulted the family into the international spotlight. “It is beyond belief. We were totally surprised when we heard the news. That the story was followed by the Prime Minister; we are so honoured to hear that,” said Tareq the day after the Prime Minister’s speech.

Aside from the thrill of recognition from the leader of their new country, Tareq said his family’s story will inspire others; both leaders and refugees. The success of the Hadhad family illustrates the contributions refugees can make to their new country.

“I have not seen my family happy like this in a while; even though they have made many successful steps since they arrived. This is different. Yesterday they did not sleep,” said Tareq with a smile. He then hurried off to another meeting.

Prior to the Prime Minister’s speech, Tareq Hadhad had given over 40 interviews to the press since he arrived in Antigonish in January. That number is sure to have doubled by the time this newspaper goes to press. Like good chocolates, a good story has many fans.