In his address to the Leaders Summit on Refugees at the United Nations, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared the heartwarming story of the Hadhad family – Syrian refugees who have rebuilt their lives and their business in the small town of Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Read his remarks and learn about their incredible story:
Thanks to everyone for being here today. I want to give a special thanks to President Obama for convening this first-ever Leaders’ Summit on Refugees. Canada, as you know, has done a great deal in recent months to help with the permanent resettlement of refugees, in particular those coming from Syria. I’m not going to focus on the numbers today. Instead I want to share with you one story, because we need to remember who we’re talking about.
Antigonish is a small community in Nova Scotia. It’s home to a university that just about doubles the town’s population every school year. It’s also home to a group of big-hearted Canadians who, like thousands of others across the country, came together to help sponsor a Syrian refugee family. Thanks to their leadership in their community, at the beginning of this year, the Hadhad family arrived in Antigonish from the refugee camp in Lebanon that had been their home for three years.
"Thanks to their leadership in their community, at the beginning of this year, the Hadhad family arrived in Antigonish from the refugee camp in Lebanon that had been their home for three years."
Here’s where things get interesting. Back home in Damascus, the Hadhads had owned a successful business –a chocolate factory that employed 30 people. And when they arrived in Nova Scotia – after getting acclimatized, because Canadian winters are pretty much what you’d expect – they started to look for opportunities. To rebuild their business, and rebuild their lives.
And step by step, with the support of their community, they did just that. By May, their home-based business was doing so well that they were able to donate their profits to the Canadian Red Cross, to help out with relief efforts in Fort MacMurray, which had been hit hard by wildfires. The Hadhads said that they knew what it felt like to flee their home and lose everything, and they wanted to help by giving what they could.
"The Hadhads said that they knew what it felt like to flee their home and lose everything, and they wanted to help by giving what they could."
Last month – just eight months after arriving in Canada – the family realized their dream, and opened a small chocolate factory in their new hometown. It’s called Peace by Chocolate. You can follow them on Facebook.
I wanted to share this story with you because it’s easy to get lost in the numbers and lose sight of what it really means to be a refugee. We have to recall stories like this one when we’re trying to think of solutions to help the 65 million displaced persons worldwide. We have to remember what each refugee or family has lost. Their home, their job, and too often, their loved ones.
"We have to remember what each refugee or family has lost. Their home, their job, and too often, their loved ones."
That is why Canada stepped up. Last year, Canada provided $684 million in humanitarian assistance funding, and we are on track to increase that by at least 10% this year. We also contributed $37.8 million in new core funding for UNHCR, and expanded our support for initiatives to combat sexual and gender-based violence. We made – and delivered on – an ambitious commitment to resettle Syrian refugees.
And there is more to come. We will extend technical assistance and share the lessons from our experience, to help increase resettlement and protection spaces around the world. We will focus our efforts on providing more educational opportunities for refugees and displaced persons. And we will be working hard to reach two ambitious Global Compacts in 2018. We do this for families like the Hadhads, who have shown tremendous courage in the face of devastating loss.
Theirs is just one story.
Antigonish is just one community.
And Canada is just one country.
I hope all the leaders here today will keep the Hadhads in mind. I hope they’ll think of the various ways their own community and their own country can be enriched by welcoming families like the Hadhads. I promise you, you will be better for it.