Mak­ing the trek to Canada from Le­banon

Seaway News - - OPINION -

Daad El­saadi, age 21 made her way to Canada in 1972 from the Be­qaa Val­ley in Le­banon. The love of her life, her next door neigh­bor Al­bert had im­mi­grated to Canada in 1968 and sent a let­ter ask­ing her to marry him. The mem­ory of the emo­tional farewell with her par­ents still brings Daad to the verge of tears to­day.

Daad and Al­bert were mar­ried in Ottawa and started their fam­ily hav­ing chil­dren in 1973, 1974 and twins in 1975. Al­bert worked as a bus­boy and took the op­por­tu­nity to learn how to cook while Daad stayed home and raised the chil­dren. At that time, a few of Al­bert’s fam­ily came from Le­banon and Al­bert helped them to buy a small restau­rant in Finch.

In 1979, the west was boom­ing and Al­bert left and found a job in Cal­gary right away. Daad and the chil­dren fol­lowed. Daad spent her time tak­ing a course and clean­ing of­fices. Un­ex­pect­edly, 2 months later, Al­bert’s fam­ily in Finch had de­cided they wanted to re­lo­cate and Daad and Al­bert came back to On­tario to run the restau­rant. They worked hard to fix it up and started to gen­er­ate some clien­tele.

Daad re­calls it not be­ing easy to be the 1st “brown” fam­ily in the small town of Finch. Her chil­dren were teased and called hor­ri­ble names. She took sev­eral trips to the school to talk to teach­ers and the prin­ci­ple and fi­nally re­al­ized that though she could not change the en­tire com­mu­nity, she could en­sure that her chil­dren were well be­haved, hard work­ing and re­spect­ful of oth­ers thus paving the way to in­creased ac­cep­tance.

The restau­rant busi­ness grew and the El­saadi fam­ily be­came a part of the Finch be­ing there to help with feed­ing the com­mu­nity dur­ing the ice storm and be­ing kind and re­spect­ful to all their cus­tomers and neigh­bors.

Daad re­calls a cus­tomer com­ing in on 9/11 and chat­ting with her and her hus­band about the hor­rific event of the day. He stated “we should just kill all the Mus­lims”. Daad walked in to her room, took out her hi­jab and for the 1st time, put it on and went back out to the restau­rant. The cus­tomer looked shocked and asked her why she was wear­ing it. She said “be­cause I am a Mus­lim, do you want to kill me?” The man apol­o­gized and the con­ver­sa­tion be­came one of how we should not as­sume or stereo­type peo­ple in to groups so eas­ily. Daad has not re­moved the hi­jab since that day.

Daad be­lieves in giv­ing back. She par­tic­i­pates in the Heal and Wheel by walk­ing from Finch to Winch­ester each year to raise money for the Winch­ester Hos­pi­tal. She has been the top in­di­vid­ual fund raiser for the past 2 years. Ear­lier this year, Daad joined forces with the Moose Creek Mall to have a drive for cloth­ing and blan­kets in aid of thou­sands of Syr­ian refugees en­dur­ing a very cold win­ter in camps es­tab­lished in neigh­bor­ing coun­tries like Le­banon.

Daad is the proud mother of her 4 suc­cess­ful chil­dren and an ador­ing grand­mother. Dur­ing our chat, I saw her look in to the hall and wink and blow a kiss at some­one. I asked her if she was flirt­ing with her hus­band, she re­sponded “41 years later and he is still the love of my life”.

“What would you tell peo­ple who are just ar­riv­ing to Canada?” I asked her. “Bring your good­ness” she said, “bring your good man­ners, good cul­ture and be good to your neigh­bors. And be good to this coun­try be­cause it will be good to you.”

Daad El­saadi, age 21 made her way to Canada in 1972 from the Be­qaa Val­ley in Le­banon.

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